5 Essential Traits Of Startup Leaders

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.


Continuous Learner

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.

Selflessness

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.



Bottom-Line?

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.

Go On, Tell Us What You Think!

Did we miss something? Come on! Tell us what you think about our article on startup leaders’ traits in the comments section.

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Long-distance leaders: How the move to remote work is helping Canadian tech scale-ups hire executive talent – The Logic

Long-distance leaders: How the move to remote work is helping Canadian tech scale-ups hire executive talent  The Logic
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Biden’s commitment to diversity sets the tone for business leaders

I have a confession to make: My company fell short of its DEI goal in 2020.

Heading into the year, our goal was to build a workforce that’s 44% women and 14% underrepresented people (URP). We made some strides, but currently those figures are 43% and 13%, respectively.

Here’s why these goals are important to me: I immigrated to America at 17 with my mother and brother from Nicaragua. I was promised a land where anything is possible with some know-how and hard work. Yet, growing up, I can’t recall ever seeing a business leader, an elected official or even a school principal who looked like me. There was never a Black Marc Benioff or a Latino Steve Jobs in the press to make that kind of accomplishment feel possible.

President Biden is doing something well overdue in building a cabinet that “represents the diversity of our nation.”

Things have changed at the very highest levels, beginning with the election of President Obama in 2008, which can’t be overstated for its impact on people of color. Now, as a new administration takes power, President Biden is doing something well overdue in building a cabinet that “represents the diversity of our nation.”

His team is highlighted by influential voices from the Black and Latinx communities, including ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Department of Homeland Security Secretary nominee Alejandro Mayorkas.

I thought back to how a 17-year-old me would have felt seeing a former refugee steering the future of our country and how differently my worldview might have developed. I became more motivated to double down on our commitment. After all, if the public sector is able to make this commitment, then surely it should be possible for businesses to do the same.

Every business should have a DEI game plan in 2021. Here’s ours:

Skip the board and tap employees for ideas

While the board room is becoming a more diverse place, ultimately, this isn’t where progress is made. Rather, progress is made when employees feel empowered to combine their skills with their passions.

This is exactly what happened in our company this year.

Watching the outsized impact that the coronavirus pandemic has had on Black-owned businesses, several employees came to us with an idea: They wanted to find a way to use our products to help Black-owned businesses outlast the shutdowns. They started by working with William Murrell, owner of BlackBoston.com to understand his needs — and how we could help him connect with website visitors. By working with William’s network, we became more aware of the barriers that deter Black-owned businesses from adopting technology and created a repeatable process to bridge the gap.

These decisions, and the resulting initiative weren’t made in a boardroom — where so much time is spent determining the path to profitability — but rather among employees that wanted to improve their community and saw a way how.

To make these efforts more commonplace, we’ve hired a diversity-focused recruiter to make sure our teams better reflect our communities. We’ve also created processes like balanced hiring, to help under-represented groups get to the interview stage and reduce bias in the hiring decision. On the other side of the coin, we also aim to learn from our leavers — so we understand areas for improvement and can help them thrive beyond our company.

Don’t let remote work hinder expression and belonging

Right now, people are not working normal hours; they are juggling childcare, remote work and more. For leaders, understanding and relating to that trauma is essential. We moved our fiscal-year end to January so our sales and go-to-market teams could spend the holidays recharging with family rather than scrambling to hit year-end goals.

Moreover, we are empowering and expanding the role of our employee-led employee resource groups (ERG) to create safe spaces for expression among peers. Belonging is essential in any business, and as founders who have often found themselves a token in a boardroom, we know the value in having an outlet for employees to express themselves and encourage the sharing of learnings from individual successes and mishaps.

These steps alone will not directly improve diversity, but they will go a long way toward building trust.

Don’t stop at race or gender: Embrace diverse perspectives

The final consideration we are making is acknowledging that diversity is not solely inclusive of outward appearance. Rather, diversity of thought and background are critical factors to how teams collaborate to reach a unified goal.

After all, building a culture where differences aren’t acknowledged only seeks to push minorities farther to the outskirts of organizational structure. Part of our focus on DEI will encourage diversity of thought as much as it does ethnic diversity — and hold ourselves accountable to employees that will speak up when it matters.

2020 was a year of trauma, and one where every person was alike in sharing the same fears and anxieties. Thankfully, we have a light at the end of the tunnel with two promising vaccines and an incoming administration that knows the value in encouraging equal representation across gender and ethnic borders.

Regardless of these positive developments, our focus toward empowering diverse communities must remain steadfast. After all, the systemic issue of low representation of URPs in tech will not be ended because of these efforts alone, but through sustained attention toward addressing the issue and learning each day. We might have missed our mark in 2020, but now we will take the president’s lead and build equity within our offices in 2021, wherever they might be.

I encourage all business owners to make this same commitment.

Startups – TechCrunch

The 4-barriers to self-awareness in leadership (or why founders struggle to grow into leaders)

Hey all. After 15 years as a VC backed startup CEO, and going on two as an executive coach to startup CEOs, I’m continuously struck by two things:

  1. The degree to which a leader’s self-awareness dictates her rate of improvement and, ultimately, the success of her company (reams of research on this as well, turns out)
  2. How much harder developing self-awareness is for leaders than “regular folk”

In my experience there are four main barriers that get in our way. In case it’s helpful to someone’s journey, I’ve set them out below:

The paradox of self-awareness in leadership

For companies to succeed, they need self-aware leaders. But the deck is stacked against leaders developing that self-awareness.

That’s what Daniel Goleman found, in his book “The New Leaders.” Daniel quoted research into what distinguished the leadership of a number of highly-successful US healthcare companies from the least successful ones (based on return on equity, share price over a 10-year period). He found that self-delusion was associated with poor performance, and self-awareness with company success:

“Tellingly, the CEOs from the poorest performing companies gave themselves the highest ratings on seven of the ten leadership abilities. But the pattern reversed when it came to how their subordinates rated them: they gave these CEOs low ratings on the very same abilities. On the other hand, subordinates saw the CEOs of the best performing companies as demonstrating all ten of these leadership abilities most often.”

In separate research, Goleman also found that the more senior the managers, the more likely they were to inflate their own ratings, saying: “Those at the highest levels had the least accurate view of how they acted with others.”

Let’s recap that research, because it’s important.

  1. Self-awareness (measured by the alignment between how you see yourself and how others see you) is critical to your success in leadership. It’s the dashboard by which you educatedly adapt your leadership to get the most out of your people, and drive successful outcomes in a changing marketplace.

  2. But the more senior you are, the more difficult self-awareness becomes.

For entrepreneurs, particularly those in the CEO seat, success depends on overcoming these four obstacles to self-awareness:

  1. You don’t look

  2. You don’t ask

  3. You don’t listen

  4. You don’t interpret

“We cannot change what we are not aware of. And what we are aware of, we cannot help but change.” — Sheryl Sandberg

Obstacle One >> You don’t look

Running a company is all-encompassing. Many leaders wake up every day at 100mph, consumed by marketing, sales and product-market fit, never considering the impact of their personality or leadership style on the results they get. They don’t know that those things are malleable, so they don’t bother looking at them. Their leadership style is behind the “subject/object wall,” meaning it’s just “who they are.”

These are what is called “unconscious leaders.”

“About 80-85% of leaders are in the realm of Unconscious leadership, which is the world of managing and directing. The English verb “manage” literally comes from the Italian “maneggiare” (to handle, especially tools or a horse). So, these are your managers, who treat their employees as resources (literally, horses) to be directed and optimized.”

To illustrate the difference:

— Conscious leadership: my tendency to argue a point to the death comes from my ego’s need to feel like the smartest guy in the room, and is something that, when I catch it in time, I can simply choose to not indulge (and therefore to not suffer the interpersonal consequences of an argument).

— Unconscious leadership: it’s just my personality, and my employees need to adapt.

The vast majority of leaders fail because it doesn’t occur to them to look critically at their leadership style. They only see the work to do “out there,” and barrel through it ever more urgently, regardless of results or feedback.

Obstacle Two >> You don’t ask

Of the leaders who are conscious (meaning for our purposes today that they are looking actively at their leadership style, and aware that they can adapt it to change their results), many still sub-optimize their results because they don’t ask for feedback. Why? Mostly because they’re scared of the answer.

The good ol’ willful-ignorance approach.

From the same study:

“Psychologists have a lot of theories about why people are so sensitive to hearing about their own imperfections. One is that they associate feedback with the critical comments received in their younger years from parents and teachers. Whatever the cause of our discomfort, most of us have to train ourselves to seek feedback and listen carefully when we hear it. Absent that training, the very threat of critical feedback often leads us to practice destructive, maladaptive behaviors that negatively affect not only our work but the overall health of our organizations.”

The easiest way to get great feedback

Asking for feedback doesn’t have to mean a commissioned 360-degree review. It can be as simple as asking a handful of people who know you well (I suggest about eight people, both professional and personal) to give you honest feedback on how you show up in the world.

The following simple questions are a great way to get started (you can also add your own):

—In what ways do you think I am already effective?

—In what ways do you think I am less effective?

—What could I do to improve my relationship with you?

—What would be the one piece of advice you would give me about how to improve my effectiveness?

—What do my actions say about my values? What drives me?

I’ve yet to meet a leader who wasn’t impacted by the results.

Obstacle Three >> You don’t listen

“Sometimes when you get an idea in your head, it’s impossible to talk to you about anything else. You don’t listen even when you’re wrong.”

This was a real piece of feedback I was given, and I still remember the sensation that went with it. A jolt of fear, followed by rage, which finally settled into righteous indignation. The giver was misguided. He didn’t get it.

Needless to say, the conversation following wasn’t exactly productive, and I missed a chance to improve my effectiveness by evolving my leadership style. What also happened, but might not be as obvious, is that the giver never gave me the gift of his feedback again.

A leader’s reaction to feedback is the prime variable in whether or not they continue to receive feedback. Listen, and people will keep helping you grow. Don’t, and you’ll soon live in a bubble of people who tell you what they think you want to hear.

Early on in my career as a CEO (although after the incident above), I was fortunate to hire a Senior VP with decades of experience working in the C-suite. He pointed out to me how difficult it already was for people around me to give me constructive criticism, and the risk they took in doing so given my control over their paychecks. Most importantly, he showed me the impact my reaction had on their willingness to do so. Thanks to his wonderful risk (itself a pretty meta example of the concept), I saw how natural, how incredibly easy it would be for me to get isolated in my position, and with his help started to do the hard work of making it easy to tell me the bad news.

Said simply, self-aware leaders go out of their way to make it easy, and non-threatening, to give it to them straight. But make no mistake about it, this requires work.

Obstacle Four >> You don’t interpret

Even if you embrace the feedback you’re getting from the people around you as the gift it is, it’s also important to consider context. There are two main contextual considerations to keep in mind:

1. The distorting effect of your role/title

A client I worked with, the founder/CEO of a tech company, told me a story once that perfectly illustrated the invisible bubble in which CEOs live. After grabbing his food at the company holiday party, he approached the long, bench table at which his team sat. As he began to make his way to sit in one of the few gaps available on the far end of the table, he cracked a joke without thinking about it, saying, “hey, can you all just scootch down a bit?” Haha.

You can guess what happened. About 30 teammates, all at once, dutifully moved their trays of food down the table, sitting close to one another to open up a seat at the end of the table. With a flippant joke, in five seconds all his employees were cramped and he had his choice of the head of either row, the conversation carrying on without missing a beat. My client, himself quite self-aware, was shocked.

And when he told me this story, I started to question the dozens of times that my team had complimented me on my wardrobe.

We don’t like to admit it, (we all prefer to think that we are simply popular and have good fashion sense), but the reality is that most people go out of their way to please their boss. As a leader it’s important to remember this (it’s difficult if not impossible to change), so you can properly interpret any feedback you get. If you think you’re the exception to this, think again. The question is not whether you live in a bubble, but whether you’re aware of the bubble, and compensating for it in your interpretation.

This is why having a channel for anonymous feedback, although scary, is also so powerful.

2. Your own inner wisdom

After walking through the key challenges to developing self-awareness as a leader, now seems like the right time for an important caveat:

Feedback is not instruction to change.

It’s easy, especially given how much work it takes to solicit objective feedback from the people in your life, to automatically take any negative feedback we receive to heart. But not all feedback is created equal. You have to do your own analysis of that feedback, comparing it to what you believe is true about yourself and what your company needs, in order to develop a solid goal & plan for growth.

Your own leadership journey, like your mission and company values, is on the very short list of things you can’t fully delegate to your team.

Self-awareness, the alignment between how you see yourself and how others see you, is the raw material by which top leaders learn how to adapt themselves to the goals they want to achieve. It’s incredibly difficult to develop self-awareness as a leader, and even more difficult to maintain it through the inevitable changes implicit in growing a company.

But a growing body of research says it’s worth the effort.

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Startups – Rapid Growth and Innovation is in Our Very Nature!

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