Looking for leadership in your startup? Everyone’s capable


Everyone has an innate ability to become a leader. There are a number of reasons why many do not become leaders or do not even see themselves as leaders with their own company. The greatest of these is possibly that they have not understood their own unique value. What they are passionate about and the exact reason they exist — the way in which they (uniquely) can change the world.

Many refer to it as ‘purpose’ but I’d like to venture that purpose is merely being your authentic self — how you are when you are your best self. Not through the eyes of an envisioned visage of a perfect future you who will never exist, but the you that you are right now. The ability to recognise that inbuilt capability you execute with little effort, unending passion but has widespread impact. Giving yourself permission to be your authentic self is what ‘living your purpose’ is.

Most people do not know what this is so they fall into the trap of believing that only those who tick all the right boxes (analytical, assertive, great communicator and the list continues) can and should be leaders. The world tells anyone who does not have all these qualities that they simply aren’t good enough. What a lie. Every person can lead when they bring out the best of themselves, doing that which they add the most value by doing. It’s not about strengths, purpose is all about service — how one serves humanity and the world in the way that only they can.

So then why aren’t all the people in your startup leading?

Inner stuff

Knowing your authentic self is the first and most important step but there are other factors which play a role in whether a person leads or does not. In Sheryl Sandberg’s book, Lean In, she speaks about the leadership ambition gap and a desire to lead is what gets the horse out of the gates. It’s important though to understand why a person does not want to lead. It may be because they have been told by book after book that who they are simply doesn’t cut it and may have grown tired of the imitation.

Closely related to this is fear. We all have different fears stemming from various things which have and have not happened in our lives. It is key to know and recognise our fears and then subvert them at every turn.

According to Larry Downes, CEO, New Jersey Resources in a Harvard Business Review blog, each of us needs to understand the value of our unique experiences and how those add value to the people and organisations we serve. When we know the value we add by being our authentic selves, and the value of our past experiences, we’re well on our way to changing the world.

Action stuff

Business journals often speak about ‘lifelong learners’ and the best leaders know that they don’t know everything, but they can certainly try to. Skills development, training and coaching all enable the inner leader in each of us to emerge. The process of continual learning is the key that lets the driver know the car has a turbo engine.

We often speak about how one should be when they become a leader but forget that you have to lead before you lead. Before you are entrusted with responsibility you must have shown that you are responsible. You cannot wait until ‘one day’ you’re a leader to act like one. Being a leader is a state of being, not a position.

Leadership is primarily about influence and we are most able to influence people when it is a natural outflow of the confidence, calm, vision, positivity and stewardship that being our authentic selves brings.

Image: djpoblete09 via Flickr.

Mbali Ndandani


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