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Show up Strong

03 August 2016

We cannot become experts at what we do until we become experts at who we are. 

I was raised to understand that life, the universe, and everything doesn’t revolve around me. In fact, during my formative years, there was very little focus on me – at school, I was encouraged, alongside many of my generation, to shut-up and fit in. 

So how did I get to the sub-title of this article?

I have learned that whilst there are arenas in which it isn’t all about me, business leadership isn’t one of them. In this arena, it’s all about me. Hence why this title is one of my favourite mottos, as it captures a fundamental difference in the “lifeblood” of how the lion entrepreneur approaches business leadership compared to the other less successful “species” of entrepreneurs.  This is an approach from the inside out, as we acknowledge that we function as a significant “strengths source and filter” to what influences our business growth and success. Becoming aware of these sources and filters is a necessary step to managing them consciously and positively as we grow our businesses.

The goal for this focused introspection is to “show up strong” as a business leader.

But all too often we get in our own way and this is because most of us are scared to lack something. I remember my business partner debating a staff incentive scheme many years ago and he said, “If we reward only some, then by default we don’t reward others”. His concern was that we would demotivate those not rewarded. It was a valid concern but it got in the way of rewarding those who went the extra mile because of the worry for those who didn’t- it just seemed easier to let everyone be mediocre - or at best, perform only to expectation. How we overcame that is another article on another topic but my point is that we do exactly this to ourselves. We are so scared to not have something, that we don’t spend enough time exploring what we do have. But we must explore this - if we are to be effective business leaders, because we absolutely cannot be brilliant at everything – we are not made that way. But we are made to be absolutely brilliant at some things - and we are all different. Fully developing our brilliance in  ”what we got” requires us to understand, accept and embrace “what we don’t got” and the good news is that once we are clear on what we don’t got, we can position others effectively to do those things!

To put it bluntly, business leaders who try to be everything are doomed to get it wrong. Here are the most common mistakes made by the 3 entrepreneurial species tendencies, who are not in Lion Territory yet:

The EnQ Rhino: With their instinctively shortsighted focus, the rhino species concentrates on what needs to happen immediately. They (often unconsciously) select the aspects of that task that they like to do, and know they are good at, and put off the other parts until they become unavoidable. The problem with this approach is that the parts they don’t like are often completed under duress and in haste, or dropped completely. The “too little too late” approach can cost the rhino in terms of his integrity and return business.

The EnQ Fish Eagle: With their tendency to believe they are best qualified, the Fish Eagle doesn’t delegate easily and, in their desire to control and do things their own way, they tend to limit the amount of business they are capable of doing. The “one way only -flat out for little return” approach can cost the fish eagle due to his overloaded headspace and tendency to deliver a one-option-only solution mostly single-handedly. The EnQ Baboon: Whilst a great collaborator, the baboon species is the most susceptible to collaborating for the wrong reasons, and seeking recognition and acceptance over getting the job done. Wanting to be liked, recognised and accepted encourages the baboons to appear competent at everything but unlike the fish eagle, they will not attempt to go solo. They often err by trusting critical aspects of tasks to unreliable partners or employees. This “it will be alright on the day” approach will damage the baboons’ reputation, and their unwillingness to accept blame will only make matters worse.

EnQ lions work to understand where their strengths lie and how to leverage them whilst accounting for their weaknesses through systems and stakeholders. This doesn’t happen overnight, but it’s a process that begins by looking inwards with a qualified roadmap of what they are looking for and why.

 In his book, “The Obstacle is the Way” (which I would highly recommend), Ryan Holiday suggests that our biggest struggles, as entrepreneurs today, are internal. Becoming experts at who we are is not just an informative and enlightening process, but an essential one to resolving the internal conflicts that might well be holding us back from Lion Territory.