Leadership Starts with a Strong Sense of Self

Leadership Lessons (1)

My journey as a young leader started with me being a motivational speaker...

My journey as a young leader started with me being a motivational speaker—inspiring my peers to find their power, discover their passions and believe in themselves. While I enjoyed motivational speaking, its impact was often surface-level and didn’t address any of the underlying barriers my peers were facing. Wanting to make a greater impact, I branched off into entrepreneurship—founding several ventures in media, training and business consulting to reduce inequalities in the workplace and equip young people with resources to build their careers. I was drawn to support young social entrepreneurs, in particular, helping them turn their ideas into action and connecting them with partners to scale their impact. This eventually led me to the tech industry where I founded MyEffect—a mobile app and online platform that connects people with partners to take action for a shared cause and tracks everyone’s impact.

In the beginning, as a young entrepreneur, I had a strong sense of purpose and felt confident in my direction as a leader. But over the years, I became so consumed with my mission to use tech for good that I forgot to stay grounded and ended up losing myself in my work. The tech industry was less accepting of my ambitious, avant-garde ideas and impact-driven approach. The constant resistance and need to prove my place in the industry, combined with a high-stress startup environment, started to weigh down on me.

Though I have been working on MyEffect for several years, it is only now coming to market. While there are several factors that have contributed to its longer than anticipated launch date, losing my sense of self and succumbing to industry pressures created an unnecessary delay. Two years ago I had a go-to-market strategy to run a campaign focusing on equipping organizations with our tools for free and collaborating with young changemakers—investing time to support youth-led and student-led projects. Since these projects and the young changemakers behind them were part of my inspiration for developing MyEffect, I felt their participation and feedback was invaluable in creating momentum for our market growth.

Instead of following my intuition and going in the direction I knew deep down was best, I found myself giving in to the pressure

Instead of following my intuition and going in the direction I knew deep down was best, I found myself giving in to the pressure and changing my strategies based on other people’s feedback and doubts. I became vulnerable to the opinions of others—scaling down my dreams to be more ‘realistic’, making business decisions that ‘should work better’—and trying to fit into the narrow expectations of tech investors and businesses.

Contrary to popular belief, giving in to the pressure took me further away from my goals.

My original go-to-market strategy wasn’t profit-driven and business advisors thought I was naive. They pressured me to “focus on sales calls and getting recurring revenue”.

I eventually gave in and spent the next year pushing sales to a market that was resistant to change—having ignored my better judgement to focus on getting user buy-in to demonstrate the effectiveness of our solution and earn the market’s trust to step outside their comfort zone and try something new. This experience put us back an entire year. Had I a stronger sense of self to stand for what I believed in and remain confident in my direction, I could have saved a year of spinning my wheels.

"Leaders can know the way and they can confidently lead others, but if they don’t have a strong sense of self, they are just as vulnerable to get swept up in the current."
–Kelly Lovell

When I think back on my experiences and the role of self in leadership, I think of a small boat in the middle of the ocean

When I think back on my experiences and the role of self in leadership, I think of a small boat in the middle of the ocean. Your sense of self is the anchor that keeps you grounded amid the waves. The current of the ocean can be strong—as can the pressures to conform to the status quo, give up or change paths—and without an anchor, your small boat can get quickly swept away. In no time you can find your boat significantly off course and nowhere near your desired destination.

A leader with a strong sense of self, on the other hand, is unstoppable. This seems like a simple concept—isn’t it a prerequisite of leadership to exude confidence and have a clear sense of direction?

Leaders can know the way and they can confidently lead others, but if they don’t have a strong sense of self, they are just as vulnerable to get swept up in the current. Whether you want to start a business, stand up for something you believe in or lead change, you first need to find this sense of self. This is more than believing in yourself, knowing you are capable of navigating your boat. This is discovering and standing in your personal power—realizing you are in full control of your boat on the waves and the opinions of others are mere whispers in the wind.

 

“I believe we are born to be #NothingLess than amazing. The only thing holding us back is allowing ourselves to see our potential and having the courage to become the leaders we already are." –Kelly Lovell

Crossing the ocean isn’t easy

Crossing the ocean isn’t easy. But if you remain grounded in your goal with a strong sense of self, you are able to respond to the challenges and make decisions that are right for you, instead of being swayed by the current.

There will always be others in business and in life that have opinions on what you should do or who you should become. When you are comfortable with yourself—accepting and loving who you are as you are—the doubt and pressure you think you face drift away.

My vision of an empowered leader is one at the helm of a boat, confidently steering towards the waves with the wind blowing in their hair as they leave the current behind them.

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I believe we are born to be #NothingLess than amazing. The only thing holding us back is allowing ourselves to see our potential and having the courage to become the leaders we already are. Join Alesse and their partner @PlanCanada as they work to empower women and girls to decide their own futures. This partnership strives to make a positive difference in the world for women and young adults. When women and girls have the tools and opportunities to realize their full potential, there is no limit to greatness.

 

About the Author

Kelly Lovell is the founder and CEO of ChangeGen. She is globally recognized for her expertise, particularly on engaging Millennials and Generation Z More