Nick Bowditch on overcoming doubt, failure, and fear and becoming a great leader

Nick Bowditch, Twitter’s Small Business Evangelist, has an interesting and very human take on how leadership looks in 2016.

Speaking at the Indue Leadership Forum: The Art of Thinking Differently in Sydney recently, Bowditch, a former start-up founder and the only person in Asia-Pacific to have worked at both Facebook and Twitter, noted that the leadership qualities people wanted had completely changed.

“In the past, it was the one with an MBA, the good school, the good looking one, the man, this man. Now we want people who can lead, execute, inspire and improve.”

While we may be distracted by well-connected people with one million followers, these may not necessarily be great leaders.

So who are today’s leaders?

“They are women, 41 years old and have two kids,” he said. “They work in an office environment. They could run the whole show, but they just do their own thing, because they are not open to giving it a chance or they aren’t confident enough to step through. They know everyone’s birthday in the office. They buy the oversized novelty card for that birthday and they make you sign it before morning tea. That’s because at morning tea, they bring the chocolate cake and make you sing happy birthday around it. That’s your leader. She is kind and does everything and is connected to everyone.”

Bowditch noted that three things held us back as leaders in business: doubt, failure and fear.

Doubt was the worst of these, he said, especially ‘imposter syndrome’ that runs through your head all the time – that little voice that says that you are not good enough, smart enough, educated enough, skinny enough, don’t hustle enough… or that today’s the day they will work that out.

To try to beat the doubt, Bowditch said:

  • I don’t try to be perfect. I just try to be valuable. The pursuit of perfection is futile, a waste of energy and so annoying to everyone around you.
  • I try not to compare myself to others. And to not take myself too seriously.
  • I keep a file of nice things that people say about me – for example, comments on Facebook, reviews and unsolicited comments – and I take this out on my really dark days. It’s amazingly powerful.
  • I tell myself: just get out there and have a go anyway.

Bowditch also advised against being afraid to fail, adding: “The opposite of fear is not courage. It’s curiosity… That’s how we learn and stop being scared.”

He also listed what would propel leaders forward in 2016:

  • Your tribe, the people around you now. People hang around you for a reason and you hang around them for a reason. You know who your people are and they know who you are.
  • Criticism, but only if you listen to people who are part of your tribe. Never listen to the keyboard warriors and those sitting in dark spaces, attacking you to make themselves feel better.
  • Gratitude. Write it down because that creates a neural pathway in your brain.
  • Have fun. Be happy at work or do something else.
  • Authenticity. People know when you are lying.
  • Story telling. A poor storyteller will fail to be heard above today’s online noise.
  • Openness and boldness.
  • Mindfulness. Be aware of how the environment is changing. This helps you avoid mistakes.
  • Kindness. Business has become ruthless, but you will never lose business with kindness.
  • Ask yourself every morning: “What would I do today if I wasn’t afraid?”

Connect with Nick Bowditch on Twitter.

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