Shark Tank's Dawn Nathan-Jones' Success Mantra

Shark Tank's Dawn Nathan-Jones unpacks how leaders who focus on growth and development will build strong, sustainable organisations.

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  • Player: Dawn Nathan-Jones
  • Previous: CEO of Imperial Car Rental Division 
  • Currently: Shark on M-Net’s Shark Tank


Anyone can become a great leader

I firmly believe this to be true. This doesn’t mean we all start out as great leaders though. You have to put up your hand and find great mentors. It’s not nearly as hard as you think to find a mentor. People are honoured when you go to them. It doesn’t need to be someone from your industry either.

Mike Turner Photography

If you don’t want a mentor, start working with a coach. I’m extremely pro coaching. You can clearly distinguish between leaders who have been coached and those who haven’t. 


Exceptional leaders are on a personal and professional growth journey

Strong, effective leadership takes emotional intelligence. Many leaders are not in touch with their own emotions, which directly impacts the fact that they don’t recognise if they aren’t the best leaders. If your EQ is low, you’ll believe you’re doing a great job, even if you’re alienating your employees and management team. This isn’t sustainable. Everything in business must be sustainable, including its leadership — and that takes personal and professional growth. Open yourself up to development and your EQ will grow.


What got us here won’t necessarily be our success tomorrow

As a leader, it’s incredibly important to challenge yourself. You need to keep yourself relevant, and stay in touch with everything that’s happening around you, both locally and abroad. It’s never been easier to do this than today.

Three decades ago we had to fly overseas at great expense to see what was happening in other markets. Today you can access better information at the tap of a screen. Everything is accessible to you and there are no excuses to not be the best you can be. Embrace change — it usually brings something amazing.


Challenge yourself

Entrepreneurs are nimble and can often be all over the place, so you need to take the time to sit down and focus as well. Learn as much as possible. There are so many forums and platforms available to business leaders today. If you think you know it all, you’ll never grow. It’s also never too late to learn more. I went to business school much later in life. I already had a successful career and leadership role, but I knew I had room for growth, and I wanted to learn more. Always be learning, developing and growing. 


You need to change, even when you’re successful

Change direction to grow. This can be within your organisation, or, as in my case, outside of it. I left the corporate world in 2015 because it was time to refocus and determine what I wanted to do next. You can get caught up in leadership, board meetings, sustainability, empowerment… There is always so much happening in business that it’s easy to lose sight of the big picture. Take a breath, step back and refocus. This doesn’t mean change everything, but learn to pause and evaluate where you are, and what needs to be changed or adjusted.


Learn to pull yourself back

What business are we in, and what’s important? How can we take this to our people? If you aren’t asking yourself these three questions regularly, you’re going to miss changes and disruptions heading your way, and lose touch with your employees and customers.


Execution is so important

This is where failure comes from, but that’s all part of the journey. If you’re too scared to execute for fear of failure then you’re failing anyway. Instead, take the chance, maybe fail, but then learn from your failures. Keep trying different things. 

You will make mistakes; I’ve made a fool of myself, especially going back and seeing what I did naively. But if you’re passionate and authentic, people will forgive you. You need to find the time to focus on what you’re good at, and then step back and evaluate your decisions and learn from them. That’s how you grow, and how your organisation grows alongside you. 


Business is about the head, the heart and the hands

This has been my mantra throughout my corporate career and is particularly important as I begin my entrepreneurial journey. I also saw it again and again in Shark Tank. So many entrepreneurs believe that passion is enough. It’s important, but you need skill too — the skill to pitch your business, whether it’s to investors, customers or employees, and the skill to run your business. Intelligence, EQ, action and execution work together. Head, heart and hands. Vinny Lingham, one of my co-Sharks, says that vision without action is hallucination. I love that saying, because I think it sums it up perfectly.