Tech startups can live or die by the leaders who launch them. As such, it’s critical that if you’re an entrepreneur creating your own startup that you fully understand how to lead others. While a great idea will attract investors and even customers, without true leadership skills, any business will struggle to stay afloat long.
That being said, not everyone has the time or energy to go get their MBA if they’re planning on starting their own tech company. There’s a lot you can learn on the job, but it’s important that you do have a solid foundation of leadership skills when it comes to launching your tech startup. Here are five tips to keep in mind as you work to transition from innovator or disruptor to true leader.
Don’t make reactionary business decisions.
One of the first things you want to ingrain in yourself as a leader of any company is the importance of taking a level-headed approach to any decisions you make. Reacting instead of being proactive can be incredibly damaging to your business, since it often means you’re making your choice based on emotions rather than data or logic. It’s much better to think long-term in all of your decision-making since that allows you to weigh all of the potential pros and cons rather than simply finding a simple solution to an immediate problem.
This ethos is perhaps best encapsulated by the business executive Mark Wiseman, who’s made a considerable name for himself as an investor. When Wiseman was involved with the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, he needed to ensure that the pension fund was going to fit with the strategic priorities of all employees in perpetuity. That’s why he made long-term investments that were safe and consistent, rather than looking for flashy ways to increase employees’ pensions dramatically overnight. Thinking about a longer time frame is critical regardless of your business endeavor, so be sure to learn from Wiseman and think well into the future as a leader of a startup.
Find a framework for achieving your goals.
Clearly communicating your business’ goals and ambitions is of equal importance as a leader of a new startup. Especially when departments are smaller and many people have to wear many hats, knowing what’s on who’s plate can be crucial to getting up off the ground. Part of doing this work involves picking the appropriate framework for achieving those goals in the first place.
Work Board, which is built on the OKR framework, is one such solution that many startups have found success with. OKR stands for objectives and key results, and can help you align your teams on a quarterly basis by clearly identifying what you are looking to achieve and what success looks like once that goal has been reached. OKRs are also useful for performance reviews, so true leaders would do well to investigate this strategic way of thinking.
Listen to your customers.
While you may be doing a good job conducting your own market research, if you hear the same feedback from multiple customers repeatedly, it might be time to take heed. A true leader understands that the company they’ve created goes beyond themselves. As such, it’s pivotal that you’re able to put your ego aside to listen to others, despite your role as the founder of the startup.
Encourage professional development.
One thing that can really help your staff grow as individuals and benefit your business is to encourage professional development opportunities on a regular basis. From sending staff to conferences to offering stipends to cover the cost of continuing education courses, there are many ways you can help employees feel a greater sense of pride at your company. Re-investing some of your profits into your employees helps motivate everyone in the company.
Even in a position of power, it’s important to stay true to yourself and be generous. If you act out of a sense of competition or scarcity, it’ll be hard to forge the kinds of partnerships you need to for your business to truly thrive. Stay as generous and understanding as you can, and word of mouth will travel — you might even have people lined up to work for you!