Few people juggle as many responsibilities as startup CEOs. As the head of a small business, the startup CEO is not only a leader and an innovator, but also a marketer and a salesman, a web developer and a content writer, a business strategist and a tech support provider… and the list goes on. Before a business grows big enough to specialize into different departments, each with its own head, the startup CEO does a little bit of everything. And all the while he’s trying to mentor a team.
There are a few key leadership qualities that a startup CEO needs to have to manage his time well, build a great team, and create a productive atmosphere at work. Here are the five we found most important:
Keep morale high: it does wonders for productivity
Never underestimate the importance of high spirits. If a team is energized and motivated towards a common goal, it can accomplish far more than a team who simply has the expertise but not the drive. How much more can it accomplish? Three times more, if Napoleon Bonaparte is to be believed.
Napoleon is famous for saying, “the moral is to the physical as three is to one.” He realized that more than sheer numbers, what was important was his troops’ fighting spirit. He also realized that, as their leader, he was the only one who could instill that spirit in his troops. His ability to motivate his soldiers made it possible for him to beat armies three times the size of his own.
While business isn’t (always) a battlefield, boosting morale has the same effect for workers’ productivity as it had for Napoleon’s soldiers.
So shout when you win. Celebrate your victories. Bring your team back to life and make everyone remember why they love what they do.
Lead by example
You want to be a leader, not a boss. This means helping your team, not only directing it.
If you expect your coworkers to take on challenging tasks, work hard, and produce quality content, the best way to motivate them is to show that you’re working just as hard. If you lead by example, not only will you show your team that you have the same commitment that you expect from them, you will also be able to share valuable expertise with the rest of your team members.
Having a reputation as a fair and nurturing leader is crucial. Everybody needs guidance, whether it comes in the form of technical instruction or moral support. As a leader, you’re there to provide it.
Never work on more than ten things
This is Jim Collins’ golden rule, and we like it a lot! Collins is a business consultant, a professor at Stanford, the author of five books, and an expert on sustainability and growth. He’s a busy guy: and when you’re busy it’s especially important to be selective with your time and energy so that you spend it on what’s important.
Not overloading your task list is key to staying productive. When you have a lot on your plate, you have to be merciless with your to do list and chop away all the things that are less important. Select your most important tasks and put the rest of your list away.
Learning how to prioritize in this way is important for everyone, but especially for a CEO. When you’re the head of a team, you need to plan for the long term, make time for your coworkers and their professional development, and manage the emergencies that pop up from time to time. To be at your most effective and push your team in the right direction, you need to have a system that lets you focus on what’s important and get rid of tasks that are just distractions.
Have a no-bullshit attitude
A great leader is someone who is honest and upfront. If you deal with conflicts in an open way, problems can be resolved at the start instead of festering into large scale crises. If you make honest and ethical behaviour a key value, your team will follow suit: they need to be comfortable bringing their concerns to you and knowing they will be greeted with consideration.
Fostering an environment that is open and communicative is key for a highly functional team. Just like you communicate clearly and succinctly what you want done, your team members must do the same. Having everyone on the same page not only increases the level of trust between coworkers, it also helps you get things done and avoid misunderstandings.
David Silverstein, CEO and founder of consulting firm BMGI, stresses the importance of imbuing your strategies with creative thinking. It’s innovative leaders that think outside the box who come up with solutions. If this creativity is reduced due to anxiety, stress, or lack of motivation, this poses a serious risk to the company’s ability to innovate.
Silverstein says, “a CEO not working at full mental capacity runs the risk of losing his or her company’s competitive edge.” Especially when you’re small, it’s your innovative capacity that helps you get ahead of the competition: you can implement change faster than clunky corporations. Use your speed and maneuverability to your advantage.
If you’re running a successful business, you probably have a very good product. But the moment you think your product is perfect, you’ve got a very big problem. However good your product is, you can always make it better. And a key way of doing that is imbuing your work, and your team’s work, with creative energy.
That’s the only way to stay competitive.
What leadership quality do you think is most important? How important do you think the CEO is to your team’s overall success? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.