Building a team based on your values is integral to achieving success at scale. Your initial investment can buy you the components of a team, but what truly makes it successful is the behind-the-scenes work of establishing clear mission and vision statements. A team rooted in values allows an organization to look beyond its current objectives, helping them create an inspirational long-term strategy while ensuring that the potential of the project or company as a whole is realized.

We are living in the Renaissance of Work. Just like great artists know that an empty canvas can become anything, great leaders know that an entire organization — and the people inside it — can become anything, too. Master Artists and Mastering the Art of Leadership draw from the same source: creation. In this series, we’ll meet masters who are creating the future of work and painting a portrait of lasting leadership. As part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Bogdan Pol.

Bogdan is a founder and chairman of the board at Phase One Karma (P1K), a tech company behind Lawrina. At P1K, Bogdan focuses on compiling business strategies and sustaining efficient communication between teams. He believes inspiration can convert into innovative projects that make people’s personal and business lives more manageable.

At Lawrina, Bogdan and his team are driven to change the experience of law by creating a living ecosystem for all legal professionals and their clients. They’re making essential legal information easier to access and use in daily legal tasks with their step-by-step legal guides, innovatively designed interviews for creating professional contracts, as well as contract drafting and review software.

Bogdan’s areas of expertise: Machine Learning (ML), Natural Language Processing (NLP), Strategic Digital Marketing, Startup Development, Strategy and Structure Development.

Thank you for joining us. Our readers would enjoy discovering something interesting about you. What are you in the middle of right now that you’re excited about personally or professionally?

Currently, I’m in the middle of creating high-potency products that I believe will make a lasting impact on many persons’ lives. They are combined in Lawrina — a growing ecosystem for all lawyers and their clients with step-by-step legal guides, customized interviews for creating legal documents, AI-driven contract drafting and review software, and a lawyer directory.

It’s truly an honor to be part of the team launching Lawrina’s ecosystem to the market, introducing a novel approach to solving the pressing problem of free access to the law. Therefore, I’m also personally excited about market-fitting one of our AI innovations. We have been devoting countless hours of research and development, testing, and integration, so I cannot wait until our hard work pays off and we will reach breakeven.

We all get by with a little help from our friends. Who is the leader that has influenced you the most, and how?

Just briefly about me — I am Ukrainian and genuinely proud to be. Our Lawrina is a startup with Ukrainian roots, and part of our team is still in Ukraine, fighting for freedom and the highest values. Therefore, for me, our president Zelenskyy is a true leader who energizes me to take action. He gives me incentives to work harder every day with a solid reason — to rebuild our country by creating social projects that can make a difference.

Sometimes our biggest mistakes lead to our biggest discoveries. What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made as a leader, and what did you discover as a result?

I consider my biggest mistake to be in the quick promotion of some people, who required more time, attention, and additional checking. With quick recruitment being prioritized over careful consideration of soft skills, this team could not function at its full potential. So that it came as no surprise that many found themselves unable to cope with the workload and take on the responsibilities allocated.

At the same time, it allowed the project to be accelerated significantly while enabling our specialists to beef up their skillset and gain invaluable experience rapidly.

The biggest insight was following our mistake, the most effective top managers met with success when starting out as newcomers to our company. By contrast, attempting to hire top stars has not had the desired outcome, leading us to a different conclusion — that sometimes it is necessary to look beyond the tried and tested candidates at the climax of their career and instead explore fresh paths with the help of fresh minds.

How has your definition of leadership changed or evolved over time? What does it mean to be a leader now?

When I started managing others, I was certain that the stricter I was with my employees, the better the results. However, it didn’t take long before I discovered this wasn’t necessarily true; expectations are better served through mutual respect and understanding than by instilling pressure within my team. And even later, I realized that I don’t need to work with those people towards whom I have any negative emotions. These vibrations of anger and frustration destroy us from within, seriously affecting our overall health and productivity.

Now is an exciting time to lead: teams are more cohesive than ever, their members feel respected, and their conversations are built on mutual understanding. Nowadays, being a successful leader requires much more than mere technical competencies. Great leaders recognize the importance of motivating and mentoring their team to propel them to bigger achievements. By providing professional and mental support, they are like oil for an engine that helps keep all the gears moving smoothly and in perfect harmony.

Success is as often as much about what we stop as what we start. What is one legacy leadership behavior you stopped because you discovered it was no longer valuable or relevant?

Micromanagement is an ineffective way of working, as it can quickly lead to stagnation instead of growth. When you focus too closely on even the simplest tasks, you become overwhelmed, and the whole organization quickly reaches a plateau. For a leader, it’s more important to focus on the bigger picture than waste time trying to control every small element of your operations. Delegating work to trusted specialists does not make you any less of a capable leader — it simply demonstrates that you understand when specific duties are better suited for certain people or departments.

What is one lasting leadership behavior you started or are cultivating because you believe it is valuable or relevant?

As a leader, it is important to ensure that you have the right partners to complete all of the competencies needed to succeed. Relying solely on your own skills will likely result in missed opportunities and weaker results than if you work with a team of like-minded individuals who bring with them expertise, motivation, and a willingness to share your values.

It is paramount to believe in those you work alongside — without faith in these people, true success will be difficult to achieve. Nevertheless, nobody is perfect, and even if an individual stumbles along the way, this could very well lead to a terrific final product.

What advice would you offer to other leaders who are stuck in past playbooks and patterns and may be having a hard time letting go of what made them successful in the past?

For any leader, it is imperative to be flexible and approachable, ensuring that their team feels safe enough to express themselves without fear of being crushed by authority or opposing popular choices. Furthermore, everyone needs to be at the same level, allowing them to feel their ideas are taken seriously and considered with respect. That’s how they can directly come and say, “It doesn’t work like that anymore”.

Many of our readers can relate to the challenge of leading people for the first time. What advice would you offer to new and emerging leaders?

Business development skills are a valuable asset in any career field, regardless of the industry. Having the proper mentor who can motivate you, share insights and exemplify true leadership. Likewise, having a business partner with qualities that contrast with yours can create a well-rounded team capable of filling any gaps for one another. Finding these resources can dramatically increase the chances of success and make sure your endeavors do not fall short of expectations.

Based on your experience or research, what are the top five traits effective leaders exemplify now? Please share a story or an example for each.

1. First and foremost, building a team based on your values is integral to achieving success at scale. Your initial investment can buy you the components of a team, but what truly makes it successful is the behind-the-scenes work of establishing clear mission and vision statements. A team rooted in values allows an organization to look beyond its current objectives, helping them create an inspirational long-term strategy while ensuring that the potential of the project or company as a whole is realized.

For instance, with the co-founders of Lawrina, we believed that a great mission must be behind any business aims. That’s why we created our previous tech project, which aimed to fight plagiarism in students’ work (and I can proudly say that it worked out; the plagiarism rate in Ukrainian universities decreased from 90% to 14%). When we were selling it to a bigger American company, our lawyers faced the problem with access to American law, especially on the state level. That’s how the idea of creating the Lawrina portal with free access to legal information came to us. We decided to fight for access to justice by improving access to law first.

By defining company values, vision, and mission and making them publicly available, we can already set a tone for Lawrina in society. It is this background that attracts people who share these same values, making for a decidedly different level of applicants than otherwise would be seen. Those applying for open positions genuinely desire to invest their efforts in line with the company’s objectives and aims, creating a much greater possibility for success.

2. Then, philanthropy. In P1K, we are confessing the religion of philanthropy in our projects. That’s why Lawrina’s mission is to build a living ecosystem with free and simply-to-access essential legal information. We want to ensure that every product we make becomes essential to one’s legal toolkit and brings lots of value.

Moreover, we are confident that nowadays, startups, as well as SMEs, are unviable without a strong social responsibility program, as customers require businesses to comply with their values and beliefs. These are rules that I truly admire on the market.

Not only do high standards in social and monetary responsibility allow the company to build a sustainable brand, increase awareness around it, and attract more conscious and progressive customers who understand what they are paying for. But philanthropy standards also help to maintain the upper level of employee retention, generate new opportunities for innovation and growth, and stay ahead of the competition. That’s what a true leader should seek, right?

3. Also, the flexibility of the mind, emotional intelligence, and soft skills. Leaders must present themselves in a confident yet humble manner so that their team follows willingly. That’s how you can view them as more than just professionals, but also people. Showing consideration for their achievements and putting in the effort to actively invest in developing their skills strengthens overall morale and trust within the team. Listening to their insights and paying attention to their feedback not only can help foster an atmosphere of open communication but sometimes inspire you to a new business idea or even save an existing business.

The name “Law-rina” comes from two words, “Law” and “Karina”. Karina is our rockstar Head of Legal, — the expert in international law who knows all the ins and outs of the legal world (and, yes, we named a portal in her honor)!

It reminds us that law is about people… and that technology must serve the needs of the individuals who benefit from it.

4. Perseverance and unwillingness to give up, preparedness for the fact that the results will not be instantaneous. As an entrepreneur and a person, I had moments when I felt unmotivated or frustrated. The last time, I switched from our previous edtech product to legaltech. There are many cool new ideas, but it may or may not be possible to transform them into products with existing innovations (technologies) and marketing. That’s where you need to apply the “successful entrepreneurs” tool — don’t strive for the ideality from the very first second.

For instance, the period until you have an MVP and start testing the idea is very nervous. Every day you question your ideas and plans, developing them, and the number of tasks is only growing. So, you need to figure out what to do. The “good enough” concept helped me to overcome this. I defined what “good enough” MVP means and did not increase its functionality until I tested it and got the first feedback.

5. At the end of the day, it is important to remember that real leadership success lies in achieving the goal rather than focusing on the control or power wielded over people. Without understanding and incorporating these elements, a leader is not truly leading but merely dictating.

As I mentioned previously, when I initially started managing employees, I thought that the best approach would be to enforce strict rules and disciplinary action when they weren’t followed. However, it quickly became apparent that this had no effect; instead, morale and engagement decreased, and any semblance of productivity with it. Then I was trying to become a close friend, or even mentor, leading through positive reinforcement rather than fear or punishment made me kind of a role model for my team. Through time and experience, I have realized that communication rooted in respect and understanding is key to successful workplace collaboration.

American Basketball Coach John Wooden said, “Make each day your masterpiece.” How do you embody that quote? We welcome a story or example.

Well, I believe that the business I do — is the work of my life, and therefore, I devoted my whole time to improving it to produce something valuable. However, effort without a strategy can be fruitless; becoming more effective requires planning and forethought. Practicing English, exercising regularly, and devising an effective system of time management can all help create a heightened level of productivity. Additionally, as an efficient leader, it is important to possess a further tool in one’s repertoire — a custom dashboard that accurately reflects project essential statuses and metrics.

But, honestly, from my perspective, it’s impossible to be the most effective every single day. Bouncers who claim to be efficient may be doing good work, but that doesn’t mean there is no room for improvement. Gather your successes, analyze them, and use them as an opportunity to expand. Don’t forget to be self-critical — the only way you can encourage yourself to do better is by acknowledging near-failures and failures, whether those stem from yourself or others. Making sure you have room for growth will ensure that your effectiveness stays at its peak, while improving your skills further than before.

What is the legacy you aspire to leave as a leader?

I aspire to leave behind a legacy close to the one left behind by entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates. Combining success and earnings with philanthropy. Upon my retirement, I hope to have created a large international company with hundreds of creative, innovative products which span across many industries. As a testament to my legacy, I want the underlying values that shaped our company, so-called “Phase One Karma genes,” to be passed down and safeguarded by younger generations of leaders. Doing what drives you a lot yet brings pleasure and income should be the foundation of all future business endeavors.

How can our readers connect with you to continue the conversation?

They can follow my LinkedIn and connect with me:

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to experience a leadership master at work. We wish you continued success and good health!