Why stammering makes me a better leader

The article's author, Hamish Richardson

2nd June 2021

Tech startup founder Hamish Richardson lists the positive attributes that give him the edge in the workplace.

I'm the founder of an educational technology (EdTech) startup that connects clients with academics in the climate space. 

I also happen to have a stammer. 

Rather than being a hindrance to my leadership of the business, I truly believe that my stammer 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.

Confidence

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

Once you've presented to a room of ten, twenty, one hundred people when you have 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 40kg rock five miles up a riverbed in California by swimming down, hauling it a few feet, gasping for air, and doing it again until they achieved their goal. Once they have experienced a challenge like this, the day-to-day challenges they face 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. Stammering has given me the determination to do this.

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Empathy & communication

My stammer has given me empathy. Empathy is the act of recognising and understanding other peoples' 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, and 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.  

I've written this article to encourage others with stammers to be entrepreneurial and gain confidence as a leader.

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. In other words, my stammer has made me a better communicator.

If you would like to ask me a question about work and stammering, or entrepreneurship, tech and innovation in the climate space, I'd be happy to have a chat. You can find me on LinkedIn.  

Read more workplace stories from members. If you're an employer, see our Resources for Employers to find out how you can get the most out of an employee who stammers. 

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