𝗜'𝗺 𝗮 𝗥𝗼𝗹𝗲 𝗠𝗼𝗱𝗲𝗹
Updated: Oct 22, 2022
As a founder, you may want to focus on changing the world, building products, or growing revenues. While that focus happens in your mind, stakeholders constantly watch your behaviors and signals.
Whether you embrace being a role model or loathe the idea, your actions and words can impact investors, clients, and team members and affect how they support or ignore your vision. The more your business grows, the more you are identified as a role model and the more you will be scrutinized publicly.
You want to acknowledge these optics without being so obsessed with perceptions that you live in constant fear of making a mistake.
How do you lead without being preoccupied with other people’s perceptions?
Let’s review ways to build the foundation of you as seen in the eyes of others.
Be true to yourself. Leading others starts with self-awareness. Know and share your vision and values. Act consistently with your values, and if you go off course, acknowledge the mistake and explain how you plan to improve.
Leaders often worry about making mistakes, but everyone knows we, as humans, are imperfect; so, step into those instances and acknowledge the impact of the mistake and what you learned from it.
Practice empathy. Get to know others on your team and understand your influence in their lives. Ask deeper questions such as, “What’s one thing you will want in order to stay with the company?”
Work with your leaders and their teams to align company goals, team initiatives, and individual performance so people know where they stand. Proactively help people to level up and respectfully say goodbye when necessary.
“Leaders are more powerful role models when
they learn than when they teach.”
– Rosabeth Moss Kanter
Learn patience. Not every decision needs to be made immediately. Take time to breathe—literally and figuratively—so you can receive advice and perspective, learn all of your options, and respond with less emotion. Here are a couple examples:
If I feel myself getting heated from a frustrating or humiliating exchange—heart beating faster, breath quickening, and/or angry thoughts creeping up—I will draft an email to the other person or people involved, ask someone else to read it, and often send that draft only to myself so I can sleep on it.
If I’m in a meeting and feeling anxious, I’ll excuse myself and walk around for a few minutes. Instead of jumping into the next meeting, I’ll let them know that I will be a few minutes late. Also, if my next meeting is a video chat, I may take the meeting by phone in order to walk around and burn off some energy.
In the times when I acted impulsively, I often ended up spending more time fixing problems and mending relationships which took away from forward progress. In other words, going a little slower in a thoughtful way may be faster than being rash.
Think positively. When things are going well, optimism is in abundance. When problems arise, people are likely to have questions and emotions may run high. Not addressing the root cause of the original problem or acknowledging people’s concerns is likely to spark further problems. But in the end, remember that you are highly likely to persevere even if everything feels dire today.
Also, keep in mind that some crises become hidden opportunities and that many startups and small businesses end up pivoting successfully during major disasters and down economies.
Work smart. You will be tempted to work long hours and remain focused on the business. Recognize that entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Practice healthy habits around diet, exercise, and sleep.
Spend time with family and friends, pursue hobbies and outside interests, which can relax your mind and inspire new ideas, and continue learning—from books, articles, conferences, people—to spark creativity and strengthen your resolve.
You may not want to be a role model but recognize that you may not have an option in the matter. As you face new pressures or accomplishments, there may be increased scrutiny. Take the time to recognize and address that scrutiny personally so you can effectively address people publicly.