I watched a man cry during a live screening of a launch event for some South African government initiative (the morning of 03 February 2016). The event was led by a discussion panel of leaders from government and a government funding institution. The crowd was primarily made up of black entrepreneurs and industrialists.
In case you’re wondering, I’m intentionally evading specific details for the protection of the people involved.
There’s nothing wrong with a man crying. It’s the year 2016 and we don’t classify hand gestures as feminine or masculine anymore.
On the other hand, a leader of an organisation crying on national television can throw you off your day’s schedule. Apparently, the crying this morning had something to do with the struggles the group experienced in getting financing from a certain government institution. There’s a whole long story behind the incident and the funding institution also shared their reasons for the man’s misfortune. My blog post is not about that though.
Mine is about toughening up.
No matter how difficult it gets, a good leader does not break down in public.
"Don’t run when you lose, don’t whine when it hurts. It’s like first grade, Jerry. Nobody likes a crybaby." - Gordon Gekko, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
People may say I’m not sensitive to how others feel and it’s easy for me to type all this from the comfort of my room.
I’ve however had my fair share of funding applications gathering dust in someone’s office at a number of government funding institutions. The magnitude or amount of money might not be the same but I still maintain that an entrepreneur doesn’t cry in public.
I’m not saying that we should be robotic and emotionless. I know the importance of Emotional Intelligence for Entrepreneurs. But Entrepreneurs don’t cry in public! Save it for the naughty corner when you take your “time out” to reflect on where you may have gone wrong and what your next step should be. There are cases where showing emotion has its merits and crying may work for you. You need to be careful when to pull it off though. It's high risk. To be safe, I recommend this motto: Entrepreneurs don't cry in public!
Note that I’ve assumed that the guy I watched today is an Entrepreneur and not a tenderpreneur. That would be a whole discussion on its own.
In Africa, with all the challenges we face like "in-your-face" corruption and growing up in disadvantaged communities, a startup founder or Entrepreneur needs to have a thick skin. We need to be tough enough to pick ourselves up when we're being beaten by the system and maintain a smile. You can express your disgruntlement or dissatisfaction of the status quo while maintaining a #bossUp face. Think about what your crying on television does to your organisation’s morale. Can an investor trust that you’ll maintain your cool during times of your boat being rocked?
Maybe I’m being harsh and you're free to cast virtual stones at me in the Comments Section below. For the record, the dude wasn’t wailing. It was one of those “I’m still talking but I’ve got a huge lump in my throat” type of cries.
I’m hoping that this doesn’t say anything about the quality of most of the Entrepreneurs we have in our country. From many engagements I’ve had with startup founders, I think we’re past the stage of expecting government to provide funding for us. The belief that a business model shouldn’t be built around funding is also growing. This article is just a reminder to my peers to toughen up.
Perhaps the secret is to always remind yourself that, as an Entrepreneur, the world owes you nothing. Not even sympathy! There are reasons for crying in public, the beatings you get along the path of Entrepreneurship is not one of them.
Cover Image, When Gale Sayers dedicates his award speech to his dying friend Brian Piccolo | ABC Movies