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Farida Yahya: Why Founders Should Renegotiate the Psychological Contract with Their Team



There is a silent agreement within teams that the founder is the teacher and leader in everything. I don’t know how it all started and at what point we all agreed to it. All I know is that I have happily unsubscribed from that club. Now, I will tell you for free, that this frees you from the “know it all” trap, and makes it easier for you to lead as you grow and learn.

I read it is called the “psychological contract”. It is such an interesting concept that requires us to lead in a way that serves the people we employ. While this is a great concept, my concern with it is the possibility of unrealistic expectations and undue pressure on leaders who are still navigating their self-discovery.  Especially because most founders start companies with so much uncertainty, and not realising the burden of leadership that comes with it. 

Here’s why I don’t agree with this psychological contract:

It doesn’t support your personal growth

A key component of personal growth is self-awareness. Only someone who is self-aware can take an honest look at their life and see themselves as they truly are – strengths, flaws and all. Not from a place of judgement, but self-acceptance. It makes you open to listening, learning and seeking areas of improvement. But when you regard every display of knowledge as a battle of wits, you miss out on a learning opportunity.

It makes team dynamics non-flexible

Teams are made up of individuals with different personality traits and skill sets. Thus, building a solid team requires some level of flexibility. For your team to thrive, you have to be open to change and different perspectives. You respectfully consider the views and ideas of other members of the team, even when they don’t align with yours. This gives room for mutual understanding and synergy. 

However, when you are set in your ways, you won’t be open to trying new ways of doing things. You will feel the need to shut down every other person in the room and micromanage all points of operation. It becomes increasingly difficult for your team to feel included and valued. And once there is a disconnect, that’s the beginning of a downward spiral.

As a leader, you need to encourage open communication and collaboration by listening to your employees. You never know. They may have something worthwhile to say. 

It could stifle creativity and productivity

As a founder, the onus lies on you to create a conducive atmosphere for employees to give their best. When you appear as a know-it-all, it gives employees the impression that their opinions, contributions and ideas are not needed. You are indirectly shutting down their creativity and authenticity. This gives room for a laissez-faire approach to work and could impact their overall performance. 

Conclusively, some of the most successful brands are led by founders who understand they don’t have all the answers. Instead of feeling incapacitated, they seek individuals who can fill these gaps and cast them in their script. These leaders understand that knowledge is inexhaustible and are committed to lifelong learning. They proactively seek knowledge to keep up with the ever-evolving trends in their industry. I will advise you to do the same. As you build a disruptive brand, embrace your limitations and be open to listening and learning.



Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

Farida Yahya is the Founder of Lumo Naturals, an Abuja-based natural haircare solutions brand that provides a combination of natural products, techniques, artistic styles and education about African hair and the importance of healthy and natural hair to natural hair owners. She is also the founder of The Brief Academy, a learning hub dedicated to developing and supporting female-owned startups to achieving wealth and scalability. Farida is also the author of Redefining Beautiful, a book that discusses the realities of starting a natural hair business. You can connect with Farida Yahya on Instagram via her personal page @thefaridayahya and her business pages @lumonaturals and @thebriefacademy.


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