Learning How to Lead Early on in Your Startup
So here’s the thing: most startup founders aren’t necessarily leaders. They’re typically individuals with a very specific skill and a brilliant idea for a way they can positively impact others. Once they start forming this idea into a business, they have to make a switch from the person with the big idea to the person who makes that big idea a reality. Usually, they can’t do it alone.
Taking your startup to the next level means bringing on a team. Bringing on a team means that you must assume the role of leader. Here’s how you can be the best possible leader right from the early days of your startup.
Know your strengths, know your weaknesses
Most people understand what their strengths are, but it takes a special kind of person to be able to identify and acknowledge their weaknesses. As the leader, you may feel like you can do it all, but you can’t. If you want to continue to take steps toward your next milestone, you’re going to have to understand exactly what you bring to the table, and exactly where you’re lacking and need help.
Just remember: having weaknesses doesn’t make you a poor leader. Failing to recognize your weaknesses and find the right team members to fill in those gaps is what makes a person a bad leader.
Figuring out what your weaknesses are allows you to build the very best team around you.
When you’re the boss, it can be tough not to step in at every turn and do things yourself. (When you want things done right….. amirite?!) But there are some serious drawbacks to micromanaging your team.
First and foremost, if you’re stepping in to do their work all the time, you’re not spending that time on your own work, which means you’re not nearly as productive as you should be.
Second, if you do the work for your team, they’ll never have the chance to learn how to do it properly.
Third, you’ve got to build trust with the people around you. Startup life can be exciting, but it can also be quite intimidating. There are tons of unknowns! Do your best to teach your team how you’d like things done, but always remember that you brought them on because of their dedication to your idea, their willingness to learn, and their skill.
Your organization will be stronger if you allow each individual room to shine.
Again, startup life can be one giant question mark. Just because you think your idea is brilliant doesn’t mean that the investors or the public will agree. You’ve got to test everything from your concept to your technology to the market. And testing is good! However, early-stage startups are all functioning on small budgets, which means that you don’t have a ton of time to sit around and ponder all the choices that come before you.
You must be decisive if you expect to make progress. Truth be told, you’re not always going to get it right. However, you can take mistakes as a lesson learned and make adjustments. If you’re not making moves, you simply won’t be learning.
Make your employees your first brand advocates
When you’re looking to bring on a co-founder, hire a developer, or even find a marketer, you can’t simply hire people based on skill alone. You need to hire people who are passionate about your brand.
For real, this is key.
The gig economy is thriving, and there are no shortage of worker bees. They come into your organization, get the job done, and then move quietly on to their next project. While they might deliver a great product or service, your success means nothing to them. When you hire people who are passionate about your startup, they are proud to be a part of it. Not only will they do amazing work for you because they care about the end result, that pride they feel will manifest itself into conversations and opportunities because they’re always trying to move the brand forward.
When your team is passionate and you treat them well, they will unknowingly become your very first grassroots marketers—and nothing is more effective than the people who get involved at that grassroots level.
You have what it takes to be a great leader—and a great leader is exactly what your new brand needs. When you value not only your skills, but the special skills others can bring to the table, everyone feels appreciated and valued. Those team members will do their best for you and act as your first brand advocates or brand ambassadors. Empower those employees to own their projects and be truly effective. Be decisive in your decision making; learn quickly from your mistakes and keep making moves.
Meet the Author: Shauna Armitage
Shauna is a Marketing Director or Fractional CMO helping early-stage startups scale with effective strategies, creative solutions, and unparalleled integrity by making the most of small budgets for maximum impact.
As a vocal advocate for women in business, Shauna is on a mission to redefine what it looks like to be a working woman and to support other women doing the same. She spends her free time traveling with her husband and four kids while drinking Coca-Colas. Connect with her on Instagram at @shauna.armitage.