By Chinonso Ogbogu
There is a part of building a growth startup that we rarely talk about.
And that’s the leadership capacity of the Founder as a person.
Note carefully I said, “As a Person”; I didn’t say “as an entrepreneur.”
How capable are you in leading diverse people and managing the vortex of change that reality throws at you?
Okay, allow me to use my business as a backdrop to what I will like us to consider.
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I currently run a wholly writing agency called Sabi Writers, with a client base that cuts across Africa and other parts of the world.
The photo you see below is just a few of my staff working in a room in our corporate office in Lagos, Nigeria.
When we started out, it was just three of us.
So relatively, I had little or no leadership tests to deal with and learn from.
The coast was clear, so to speak.
But in roughly 14 months, we grew from just 3 staff to a 20-man organization.
Alas, now I am learning hard-core leadership at a whole new trajectory.
It is stretching me, leaving behind a new personal elasticity at its wake.
Therefore, I just have to brace up.
So what am I doing?
I am reading leadership books, studying how great leaders lead, asking tons of questions, and watching movies that teach hands-on leadership.
One of the fantastic movies I have invested my time into is LAST SHIP.
I think every young Startup Founder should watch that movie, not just for entertainment but also to learn key leadership lessons.
Okay so, I currently lead a total of 20 staff and we are working on hitting 30 by end of December.
Hence, the syllabus has changed for me!
This reality is now forcing me to quickly adjust in many areas of my life and personal philosophy.
I am learning how to make compromises for more people.
I am learning human psychology and sociology.
I am learning how to manage habits, idiosyncrasies, and performance in the most concerted manner.
I am learning how to make sound decisions in a flash and sometimes with less data.
I am learning how to be a Human and an Alien at the same time.
I am learning how to deal with surprises, gossips, and other vicissitudes that come with having higher number of people occupying a territory.
And, like you know, true leadership is made not in the ease, but in the storm.
Just few weeks ago, one of my staff handling a major project had to make an unplanned, emergency family trip abroad and that was a leadership test for me.
Few days ago, the husband of one of my staff had a ghastly motor accident with a hit-and-run driver, smashing his lovely car to almost smithereens.
Because of that, my staff was so emotionally down that she had to chat me up very late, at midnight.
“Boss, I am bleeding inside and I can’t think of any other person to talk to but you. My husband just had an accident.”
I was slightly awake, lying down in bed, at the edge of falling into full sleep, when the message dropped.
Immediately, I stood up.
Sleep evaporated into thin air!
“What?!” I said.
Right there, that presented another leadership test for me and I had to rise to the occasion.
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Interestingly, in my kind of business, where I have highly skilled writers producing massive content at scale, I need all my staff to constantly be in their right mental frames.
So I NEVER allow them to be mentally troubled.
You see, in growing your startup and working with your people, you literally become a Fire Fighter.
Yes, a Fire Fighter!
You become that person your staff (maybe not all of them) can run to when there is a fire-storm raging in their lives.
(Except of course, you don’t become that person)
That’s when your leadership capacity AS A PERSON will be tested.
Today, I lead a team of 20 amazing talents. By the time we hit say 100 or 1000, I must brace up to learn another leadership syllabus.
The same applies to YOU, my friend.
Your leadership will be put to the test – many times.
Therefore, the big question is:
Are you consciously and consistently taking your time and resources to develop your leadership capacity AS A PERSON?
Inherently, this has been proven to be where most of our cookies crumble.
Where a lot of startups kiss the dust!