Samasource founder Leila Janah shares her leadership insights:“As a CEO, it’s your job to build an alternate family”

Entrepreneurship Global challenges Social innovation

We’re big fans of The Hague-based anti-poverty non-profit Samasource. Founder and CEO Leila Janah shared some of her invaluable leadership insights in the New York Times. Take note! We’re reproducing them for you below.

1

Build a family

“As a C.E.O., your job is to really build an alternate family,” she summarizes her view on what it means to lead a company. “It’s your job to build a place where people feel comfortable taking risks, where they feel like they’re not going to be punished and where they feel like they can speak out. For me, it’s been a real evolution and a huge learning process.”

2

Keep going

“The biggest reason for success in entrepreneurship is not brilliance. It’s not creative genius. It’s the simple ability to not quit when things are really bad,” she summarizes her understanding of entrepreneurial success.

3

Don’t take things personally

“There’s an extreme tendency to take things personally as an entrepreneur (…). As an entrepreneur, your mark is on every aspect of the company, from the first rug you buy to the email signatures,” she says.

“You feel like everything the company does is an extension of you. So if something happens that doesn’t work, (…) you’re likely to constantly blame yourself and take everything really personally, which is also just bad for employee morale, because the great people you hire have their own ways of doing things and are not extensions of you,” she adds.

4

Learn to let go

“I think many children who have faced issues at home have a tough time. They operate in a mode of hypervigilance,” she references her unstable family life growing up. “I think a lot of entrepreneurs, especially, operate in this mode.”

She adds, “You’re constantly worried about trusting other people, and you’re expecting the worst to happen all the time. That can be really good, but it can also be really destructive to close relationships with staff.”

“You have to get good at ceding control and not taking things personally. I think even the best entrepreneurs have really struggled with that. For me, it’s about not taking the failures personally and also not taking the successes personally, and realizing that the successes are the product of other people coming in and infusing their own life into ideas.”

5

Embrace the struggle

And finally, she says, “You have to be willing to embrace the struggle. If you want anything great in life, you have to be willing to go through the very dark and painful moments of building something. Nothing great has ever come out of a lot of easy days. We’re in a world where so many things are available at the touch of a button. We forget that only through struggle is our character really tested.”



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