We recently published an article about defeating imposter syndrome. Imposter syndrome is that pesky experience of disbelieving the reality of who you are. For a variety of reasons, it’s the struggle to internalize what we know is true of ourselves.
Just about everyone who’s starting a new thing endures imposter syndrome. It’s a necessary evil of the innovation and entrepreneurial process. So, we gave a blog’s-worth of space over to how to deal with it.
This blog is on a different but closely related topic: how to embrace yourself as a leader in a startup. Our leaderships skills and status as a leader are often the primary targets of imposter syndrome.
Leaders are often considered the most esteemed people in the professional world. Most people are often hesitant to claim the title for themselves even when the evidence for its truth is obvious.
This article is dedicated to helping you embrace yourself as a leader. Here are three special tips for you that you can implement on a daily basis to help yourself grow in your confidence as a leader of a startup.
Leadership Has Many Different Looks
It’s tempting to think that leadership has one brand, one look. When you’re reading through the news or about a specific company, you’re inundated with a certain brand of leadership.
For example, perhaps the leaders you’ve witnessed were all or mostly men (an unfortunate reality our world is still responding to). Maybe the leaders all tended toward aggression or narcissism. Or, perhaps you’re used to outspoken leaders.
No matter what you’ve witnessed, you’ve inevitably formed (consciously or not) a leadership template.
Your leadership template is the lens through which you see leaders. It’s also the lens by which you judge whether or not someone is a leader.
Embrace yourself knowing your leadership template
Here’s what we know.
Leaders come in many different forms. Leaders exude many different qualities. Every leader is different. While there are some qualities that generally hold across the board—like communicative, trusting, and empowering—that doesn’t mean there’s only one type of leader.
There are many types.
The Needs and Problems of Startups Can Look A Lot Different
One of the reasons it can be so challenging to embrace yourself as a leader in a startup is because the needs and problems of a startup can look very different from those of a large corporation.
If you’re leading a startup, then you’re doing a lot of different kinds of things. Many of these things may even feel very insignificant to you.
You might be making cold calls all week. The next week you might be reading through applications. The following week you might be balancing the books. You might not have your first employee for a few months or even a year.
Does all of this mean you’re not leading? Absolutely not. You’re solving problems. You’re moving the ball down the field. Hopefully you have a vision to empower others to handle these tasks.
However, the fact right now is that these tasks are laid on your desk. Because of that, it’ll remain tempting to believe you’re not a leader.
Why? Because leaders only handle “important things,” you might say to yourself. The reality couldn’t be further from the case. Jeff Bezos, for example, started Amazon packing boxes on his knees next to the rest of his team.
Leading through the seemingly insignificant is necessary to leading through the significant.
Embrace yourself as a leader solving problems and keep your vision
Leaders are partially marked by their vision for the future, were do we want to be? Where are we headed? What do we have to do to get there?
In a startup, you’ll be solving problems you wish someone else could solve for you and you’ll be handling tasks you wish you could off-board. Don’t let these aspects of your experience get in the way of seeing yourself as a leader.
Indeed, how you work through and respond to these problems will be the mark of your leadership.
So, keep in mind that startups bring different problems and different needs, no less significant. They’re actually arguably more significant, for they set the stage and trajectory for the future of your company.
Leaders Can Be Developed, Not Always “Born”
The age-old adage that the “gifted” in our world are born that way. We hear this kind of thinking left and right, and it seems especially prominent in the industry of the arts.
It’s common talk that you’re born with the talent of singing or that you’re born with the skill of painting. It seems no less common to hear that people are born with leadership skills.
Now, is it impossible to be born with predispositions toward the arts or leadership? Aren’t there at least some people who enter our world as mathematical geniuses?
It certainly seems this way. But perhaps the better way to frame what’s going on is that such people don’t require the amount of training or development that other’s might.
In either case, however, work is required to cultivate the skillset or gift mix. What really matters for you today is that leaders are developed, not always necessarily born.
Embrace Yourself As a Leader, Developing New Abilities
Have you been doubting yourself as a leader because no one has ever told you that you’re a “natural” or that you were “born a leader”? We’re here to tell you to resist that and remember that some of the best leaders we know have worked hard their entire life to reach where they’re at.
- They put in the hard work of developing themselves. They got themselves into relationships and mentorship opportunities that they knew would help improve themselves as leaders.
- The best leaders are not ones without weaknesses. No, the best leaders understand their weaknesses and surround themselves with others who are strong in those areas. That’s a skill you develop.
Here are some questions to answer to help you embrace yourself as a leader in your startup:
- Which characteristics make up your leadership template? Write what it is defined by.
- What are the needs or problems in your startup you can see as opportunities to lead through?