• Jeffrey Shaw

Leadership Focus: Why Now is the Time for Entrepreneurs to Step Up


In crises, people care less about your past achievements and more about how you’re showing up for them now. As a business coach for entrepreneurs, I’ve noticed this in the way people are responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems to me that there’s sort of a leveling of the playing field going on. Some previously admired leaders are losing prominence, while some relatively unknown leaders are stepping up. And that can be great news for entrepreneurs. Here’s how.


Rising stars

Have you noticed the emergence of new leaders and the explosion of new talent as the health crisis has evolved? Innovators--completely unknown before or known only to a small group--are now showing up in the world in remarkably big ways. And they’re getting a lot of attention.


I recently discovered a father and daughter singing duo. You may have too, because they are literally everywhere now. They happen to share my last name, Shaw, but aren’t related. What they are, however, is new internet royalty. Every music video they put out goes viral, and rightfully so--they are incredibly talented. More to the point, they are bringing us the inspiration, enjoyment, and entertainment that we need right now.


In almost every industry, there are thought leaders showing up now in incredible ways to be of service. There are politicians who are standing out above the crowd and giving us hope about our political future. And there are previously obscure speakers who are suddenly rising up as the future of the speaking industry.


Trading places

On the other hand there are also people who have been looked upon as established leaders for years. Successful entrepreneurs and well-known business people we’re used to seeing all the time on social media. Industry leaders universally acknowledged as being at the top of their game. And suddenly, some of them seem to be far less visible. It leaves me wondering why, if they were so vocal before, we aren’t hearing from them now? And if it leaves me wondering that, imagine where it leaves their audience.


Why is this happening? Based on my experience as a small business consultant and branding expert, I can venture a few guesses. One reason may be because they no longer have something to sell. Or perhaps now, in the new business normal, they can’t sell the way they did before. Maybe it’s because they don’t have their messaging right, and are struggling to adapt to changing times.


Whatever the cause, something else is happening at the same time. Lesser known leaders are sliding up alongside established ones, and maybe even stepping in front of them into the spotlight.


Leveling the playing field

This leveling of the playing field is something that can happen in a time of crisis. When people are struggling, they don’t care so much about how big your name was or what you already achieved. What they do care about is how you are showing up for them now, when they need you.


You might have experienced this on a personal level. Have you ever had a friend show up to help during a tough time in a way that surprised you? Or someone who failed to show up when you expected them to? Either way, I bet you remember who they are.


Right now, in this tough time, we’re noticing who’s showing up when we need them. Maybe it’s for wisdom and advice. Maybe it’s for leadership. Maybe it’s for entertainment or a good laugh. Whatever need they are fulfilling, these are the people we will remember. Past acclaim is no longer enough to keep our attention or loyalty if present actions don’t back it up.



New opportunities to shine

Before I ask you to take a look at how you are showing up, I want to make one point really clear. You don’t have to show up and be there for anyone other than yourself. If getting through the day and taking care of those closest to you is what you can handle, that’s more than enough. This crisis is affecting everyone differently, and our first obligation is to practice self-care and attend to our immediate responsibilities.


But if you have the strength to give and you want to be a memorable leader, there’s an opportunity here. It’s the best opportunity anyone can be offered--that of a fair chance. If you feel like you haven’t been able to get noticed before, this could be your time. Because now, your showing up in service matters way more than name recognition or past reputation.


So how exactly do you show up for people? Some may suggest that you give away products or services you would normally get paid for. If you have the financial capacity and feel called to do this, that is certainly an option. However I think there is another way.



Being of service

The key is to find a new way to help the same audience you already serve. A way that supports them in what they need now, but that isn’t what you typically get paid to do. A parallel way to serve your existing audience will enable you to provide value without losing your source of income.


I found a way to do this for my audience with the information I’ve been sharing about the CARES Act. This is a financial assistance program for small businesses. I reached out to a few people I know who are politically involved and could get me information quickly. As a result, I was able to stay on top of the Act’s rapidly evolving roll out and implementation.


At first I thought that once again, self-employed people would be overlooked. Past financial programs have focused on individuals or on small businesses required to have a minimum number of employees. Neither category is helpful for the self-employed. To my surprised delight, I found out the government was providing a specific plan for self-employed people.


I knew the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) could be tremendously helpful for the self-employed. However, I also knew there was no way the government would understand the lingo of the self-employed. They would keep talking about payroll, which would confuse self-employed people because we don’t think of paying ourselves as payroll. I realized I could help by interpreting the information and making it more clear for self-employed individuals.


So I found myself stepping up as a leader in this space, helping my audience understand this unprecedented opportunity. It has nothing to do with my branding work or even my coaching work. But it’s in service to the same people I do branding work for and the same people I coach—the self-employed. I didn’t even have time to give it any thought as it was happening. I did it because I care, and you can do the same. You can find a new way to show up and help the people you normally serve, because you care.


A time of hope

It’s my hope that this message brings hope to you. Hope that it matters less who you’ve been and more who you show up to be now. Hope that the playing field is being leveled and now is the time for you to get a fair chance. Hope that your heart and talent in service to others will make this your turn to shine and be seen.


Remember to be good to yourself as well. There’s no right way to be in a crisis. If taking care of yourself and the world closest to you is best for you, by all means, start there. You must. But if you have the strength to show up in service to others, this just might be your time. The field is more level, and the chance is more fair. Step up and shine.


Are you looking for support as an entrepreneur or small business leader? Subscribe to The Self Employed Life Podcast here, and find the inspiration, resources, and camaraderie you need to serve your audience with authenticity and success.

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