You not only have to be an innovator but also a leader if you want to succeed in the startup ecosystem. For a startup to exist, you should have a disruptive idea, the right investor, and unique positioning. But more than that, you need to be an exceptional leader to lead the startup and make it stay in the market for long.
Startup leadership is a unique art that not everyone possesses. You can be an entrepreneur, but being a startup leader takes some extraordinary effort.
Hence, only a fraction of entrepreneurs can convert themselves into good startup leaders.
When you start a startup, you become the steering wheel of your company. You decide the direction and the path your startup chooses. Hence, its vital for you to have good decision-making, management, and leadership skills.
But that’s not all it requires to be a startup leader. Here’s a list of five essential characteristics startup leaders possess.
Focused on Future Goals
Growth in startups is the result of goal setting and implementation. Setting the correct goals, recognising and applying the best course of action are the two most challenging things in startups.
Visionary leaders plan and define their future strategies well in advance.
One such leader is Elon Musk, who always thinks about the future. When many space agencies are still thinking about sending their astronauts to Moon, his mission is to send people to Mars in the next five years.
Once the goals are set, leaders constantly think about new and innovative ideas to achieve them. They try to find minds that can assist them in reaching these goals. Every day and with every step, they try to get closer to their goals. This way, they reach the goals well before the deadline.
Good startup leaders are ready to make sacrifices in the short-term to attain long-term success. They always find long-term fixes to the issues that arise in the journey of their startup. Shortcuts are never an option in their journey of achieving future goals.
Ability to Take Calculated Risks
There is a fine line between reckless decision-making and calculated risks. A good startup leader always evaluates and measures his decision before implementing them. But at the same time, they are always ready to experiment and come up with new ideas. They are never afraid of failure while taking risks.
Michael Stelzner, CEO and founder of a US-based media company, Social Media Examiner, once wrote that the preparedness to experiment with innovative ideas is vital to business growth. According to him, if you never try out, you’ll never gain. He also talks about how taking risks and failures are stepping stones to success.
Still, while taking risks, their consequences and dangers are evaluated. Great leaders judge whether the rewards from the risks are worth it or not before taking them. They never do something just because their competitors are doing it. They assess whether it is beneficial for their startup or not.
Great leaders always have a lifelong thirst for learning. Research of Harvard Business Review shows that leaders in continuous learning mode build stronger leadership skills than their peers. They keep on expanding their knowledge to innovate and become better every day.
In 2017, the CEO of Zomato, Deepinder Goyal, told Economics times that his mentor and founder of Info Edge, Sanjeev Bikchandani, has given him the hunger to learn from his mistakes. He also expressed that no one can be 100% right all the time, and therefore everyone has to learn constantly from their mistakes.
Reading books & magazines, hearing podcasts, studying new market strategies, and reviewing new technologies are habits of leaders that make them constant learners. These habits help leaders to think innovative ideas and stay ahead of others.
Adaptable to Changing Environment
The startup is always a disruptive idea providing a solution that is new for society. Thus, the business environment is more volatile for startups compared to a regular business. Especially in new technology-based startups, advances and changes are quick and common. Therefore, leaders are vigilant to predict these advances and changes well before they take place.
Mark Zuckerberg has an interesting way of producing ideas and innovation to deal with changing scenarios in the field of social media. He stages “hack-a-thons”, in which programmers, developers, and hackers try to create and suggest innovative ideas for Facebook.
A smart startup leader always has a visionary and open mind. They are open to accepting all types of ideas and thoughts to adjust quickly to the changing environment.
Generally, successful startup leaders are those who are always selfless. Before thinking about themselves, these leaders think about their vision, company, employees and customers. Selfless leaders share their knowledge, skill, and experience with other team members and focus on the startup’s overall development and growth. These leaders exhibit the quality of enabling and helping others in the organisation.
Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, once quoted,
“if we win the hearts and minds of employees, we are going to have better business success.”
Successful leaders like Mary Barra understand and share the feeling of both team members and customers. Concentrating on the growth of others is the trademark of such leaders. They allow others to take the front seat and shine.
The golden rule of startup leadership is never to copy leaders of other startups. You have your way of doing things. Focus on honing your skills and find a path you can venture to.
However, never turn your back on what other people are doing to lead their startups, as you may find new ideas in doing so.
Finally, no one can exhibit all the characteristics of a good leader. But trying to imbibe as many traits as possible will only help to become a better leader.
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