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Founder’s syndrome undermines the legacy of strong leaders

Founder’s syndrome is a pathological pattern of behaviour that sometimes afflicts the founders of organizations. Management consultants colloquially refer to it as ‘founderitis’

Founder’s syndrome occurs when a strong-minded founder, who battled against odds to build an organization, ends up becoming its biggest constraint to growth.

I see it as an autoimmune disease that infects founders and consequently undermines the organizations that they worked hard to build. I encounter a new case of founder’s syndrome every couple of months in my consulting work.

In this article I’ll define founder’s syndrome and two ways of seeing it. I will also discuss how it is caused, its common symptoms, how it is treated and how to prevent it.

Be hopeful, not optimistic

Recently, I have noticed that there seems to be a shortage of hope in the world.

Despite the incredible progress that we have made as a species, everything seems to be a mess. There are problems everywhere we look.

Yet despite these problems, we need hope to give meaning and direction to our suffering.

This article will reflect on the nature of hope and the three ingredients that constitute it. It will also consider what leaders can do to cultivate genuine hope (and not false hope) among their followers.

Strategy & social enterprise glossary

We’ve designed this glossary to help social enterprises and non-profit organizations in South Africa think clearly about their strategies and business models.

Strategic clarity involves clear thinking, and clear thinking requires clarity of language. Many of us also rely too much on jargon, which clutters our minds and encourages lazy and fuzzy thinking.

Here is some of the terminology that I regularly use in my consulting practice and lectures, and my short descriptions of what each term means in simple English.

Ten things I have learned while working with impact investment funds in Africa

In this article about impact investment, I will share what I have learned from working with two investment funds in Africa. I have written this article about my personal experiences to help counterbalance the academic material on this subject. It is aimed at readers who are interested in impact investment but don’t have any firsthand experience.

This article began as a private reflection in my journal one Saturday morning in October 2020, as I sat outside at a local coffee shop. It has since grown significantly.

End-of-year reflection for 2020

The year is coming to an end. It has been a crazy year as I am sure we’ll all agree. Few of us would have expected a pandemic to rampage across the globe. Covid-19 has accelerated many good and bad trends. It has left millions of people more vulnerable than before. It has also revealed some opportunities for governments, businesses and non-profit organizations to improve their reach and positive impact.

This article contains my end-of-year reflection for 2020. I believe in the value of ‘after action reviews’ and in sharing them openly so others can learn.

This has been a good year for me overall. While my income has decreased, as one would expect in the midst of a pandemic, I managed to make several changes that placed me in a stronger position than I was at the beginning of the year. I’m looking forward to 2021.

CSI must change gear to confront the new reality

Here is an article I wrote for the publication, “CSI: The Human Face of Business” which was included in the Financial Mail during October 2020. 

It explores how Corporate Social Investment (CSI) initiatives have had to radically rethink their approach when confronted with the impact of Covid-19 and the resulting lockdown on their beneficiaries. The strategies that they had fine-tuned over the years needed to rapidly pivot and innovate.

This article explores several lessons that CSI managers have needed to learn, and which will hopefully remain.

I suggest that CSI managers must assess the stark reality of the social, economic and environmental problems that are confronting South Africans, and simultaneously cultivate hope that they can make a lasting difference.

When you apply for impact investment, don’t make these mistakes in your application!

I have been increasingly working with impact investment funds around Africa, and with organizations that are trying to become ‘investment ready’.

As part of this work, I have assessed the applications of over a hundred organizations and conducted due diligence on several.

I have noticed how many organizations make the same pattern of mistakes in their applications. These tend to downgrade their ratings, even when their proposed business venture might be good.

This inspired me to write this article and share 10 recommendations for how to prepare a winning application.

I hope that this will help organizations to submit better applications to impact investment funds in future.

Does your organization have FOGO?

Now that the lockdown in South Africa has started to lift, I’m noticing how many people are struggling with FOGO – an acronym for ‘Fear of Going Out’. 

They have established a safe bubble during lockdown, and are anxious about venturing out and confronting the turbulent world that awaits them. This tendency seems to be the antithesis of FOMO, which we all know as the ‘Fear of Missing Out’.

This article explores the characteristics of FOGO in organizations, and what you, as a leader, can do about it.

I encourage leaders to realize that their organizations must venture out before it’s too late. The cost of inaction may be irreversible. This unusual moment will come to an end, sooner rather than later, and we will all have to enter the uncertain world outside.

Leaders must confront their brutal truths but never give up their hopes

It is becoming much clearer what the next 12 months will look like for our organizations. For some organizations, it looks quite bleak; for others there may be a measure of hope.

I’m writing this article in early August 2020 in South Africa. The coronavirus pandemic appears to be over the hump of the first wave over here, and hopefully in decline. People have learned how to navigate through the dangers and restrictions that confront them each day. It looks like the initial panic is slowly subsiding. 

Leaders are able to distill evidence and trends to infer what their organizations will look like over the next year. For many leaders, this outlook is legitimately distressing. Their organizations, their beneficiaries and customers, their strategic context, may look very different from how they did in the past. 

I advise leaders to consider the Stockdale Paradox, in which I’ve found solace in recent months. This paradox suggests that leaders must confront and accept the brutal truth of what they see.

10 examples of businesses & nonprofits that have adapted in response to the Covid-19 lockdown

This Covid-19 lockdown has had a profound impact on non-profit organizations and businesses in South Africa.

While a few have managed to scale their services to meet the demand, many have needed to shift how they do things to keep their doors open. Those who’ve been unable to do this, or who’ve simply been unlucky, have sadly needed to downsize or even close.

During the lockdown, I’ve been marveling at how willingly and rapidly some South African organizations have adapted.

This inspired me to source some examples from my network. This presentation showcases 10 organizations that have adapted and created positive change in the process.

I hope this will inspire you to explore new and interesting ways of doing things during this difficult time.

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