7 Startup Leadership Lessons Your New Business Needs
Great leadership is essential for a successful startup company. This article will reveal 7 startup leadership tips your new business must have.
Every entrepreneur who brought a startup from the whiteboard to the pages of the Wall Street Journal had one thing in common. They were leaders.
Startup leadership can take many different forms. Yet, it always needs to be there.
You can lead an infinite number of different ways. You can be the type of foxhole leader who will get in there in the trenches with their employees and do the dirty work to inspire people. Or, you could be the visionary genius that Steve Jobs was seen as.
Your leadership style needs to be a representation of the best parts of your personality. What works for somebody else may not be quite right for you.
But still, there are startup leadership best practices that will almost always inspire your employees to believe in you and to follow you.
Here are seven of them.
1. Don’t Talk Just About Doing Things
There are two types of people in the world: People who talk about doing things, and people who just do them. Consequently, there are the exact same types of leaders out there.
There are leaders who will constantly remind people of their big visions of what this company can be. That’s fun to talk about, but it becomes frustrating and transparent to employees when month after month passes, and nothing happens.
You can talk about these grandiose ideas but always offer an actual plan. This is who we are going to become, and this is how we’re going to get there.
Employees may lose respect for you if they see you as just a dreamer who doesn’t have the ability to take the company to the next level.
2. Don’t Change Everything on a Whim
Of course, you want to be flexible. And of course, you want to “borrow” new best practices and new technologies from more successful companies.
But if you are completely throwing out the company playbook every time you read a book, watch a seminar, or go to a conference, that’s not good.
That’s not showing your employees that you’re cutting-edge or adaptable. It’s showing them that you have no actual expertise of your own, and everything this company is comes from a copy and paste from a more successful organization.
Why shouldn’t they just work for that organization, then?
3. Startup Leadership Means Valuing Education
You need to value education.This doesn’t mean everybody on your staff needs a university degree from an Ivy League school.
That’s why it’s important for you to encourage your employees to better themselves.
This could mean encouraging your managers to take leadership training. Or, it could mean encouraging a graphic designer to take a user experience course.
If you can’t fully fund this education, that’s OK. Just let them know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this improvement can lead to advancement within the company.
Otherwise, they’re going to take their shiny set of new skills and go work for somebody else.
4. Reward and Re-Distribute
When the company succeeds, the employees should succeed. If the company grows, the employees should grow right along with it.
When you finally secure that big enterprise-level client, you need to reward the people that made it happen.
That means offering bonuses and tokens of appreciation for the people who wrote the pitch, the salespeople who closed the deal, and anybody else that was involved.
These rewards can come in the form of a monetary bonus, a generous gift, a promotion, or public praise in front of the whole company. You don’t have to choose just one of those things.
Generous and gracious leaders are the easiest ones to get behind.
5. Be a Beacon of Confidence and Positivity
You’re the face of the company. Of course, you’re the brains and the heart too. But the face is the first thing people see.
Things are not always going to go smoothly when you’re starting up. That’s why one of the most important startup leadership skills you can have is the ability to persevere, and still personify optimism and confidence.
You’re the one setting the tone. If you can honestly personify that losing that big account was not the end of the world, and we’re going to get another one, that’s what your employees will think.
6. Be a Leader, Not a Friend
Another important part of startup leadership is knowing the difference between being friendly and being a friend.
We know you’re going to be working very closely together, and relationships will be forged, but this is likely not the lock-tight team you’re going to carry with you forever. Be a mentor and focus on teamwork for the good of the whole.
Someday, somebody will need to be fired. Someday, somebody will leave you for a better offer at another company. You need a healthy separation in your relationship when that day comes.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Ask For Help
You’re the leader, but you’re not invincible. Hopefully, you have hired people because they know more about something then you do. That’s why they’re there in the first place.
So never be afraid to defer to one of your employee’s areas of expertise if they know more about a given subject than you do.
Don’t be afraid to seek out the help of an entrepreneurial mentor. Startup leadership is not something you’re going to get perfect on day one. Nobody does.
So don’t rob yourself of the chance to learn from their mistakes, and understand how they succeeded.
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