What does it mean to be a strong leader at a startup? And why is leadership important in the first place?
Startup leadership is all about understanding the pain points of your business’ performance. It’s about working towards employing innovative strategies to solve those problems, cultivating a productive work environment at your company. Being a leader is about the attitude you bring with you every day to work and the values you espouse.
As a leader looking to grow your business, there are two essentials you need to cover. First, you need to be a listener. A business cannot function without a seamless process. Why is leadership important for startups? And what really makes a good leader nowadays? And what is being a leader all about?
It is incredibly important to create an environment that encourages your team to discuss the problems you are faced with. These are problems that are making it harder for them to work in the most efficient manner and produce the best results. Understand their pain points and discuss possible solutions. Implement those solutions and make any appropriate adjustments.
Second, you need to be able to innovate within your business. With new technology, the world keeps evolving. Modern strategies of business keep reshaping the industry standards. Innovate and reinvent your own business processes. Use new technology for optimization to always stay ahead of the curve and deliver results that set new industry standards. This integration with technology can be understood by analyzing the problems faced by different businesses in an industry, your competitors and the problems you face in-house and utilize technology to solve these issues.
Inspiring your team to boost morale
Contrary to popular belief, inspiring employees isn’t about delivering cheesy speeches. And it’s not about preaching motivation and dedication either. While this could be one way to do it, what really inspires employees are micro-interactions. While on-stage, there’s always a sense of façade. On the contrary, one on one conversations inspire individuals. One-on-one conversations are also a great honest way of honest communication.
Set the right examples as a leader, especially when you’re having a bad quarter. The way you frame such issues can lead to great (de)motivation for employees. It may also result in an additional morale boost. Blaming poor performance on individuals lacking as opposed to finding structural reasons why this occurred is one wrong action you could take. Inspiring employees is often just about taking an initiative you’re not responsible for.
Great leadership can inspire employees through the depiction of themselves as an example to follow and by doing the right thing. As a leader, this attitude should be your aspiration for your business to succeed.
Risk assessment and the art of investment
At any startup, when to invest and where to invest are always hard questions to answer. Every penny spent needs to be weighed as a comparative to other places where you need to spend as a business. When to scale and to what extent? Is scaling currently a good option? Those are questions that every startup will face.
As a leader, your ability to understand the opportunity cost of spending in one department has to be extremely precise and clear. The trade-off between spending more on marketing versus spending more on sales depends on where your business stands in terms of exposure, revenue generation, and performance. Analyzing the next steps forward is to rationalize between two scenarios that may not work out in your best interest. However, good leadership has to find a way to figure this out the best way possible.
This is done through market research, consultation and sometimes even gut feeling, which shows the importance of trusting oneself as a leader. Assess the pros and cons of the decisions you have to make. Then, analyze which decision brings you closer to achieving your mission statement.
Cultivating a positive culture
A company’s culture is a direct result of the attitude of their senior-most employees. Company culture is mostly shaped by people with decision making power.
As a leader, your attitude has to be the driving force for your team day in and day out. It is important to be clear on the values you expect from your resources and to lead by example. You have to encompass these values in your own behaviour. This is especially true in the case of failure. When dealing with a setback, the way you respond is what will define a big part of the company culture.
Hard-work, focus on team effort and understanding each other’s weaknesses are essential values. Values such as these need be showcased from the very top to better function as a team to deliver better results. In the case of setbacks, if those in positions of power adopt a rowdy and inconsiderate persona, the culture they cultivate is not going to be a positive one. As a result, human resources will be less likely to take ownership and work harder.
Once a positive attitude trickles down to more resources, workspace becomes a much more likable place with people putting in more dedicated hours than a workplace where they feel there’s more respect for money than there is for them.
Realizing opportunities and extracting maximum benefit
A leader has to know how to cash in on opportunity when it comes their way. From PR events to partnership deals, businesses can expand exponentially depending on the ability of those in decision making positions to latch onto them. Creating the right connections that allow your business to permeate through different markets and expanding the scope of your business is an ideal way to grow. Such opportunities are a great platform to get the boost you need. And thus, you can scale, grow and accelerate.
This is also true for timely investments. These investments could be in employing resources or implementing a new technology on which the returns are promising. By making a decision in a timely fashion you can make the most out of it. This ability to identify and utilize opportunities is what defines a leader.
Why is leadership important? – Conclusion
A combination of expertise, analysis, gut feeling and the willingness to put yourself out there are what makes a leader. Couple these with self-belief and you have the perfect recipe for the kind of leadership that helps grow a startup, get early startup traction and bring it to the path of success.