You are not a social entrepreneur

You are not a social entrepreneur.
You are not a CEO.
You are not your role or whatever you think you are.

Roles and role titles may be useful at times to guide our work or describe it to the outside world, and indeed these role titles can feel liberating. In fact, great and effective leadership means having a healthy relationship with role.

By contrast however, there is a danger in over-identifying with roles and role titles. It can lead to misuses for power, and can eventually cause harm and be a leader’s undoing.

Founders Syndrome

Many in the do-gooding space have encountered leaders who have lost their ethical footing with regards to their role. I have seen this in other leaders and I have seen it in myself. One group of people who experience this most acutely are those who have founded organisations. There is even a term called ‘founders syndrome’ to describe the effects of poor founder separation and misuses of power by those in that role.

While there are many aspects to founders syndrome, one key feature comes as an over-identification with role. For many founders, the creation of their organisation is a work of significant effort and investment. This can lead to immense pride and attachment which Read more

Speaking truth to power

Over the past few years I have worked with and met a number of social entrepreneurs. I have been struck by how many have come into the work that they do through perceiving injustice, inequity or inefficiency elsewhere. Most social entrepreneurs I know are not new to ‘doing good’ – it is in their blood. For many they have committed their lives and been working for years trying different approaches to creating change or making a better world.

A striking number have recounted to me experiences they have had in previous jobs at non-profit organisations or the corporate sector where they perceived a genuine problem. The problems people have shared have been very diverse, including misaligned strategy, poor spending, workplace bullying, mismanagement, ego-based leadership and perhaps most alarmingly, an unwillingness to listen to contrary or negative feedback. Sometimes these problems create harmful organisations or programs, and other times just keep the organisation in a place of mediocrity; locked away from fully achieving greatness or their mission.

Many social entrepreneurs I have come across have actually first attempted to create change, innovate or establish new initiatives within these existing organisations. They have often experienced the resistance that comes from a system trying to protect itself, and not allowing new information to come in. Many have also experienced not being heard when trying to express counter views or challenge authority when they witness unethical behaviour in leadership.

I could not even count how many people I know who have felt that they have had no other option than to leave the organisation as they have been unable to create change there. In some cases, their departure has not been their choice. The information and perceptions they have had and were unable to share would have potentially saved the Read more

Ethics quotes from “Right Use of Power”

I have been reading the most wonderful and important book by Cedar Barstow called “Right Use of Power: the Heart of Ethics“. There are so many gems of wisdom in here that I am sure I will discuss further in other posts. This post is to create a repository for these gems as they come through. If these quotes resonate or you are interested in exploring these topics further, this book is a great place to start.

“My life belongs to the whole community, as long as I live it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die…When you make somebody else do something against their will, that, to me, is not power. That is force. To me, force is a negation of power…By power I mean – almost exclusively – the ability to empower” – George Bernard Shaw, p.xi

“When the generativity and responsiveness of our power is guided by loving concern for the well-being of all, we will have an ethical and sustainable world. Power directed by Heart. Heart infused with power. This is the key to right use of power” – Cedar Barstow, p.xi

“Ethical codes are not arbitrary rules or regulations. Understanding a code of ethics is similar to listening to a wisdom circle of elders sharing what they have learned” – Cedar Barstow

“Ethics are an essential guide for the work of Read more