Why my stammer makes me a better leader

by hamish richardson ~

I’m the founder of an EdTech startup, I also happen to have a stammer. Rather than a hindrance to my leadership of the business, I truly believe that it makes me a better leader. Team meetings hosted by me may just take a little longer! I’ve written this article to encourage others with stammers to be entrepreneurial and gain confidence as a leader.

My stammer has given me confidence. Once you’ve presented to a room of ten, twenty, one hundred, with a stammer, the challenges of running a business don’t seem so daunting. 

There’s a sports scientist that works with NBA players in the US called Marcus Elliott. Marcus encourages his athletes to take on one extreme challenge per year. While these athletes are superstars at the top of their game, the challenge mustn’t be related to their sport (their work). For example, some players a few years ago moved a forty-kilogram rock five miles up a riverbed in California by swimming down, hauling it a few feet, gasping for air, and doing it again. Once athletes have experienced a challenge like this, the challenges they face day-to-day as athletes are easier to take on, mentally and physically. I believe the same can be said for my stammer, for which the more I challenge myself, the more confident I become at taking on challenges. 

My stammer has given me empathy. Empathy is the act of recognising and understanding other people’s perspectives. This is super important in a leader because, whatever the external perception, everyone has good and bad days. I have good and bad days with my stammer, I have good and bad days with my mental health, I have good and bad days with my physical health! Appreciating this has allowed me to be a supportive leader and collaborator, working with people (not against them), to get the best out of them intellectually and emotionally.  

My stammer has made me a better listener. I must admit, I’m a bit of a control freak and am not against being the centre of attention. However, there are times, maybe when I’m a bit overtired and am having a more frustrating day with my stammer, that I’d rather take the back seat and listen. It’s these days that make me appreciate the importance of listening to others, making it clear that their contribution is welcome and useful. Also, coming at this from another angle, I often need to be more thoughtful with my words, considering how I am going to articulate myself before I try to. This has certainly given me the appreciation of the thought that people have put into their words, into their speech.

For anyone interested, my company is ScholarTribe, it’s an EdTech startup that connects clients with academics in the climate space. 

Please drop me an email (hamish@scholartribe.io) if you’d like to have a chat or ask me a question about anything. Happy to chat about stammers, entrepreneurship, tech, innovation in the climate space… tennis… anything…