There are many difficult tasks along the road to becoming a successful entrepreneur, and figuring out how to be an effective leader is one of them. While leadership skills come naturally to many folks, leading a startup is a whole different game. In this article, we’ll go over a few essential things to keep in mind as a startup leader!
When Leadership Matters Most
Again, leadership means something different in a startup environment than it does for an established business.
During the startup phase, the entrepreneur is responsible for leading pretty much every aspect of the company. That means handling the development of the business concept itself, heading up market analysis, hiring and managing employees, developing company culture, and much more. For this reason, two essential attributes of a startup leader are 1) the ability to multitask (more on this soon), and 2) the willingness to delegate responsibility.
Obviously, leadership is important during every point in the business life cycle -- but during the startup phase, the quality of leadership will likely determine whether or not the business really takes off.
The Many Roles of a Startup Leader
First and foremost, a startup leader must be a visionary idea generator. In the early stages of the company’s growth, it’s the entrepreneur’s job to come up with fresh perspectives on everything from marketing strategies to company culture. It’s also their responsibility to act as the primary decision maker for the startup. It’s not enough to simply come up with ideas -- the entrepreneur has to decide which ones are worth pursuing and how to execute them.
Another mark of a great leader is the ability to assemble a top-notch team. As we mentioned earlier, delegating responsibility is essential to running a successful startup, so entrepreneurs must be able to effectively surround themselves with smart and trustworthy individuals who share their vision.
Finally, a great startup leader must also take responsibility for the company image. The startup founder is most often the face of the business, so the brand image relies largely on their character -- and that includes how they act outside of the office.
Integrity and Loyalty Are Paramount
Especially in a startup environment, where leaders work directly with their teams, workers need to know that they can rely on the leadership for thoughtful guidance and support. That’s why it’s essential to display integrity and loyalty as a startup leader.
In order to demonstrate these qualities, it’s important to acknowledge your own mistakes and work to overcome them. It’s also essential to affirm your team’s good work, and humbly provide constructive feedback when you see fit. If your employees see you as someone who’s also working on their own weak points, they’ll feel compelled to improve as well.
Providing your team members with the resources they need to succeed will go a long way in securing their loyalty to you and the company. You can also demonstrate that you deserve your workers’ loyalty by standing by them when challenges arise -- people always remember the leader who had their back when they needed it the most!
Keeping Your Team Motivated
The ability to generate authentic motivation for yourself and your team on a daily basis is an essential quality for a startup leader. You must commit yourself to working with purpose each day, rather than simply completing the tasks in front of you. By doing so, you’ll inspire your team to do the same.
Great leaders know that their employees feel more motivated when they understand why they’re doing something. Make sure to provide your team members with contextual knowledge regarding the purpose their work is serving, and create opportunities for them to ask you questions directly.
Finally, never underestimate the motivating power of positive feedback. From verbally affirming individual employees’ accomplishments with the team to sharing positive customer feedback, there are tons of ways to make positive affirmation a staple in the workweek. Plus, it doesn’t cost you anything!
If one thing is for certain in the startup sphere, it’s that change and innovation are constantly taking place. Instead of allowing change to become a source of anxiety, great leaders view it as an opportunity to refine their methods and practices. What works for a startup one day might not be effective the next, so adapting on the fly is vital.
There are a few ways we can position ourselves to embrace change. First of all, it’s important to remember that there’s more than one path to success with any given task. If you’re too focused on the “right” way of doing things, you might miss out on a better alternative route.
Demonstrating a willingness to take action in the face of change is also essential. When a major shift occurs, it can be difficult to figure out how to best adapt. But again, instead of being overly concerned with finding the ideal route right off the bat, simply identify a positive step and take it. By taking action, you’ll get the ball rolling for your team while you continue to search for the best way forward.
Exhibiting Enthusiasm and Passion
If you’re not excited about your job, how can you expect employees to be excited about theirs? As a leader, it’s important to show enthusiasm for your business every day. At the same time, if your excitement isn’t genuine, it’ll be easy for people to see through the facade. Remember, authentic enthusiasm is contagious.
Much like enthusiasm, a thirst for knowledge is also infectious. Your team should not see you become complacent, or get the impression that you already know everything you want to know. Enter each day with an open mind and never stop seeking knowledge that could help your startup grow -- and more than likely, they’ll do the same.
It’s also important to keep in mind that a great deal of positivity is required to lead a startup. There are always going to be setbacks along the road to success, but a positive mindset can make it a smooth ride. If you lead the way with a passionate, positive outlook, your team members will follow suit.
Leaders Maximize Resources
Most startups don’t have an excess of available funds or resources, so it’s vital that the leader is capable of making the most of what they have. More than simply allocating limited funds, a great leader is able to leverage their resources to create something greater than the sum of their parts -- and this includes choosing the right people to hire as paid members of your team.
Aside from money, another essential resource is time. As a leader, it’s essential to use your time efficiently and productively, thereby inspiring your workers to do the same. In order to keep yourself on the right track, identify the distractions and non-essential tasks that tend to drain your time and figure out a way to eliminate them. Organize your workspace, keep daily/weekly to-do lists, and do whatever else you have to do to make your work as streamlined as possible. Basically, treat your time as the valuable commodity it is!
There are many challenges facing entrepreneurs, and being a great leader is among the most difficult. That said, if you remain aware of the items discussed above, you may find the task a bit easier. Just stay focused and enthusiastic, and put your best foot forward every day -- and if you picked the right team members, they’ll respond to your efforts!