5 Ways to Overcome Founder’s Syndrome

Karl R. LaPan, President & CEO, The NIIC

Photo by Franck V. on Unsplash

Entrepreneurs and business builders of organizations of all sizes often grapple with a psychological struggle known as Founder’s Syndrome, a term used to refer to a leader’s resistance to change, difficulty with giving up control, has all the answers, and withholds information. If left unchecked, it can negatively impact the health and wealth of the Founder and the company creating toxicity, negativity and poor morale.

The key is to be self-aware, intentional, reflective and willing to challenge your personal assumptions and beliefs:

1.  Find strength in numbers. Chances are other founders are experiencing the same struggles and frustrations. Make a point to aligning yourself with others in the same shoes. Having such support can allow you to be honest before it’s too late to change direction.

2.  Allow room for introspection. Take time and space to look at yourself as separate from your organization, and to examine the reasons you want to stay, as well as the costs and benefits to the company. Staying just for the sake of self-preservation can be tempting. On the other hand, it is sometimes necessary to exit for the purpose of the organization.

3.  Tame your self-worth. Sometimes you have to be honest with yourself. If you don’t think the organization can survive without you and your leadership, you’ve probably answered that question because you haven’t made sustainability a priority. Your attitude toward innovation and change in general directly impacts the future of the company. Ask yourself whether you care more about organizational legacy or personal self-worth. Find ways to augment your personal learning and discovery – workshops, networking groups, self-help seminars, and mentors among all others.

4.  Name your fears and address them head-on. Create a succession plan that touches on all the “what ifs” related to your potential departure. For example, let’s say you are the current public-facing image of the company. What happens when you’re no longer in the picture? How will staff adhere to your long-curated messaging to the media and public? Create a living document to provide a framework for public relations and guide future spokespeople with talking points about priorities.

5.  Let go, early on (Live in the windshield and not the rearview mirror.) While your vision and passion were what launched the business in the first place, you might have to make room for others to lead at some point. Relying on the same thought processes and actions as you did, in the beginning, are not necessarily the best thing for the organization or its stakeholders and customers long-term. So, if we fear the vision would change if we weren’t at the helm, perhaps it’s time to let innovations unfold while we are on board.

If you’re a start-up founder who’s successfully walked away, how did you overcome the tendencies associated with Founder’s Syndrome?

Or maybe you need some advice about making this transition. Our business coaching and mentorship programs may provide some clarity and a roadmap to enable your transition. Mentorship programs at The NIIC are flexible and available at your convenience, at every phase of your venture.

Interested in learning more? Call one of our concierges for an appointment with a business coach to start the process now at 260-407-NIIC.


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