Understanding how to become a good leader is probably the most difficult challenge for a startup founder.
When thinking of leadership, it is fundamental to understand that leadership and management are two different things. However, they are two sides of the same coin in the start-up process, and a founder needs to be well-versed in both.
The founder needs to set the vision, inspire his or her team, challenge the team to solve problems, and do all this while being able to communicate to them.
As a leader, it is important to set the vision and goals for the team. This will give your team a purpose. And with purpose, a team can overcome all sorts of challenges. Having a vision will also energize you as a leader. Starting a successful business is by no means an easy feat. It requires blood, sweat, and many sleepless nights.
There will be numerous occasions where you just feel like you want to just throw it all away and give up. Every time you feel that way or hit a roadblock, remember your vision and why you are doing what you are doing. It will infuse you with energy and allow you to clear your mind for the difficulties that lie ahead.
Maintaining honesty and integrity is a central pillar in leadership. Be true and open to the people that have subscribed to your vision and they will often reciprocate your honesty with diligence. If things are going bad, let them know. If things are going well, celebrate with your team. Whatever happens, maintain your integrity as a leader and your team will appreciate you for it – no matter how dire the truth may be.
The founder must be able to inspire your team and provide challenges that will pique their interest. Being able to keep a certain level of morale at all times will help a ton during the tough times. You must rally your troops (team) and inspire them. Providing constant challenges in the work environment is important as well. Most startups will have their fair share of challenges, but you must keep it fresh for everyone. Even gamify the challenge if necessary.
Of course, this will be all useless if you are unable to communicate with your team. A founder must at all times keep open communication with every single team member. This will take time and effort but is absolutely worth it moving forward. You never know where and when the next great idea pops up – it might just be from one of your team members.
In a startup, each individual is tasked with being able to manage their own individual responsibilities. However, this does not mean that a leader can slack off in management either. You have now communicated your vision to your team, it is time to create the road map that the team will follow. In our case, it was creating our development schedule, and future products plan among other things.
Finally, you also have to ensure that you stick to your beliefs and ensure that you balance customers’ desires with the welfare of your employees.
Whether you are a founder, a leader, or a manager, do not forget to take care of your team. Be mindful of them, try to understand their concerns and needs. Involve them in huddles and discourse. More often than not, people will reciprocate your good will. And in a tough startup environment, this will keep everyone together.
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