HomeHero’s Founder & CEO Kenny Alegbe on the power of Stoicism in leadership.
My team often describe me as a Stoic leader, largely because I’m fairly unflappable. Especially when it comes to the frequent — often unpredictable — problems that are thrown your way daily as a startup founder.
I wasn’t always like this.
As a young person, you tend to be consumed by worries and concerns. I was living a twentysomething corporate life characterised by success but also a fear of uncertainty, and a degree of suffering brought on by personal desires that I felt were unmet. My sense of self was dependent on what could be controlled and planned for in the future, which ultimately left me vulnerable to the inevitable unpredictability of life — and the economy.
So how did this all change?
Prior to being a founder, I was progressing in merchant finance and everything was on track professionally. Then early on in the financial crisis I was told it was possible that I might be made redundant. That moment took away the agency that I thought I had over my future. I realised that your identity, so often bundled up with your job, can be undermined in a heartbeat, if you allow it to be. This shock to the system prompted me to look more deeply into philosophy. This was in a bid to get some grounding that would make me unshakeable in business. Enter Stoicism.
We often talk about Stoicism reductively as simply a character trait. However, from a philosophical point of view, it’s about finding gratitude in life. You have to take control over how you feel about situations, and being fearless.
Stoicism teaches you that courage is the best way to face a situation head-on, whether that’s in work or personal relationships.
sTOICISM AS A FOUNDER
We all find ourselves paralysed by fear of the unknown — ending a relationship, leaving a job, running out of money. Stoicism helps you acknowledge that fear, and work in a focussed way to find solutions to those problems. So that you can keep moving forward.
What we find most paralysing in life is what could be, not what is. Finding Stoicism as a founder helped me look at my problems. I ask myself daily “But what does this really mean? What are my choices here?”.
There’s a great story about Marcus Aurelius, a well-known proponent of the school of Stoicism. Like most people, he had his fears. His greatest fear was that he would lose everything and end up living destitute. So every year he would wrap himself up in rags and live like a beggar on the streets of Rome to face that fear. At the heart of this action was the intention to disrupt himself, to challenge himself, and come out of a hard situation a better person.
Head to Kenny’s Medium to read the full article on the power of Stoicism.
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