Experience is the name we give to our mistakes.
Last night I was honoured to be asked by the Eloquent Leaders Toastmasters Club to be one of the keynote speakers, alongside Jessica Breitenfeld (2022 champion of public speaking in the Iberian peninsula)
I was asked to speak about #Leadership and my first reaction was, I don’t have an MBA, I am not a top CEO of a multi-million dollar and I don’t have half the knowledge or experience of Andrew Bryant, CSP who is a global speaker and leadership expert.
What I do have is more than 25 years of experience as a serial entrepreneur, more than 14 years of experience as a startup founder riding the death valley, and over 7 years of experience as a #toastmasters
Success in startups comes down to leadership and its founders and here I share with you the 9 key factors that I learnt and believe to be important in leadership.
- Passionate with a VisionEvery leader needs to have a clear OBJECTIVE (Mission) and follow that full-heartedly with passion. Without a clear objective at some point, you will falter and start going round and round. Without a clear objective, you cannot tackle obstacles and without passion, you will find that sooner or later after the first few setbacks, you will just give up and let go. If you are passionate about your mission, no mountain is high enough and no river wide enough. You will find the will, way, and energy to get over the myriads of obstacles you will find along your route. I have failed at many other things in my last startup, but the one thing that has kept me going is my passion and my clear objective of what I want my platform/software to achieve. I have encountered hundreds if not thousands of obstacles, big and small, they were all punches in the face and setbacks. Some hurt financially, and some hurt emotionally but my passion helped me get through them. I kept my focus on my vision and I am still focused on that vision.
- Good ListenerYou need to become a good listener. I can’t claim that I was a good listener. In fact, I have to admit I was a bad listener. This was a talent I had to practice and improve. Toastmasters is where I learnt how to practice it, and how to improve it and Today I take up every opportunity at Toastmasters where I can practice and improve this talent.
- Your team
- Your clients
- Your competitors
You need to listen to your team. You need to make sure they are appreciated, given autonomy, and that they feel part of the mission. They have to feel the mission or else you will be running on one leg. Your customers are key. They are the ones who will decide to buy or rent your services. They are key to your business growth revenue and sustainability. Finally, last but not least, listen to your clients. They don’t have to be your enemy, they can be your allies, there is plenty of fish in the sea, and there are plenty of things you can do together, learn from each other and contribute to improvements in the sector. Don’t berate your competitors rather befriend your competitors. There is much more to gain in friendship than wars.
- Confident & Decisive. As a leader you need to practice the ability to make quick decisions and gowith it. You cannot falter and you cannot linger. In particular, in startups, you need to be able to practice this talent. Any hesitation and you risk not just your life but everyone’s life. Your team trusts you and they will support you. Even if it is a bad decision they will back you up. Sometimes there is no time to change and correct the course of action, but equally if you are able to listen, you will be able to allow your team to give you feedback and make the right adjustments to continue on that path. Decisions are tough, they are hard to make and we are bound to make many wrong decisions. Don’t falter. Go with it and trust your instinct and listen to your team.
- Accountability. As a leader you have no one above you, you are accountable only to yourself. Make sure you set a mechanism to keep yourself on course, stick to your tasks, daily routines and reward yourself for every achievement without the need to make a show out of it. Acknowledge what you have achieved with your team and if things go wrong or not as planned, accept responsibility. We all make mistakes, it is only natural. The worst thing we can do is to create and fuel a blame culture. Infinity is a good description for the number of mistakes I have made in my life. I haven’t learnt to accept, show responsibility and take actions to correct them.
- Use the Power Fear. I told you that I had the Passion and Vision over the past 14 years that has kept me going. I was also honest about my listening skills. I will also be honest with you, Fear of Failure was one of the things that help me back in this project. I encountered too many people on my path telling me I can’t achieve those objectives, I was determined but I let that fear creep in. What if they are right? What if I ruin my reputation? What if I lose everything I have worked for and earnt so far? These are some of the many fears that held me back from going full throttle. I took each step with extreme caution and I held back on many actions that could have throttled me to the front or made me fall flat on my face. Thinking back I was too cautious and I admit while I have learnt to moderate this fear, it still exists, however now I am aware of it and I remind myself about the option I have. The decision is mine.
- Positive Attitude. Adopting and keeping a positive attitude is key to your success. We all encounter problems, we all have doubts about tomorrow, but what counts is today. The Glass is half full or half empty. I always keep my glass half empty, because I know tomorrow it will fill up. Today, I use the half that is full. Today I will concentrate on the one thing I can do, the one step I can take towards my final goal. Your team will pick up your attitude and energy. Your way of dealing with matters will become their way of dealing with matters and your clients. Your Attitude will finally become their attitude and not just that but also your family, your children and your surrounding.
- DO NOT DOUBT. BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. One of Pink Floyd’s songs in the album “A momentary lapse of reason” is “One slop” and part of the lyrics is “One slip and down the hole you go, it seems to take no time at all”. One doubt and you could go down. Just a momentary lapse, that’s all it takes, one simple hesitation. I love running in the mountains and sometimes we run close to some vertical heights. There are times that we have to grab the rocks and go slowly but steady and there are times that we just have to run it as fast as possible. Believe in yourself, self confidence is key and is another energy that your team members, clients and competitors will pick up on. Believing in yourself is one of the key factors of success I read about over and over, week after week in the Financial Times. From top CEOs to influencers, mountain climbers, artists, movie stars, and rock stars. They had unfaltering belief in themselves. Don’t doubt, take advice, listen, adjust whatever needs to be correct in your path but GO for it. A good leader will breed this belief not just in him/herself but in all the team members.
- Remain Humble. I read somewhere that “Leadership is not about you being the centre of attention, rather you being the Epicentre of action like an earthquake. You as the leader have got to lead by example and make sure that you create the ripple effect for everyone to follow your lead and your path. Leadership is not about you hitting the front page of Forbes magazine but remembering that if you did, it was only because of the team behind you. A good leader should remain humble. Lead by example and acknowledge your team for without them you would have never made it. I have made it several times with my team and hit rock bottom and been left without a team. The only reason I made it to the top of where I had made it was because of my team and when I fell, was where my team was no longer there. I can only accept responsibility that I was unable to save my team from what I could or could not see coming. I am half of that failure equation. I am only a small percentage of that success equation.
- Adopting good habits. Finally I learnt that the only way to move forward is to start changing old habits that don’t serve me anymore. Adopting new habits is key to self development and success and there is no way you can adopt every single new thing you hear about. Every good habit you hear about and you want to adopt, requires a learning time, has a learning curve and for every good habit you adopt, you need to drop a bad habit. I loved to watch a good movie at night but if I watch a movie, have a glass of wine and maybe some cheese, there is no way I would be able to wake up at 5 am. It was a decision. It was my priority. I dropped my routine TV watching at night, for early nights, so I could wake up fresh and early to read my books, walk and enjoy the early hours of the morning. I still watch the odd movie every now and then, and thoroughly enjoy it, however, my routine is 5.00 am and I enjoy that much more 🙂
May your journey be filled with joy and love. Enjoy it and lead the way for others to follow. Feeling stuck on your entrepreneurial journey? I am happy to help. Book a call with me to explore how we can work together