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Letting go to grow: Embracing change and recognising when your business needs new leadership

Jo's Musings

Letting go to grow: Embracing change and recognising when your business needs new leadership

I’ve spent two decades immersed in the entrepreneurial ecosystem, working with countless founders to hire and build exceptional leadership teams. One of the most impactful things I’ve learned is that self-awareness is the secret sauce of great leadership.

It’s a powerful truth. As a founder, your ability to accept feedback, embrace change, and confront personal limitations, can open up exciting opportunities and lead to your next big breakthrough. As your business evolves, so must you.

Over coffee meet-ups with my founder network, I’ve been reminded that letting go can be your greatest growth opportunity. Founders must continually ask themselves: Am I still the right person to lead this company into the next stage of growth?

For many, the answer can be incredibly liberating. It requires honesty and fearless self-assessment, but by embracing change and considering stepping aside, founders can propel the business to new heights and bring a renewed sense of purpose to their own lives.

Recognising your strengths and limitations

As a founder, you were the perfect person to take your business from idea to reality. But as your company grows, it now requires different skills and fresh perspectives to navigate new challenges.

Founders often wear many hats, especially in the early stages of a startup, but as the business evolves, it takes courage to look in the mirror and admit: ‘I might not be the visionary this company needs right now’. This realisation isn’t defeat, it’s a golden opportunity to set the stage for the next era of success.

When advising founders, I believe it’s essential to identify and focus on your unique contributions. What’s your superpower? What’s that one irreplaceable thing only you can do within the business?

Embracing your strengths will bring clarity: guiding you on where to delegate, when to bring in specialised expertise, or when it’s time to step aside.

  • What sparks joy?

Identify the tasks you excel at. Focus on what brings you joy and positively impacts the business.

  • Passion vs. proficiency

Consider what you love to do but may lack the necessary skills for. Is it time to upskill, or should you delegate to someone more qualified?

  • Energy drainers

Recognise the tasks that drain your energy and impede progress. What can you outsource to get back on track?

  • Necessary but not fun

What are those tasks you need to lead on, even if they don’t bring you personal fulfilment? Your expertise is still valuable here.

Is burnout holding you back?

Getting a startup off the ground and hitting major milestones is one of the most exhilarating journeys you will ever go on. The highs and lows, sometimes experienced within the same day, add to the adventure but take their toll.

But here’s the kicker: burnout isn’t a badge of honour - it’s a signal for change.

I’ve been having increasingly urgent conversations with founders seeking support and encouragement to navigate burnout. It often surfaces after significant achievements or key inflection points: for instance, founders who guided their teams through the pandemic, or closed a major fundraising round. These accomplishments are monumental, yet they can be followed by feelings of exhaustion as new challenges in the startup landscape emerge.

Are you feeling drained, overwhelmed, or detached from your former passion? Perhaps your values and personal mission have changed. Whatever the driver, recognising the signs of burnout can lead to incredible opportunities for renewal. If you find that the business that once brought you joy now feels like a burden, it may be time to reassess your role within the company.

How to know when it’s time for change

Whether you’re a lone founder looking to step aside, a Co-Founder recognising that you or your partner may not be fit for the next stage, or a leader wanting to stay involved but thinking about hiring a new CEO, the process requires self-awareness and the courage to accept feedback. So what are the signs that it’s time to ‘let go to grow’?

  • Rediscovering your passion

If you no longer find joy in running the business and feel overwhelmed by the challenges, it's a clear indicator that change is needed. This could be an opportunity to rediscover your passion in a new role or venture.

  • Embracing growth

If your business isn't moving forward despite your best efforts, it might be due to your current leadership. Sometimes the bravest and most impactful step a founder can take is to step out of their own way to allow the business to thrive.

  • Refocusing your energy

Are you struggling with motivation, focus, or projecting frustrations onto your team? Refocus your energy on areas where you can contribute more effectively.

  • Seeking honest feedback

Avoid ‘yes men’. It’s time for real, honest conversations. Are you ready for the tough truths that can lead to breakthroughs? Transparency will always lead to better decision-making and stronger leadership.

Your next move

Recognising when to step aside and bring in new leadership is a crucial step in ensuring the long-term success of your business. It's not a sign of failure, but a strategic move to bring in the expertise needed to navigate the next stage of growth.

Thinking about making the leap? Let’s have a confidential conversation to explore how you can set the stage for the next exciting chapter.

Stay tuned for the follow-up article, where we’ll dive into the practical steps of hiring new leadership - whether that’s a new CEO, MD, Co-Founder, or building out a leadership team - and find out how you can plan for a smooth transition.

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