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12 Must-Have Leadership Traits for Startups

12 Must-Have Leadership Traits for Startups


coryCory Galbraith
Cory is CEO of Galbraith Communications.

For people starting a business, leadership is likely not top of mind. Leadership may be fine for large corporations but in a small business, there’s too much to do – ordering equipment, doing marketing, managing the cash. Who has time for leadership?

Yet, leading your suppliers and employees in the right direction is necessary to ensure growth. In fact, strong leadership is likely needed more in a start-up phase than when a company is mature.

Here are some critical leadership tasks for your new business.

  1. Show how it’s done: Don’t hide behind your computer. Get down and dirty with the crew, showing them how you expect things to be done. Lead by example. Too many new business owners fail to put in the necessary coaching time.
  2. Be available: Expect a lot of interruptions. Everything is new so people will need to consult you often. Don’t brush them off. Make the time. Your business is dependent upon it.
  3. Don’t wait for all the facts: New businesses need the flexibility to change direction quickly. That requires decisiveness. Don’t hesitate when it’s clear what needs to be done. Better to make a wrong decision and adjust than to do nothing and risk losing opportunities entirely.
  4. Be consistently positive: Don’t allow bad news or market shifts to affect your positive outlook. If you get down, all of your people will too. Be confident in the future, always be upbeat (even when you don’t feel like it) and express your belief that the company can deal with whatever comes up.
  5. Communicate expectations: Help your team understand the “why” behind what they’re doing. Communicate the company’s short and long term goals and the contribution expected from each member of the team to accomplish those goals.
  6. Hire the right people: The people you hire need to share the values of the organization to ensure everyone is on the same page. Make sure your new hires are smarter and more experienced than you in respect to the tasks you expect of them. For entry-level positions, look for university grads. They’ve developed their research and thinking skills and have the foundation you need.
  7. Be open to ideas: Many new business owners think their way is the only way. Shed your ego and invite fresh ideas on how things can be made better. Encourage people to challenge the status quo, but to do so with a compelling argument based on facts and research. Let your people know there is no such thing as a “stupid question.” If they need to ask, then the company has not communicated effectively. Ideas and questions – keep them flowing.
  8. Show trust: Once people have been properly trained, leave them to get the job done and stop looking over their shoulder. Building the confidence of your team is vital to building your company.
  9. Be a servant: Get out of the office and regularly visit your people to ask how things are going and if there’s anything you can do to help them succeed. To a large extent, the startup leader is there to serve his or her people. In fact, let them know this. “I am here to serve you, to provide the tools and resources for you to get the job done.”
  10. Ask for commitment to the job, not to you: You’re not looking for “Yes” men and women. In the early days of a company, everyone needs to be totally committed to the task at hand. Loyalty to you personally is irrelevant. What’s needed is loyalty to the job.
  11. Provide specific, ongoing feedback: Catch people doing things right as often as you can.
  12. Allow extra time: Everyone is learning, so give people a little more time than you think it should take to get a job done. Build extra time into the project timeline to allow for learning and double-checking.

Leadership in a new company is about service to the team. The startup leader works for the employees – coaching, lending a helping hand and working alongside everyone else for the common good.

Related: Easiest Way To Stand Out As A Leader

Note: The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views held by Inc42, its creators or employees. Inc42 is not responsible for the accuracy of any of the information supplied by guest bloggers.

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