“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress” ~ Barack Obama ~
“Entrepreneurship offers many opportunities for growth”. I thought I knew what this meant when I started my business, and I embraced the concept with excitement. I imagined late nights studying business books and days spent putting those practices into action. I imagined contacting experts in the field, mining them for knowledge and developing a robust network. I imagined doing math, creating spreadsheets, learning theories and developing business plans, while also building an amazing brand and a loyal customer base.
In other words, I imagined playing to my strengths of product creation, sales and marketing, while working extra hard to fill in the gaps I missed by not having an MBA. This would involve hard work, study, critical thinking, plus real-time application and adaptation. I was young, confident and, up until that point, my record of overcoming challenges with determination and hard work was 100%. And I was right. I successfully navigated those areas.
I was also horribly wrong. And after almost nine years, I closed my business.
What went wrong?
There are easy answers to that question:
- “I didn’t fund the business soon enough.”
- “I didn’t listen to my gut when making certain key decisions.”
- “I didn’t build out the team soon enough.”
- “I partnered with the wrong manufacturer.”
- “I worked myself into a corner, as well as a dangerous level of exhaustion, and couldn’t get out.”
I’ve engaged all those answers to explain why I made one of the hardest decisions of my life. I closed a business that had every possibility of becoming a massive success. A business with a timely and enticing product.
Letting go is really hard. And in the entrepreneurial world it’s practically taboo. But I was given a very clear message that, if I continued on the same path, I would do irreversible damage to my health. Even with that news, it was incredibly difficult to let go. My mind struggled to face the fact that more hard work still couldn’t save this situation.
After a lot of rest, time and reflection, much of that reflection catalyzed by Authentic Leadership programs at Naropa, what emerged was the real answer to what went wrong, and how I could have prevented it. What I discovered was a multifaceted blind spot. Over time, this blind spot crept in and strangled me and my business. I didn’t have tools to transform it into an opportunity for growth. In fact, in true blind-spot fashion, I didn’t even realize it existed, let alone that it was an issue, until it was too late.
Through reflective and rejuvenating exercises in the Authentic Leadership program, I realized it wasn’t the intellectual learning that was the most challenging aspect of business ownership. The much bigger challenge was developing softer skills around knowing myself and knowing what I need to lead and thrive in a continually changing and demanding environment.
This challenge was compounded by the fact that people in my network weren’t talking about nurturing these skills. I would have sought out learning opportunities to develop these skills had someone named them as being essential to success. I would have definitely listened if that person was someone with influence in my network. But I couldn’t see the problem, therefore I didn’t address it.
Naropa’s Authentic Leadership courses illuminate blind spots. They provide a container for leaders to discover what they personally need to handle challenges, and what they professionally need to shepherd their network or team through change and growth.
The courses are a refreshing reminder that we are all human, and that it’s okay to bring your full self to what you do. In fact, not only is it okay, but bringing more of your authentic self to your organization actually increases effectiveness, creativity, and collaboration while fostering healthy and dynamic relationships. Authentic leaders lead to stronger and more innovative organizations. In my experience, this was the itch that I didn’t know needed scratching!
Entrepreneurs, investors, mentors, as well as anyone leading a team will benefit from regular dives into Authentic Leadership. I wholeheartedly endorse it!
Lindsay Karson is an equestrian, yoga teacher, authenticity advocate and recovering entrepreneur. With over 30 years’ experience working with horses, Lindsay has learned that you can demand a horse do something through force and fear or you can ask and invite a horse into a relationship via authentic leadership. While the leadership path is the most challenging, it is also the most evolved and rewarding. Lindsay weaves this knowledge into one-on-one and group experiences that allow horses and people to come together in ways that strengthen leadership skills. Lindsay is also a consultant in the natural food industry. In 2008 she founded Cows Gone Coconut, a delicious brand of vegan ice cream, which she ran until late 2016.
Authentic Leadership for Naturals
June 27-28, 2019 | Boulder, CO
Drawing on principles and practices from ancient wisdom as well as contemporary approaches to leadership and organizational learning, we create a collaborative learning lab that fosters deep personal insights, enhances interpersonal skills, and increases overall leadership effectiveness.
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