Leadership is not taught in any school or institution. Leaders are made — with the necessary skills over the course of their lives.
But who is a good leader?
According to Warren Bennis, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” Therefore, a good leader is someone who creates a vision for his startup, and aligns and motivates people towards achieving that vision.
However, building a startup and leading a team of people can be challenging in a startup environment, especially during the initial phase. Leadership in a startup involves having an in-depth understanding of the business, coming up with strategies and innovation to solve the business problems, and developing a culture where employees flourish.
For this article on Entrepreneurship 101, we focus on fostering leadership in the workplace and becoming the best role model for one’s team.
Who is a good leader?
YourStory asked startup founders to list some of the qualities of a good leader. Here is what they had to say:
A good leader is essentially a team player. They treat their employees with respect, irrespective of their designation and social status, and value what they bring to the table.
While bringing their own expertise to the table, a good leader is aware of their limitations. Thus, instead of wanting to do it all by themselves, they work with their employees as a team and let the subject experts take over.
A leader must be able to differentiate between the long-term and short-term goals and gains. They should focus on creating brand values that would eventually help them stay on track, acquire, and retain more customers.
A good leader must be able to maintain a “Balance between long-term and short-term goals…They focus on expanding and scaling, rather than focusing on immediate funding, generating an early exit option, and pursuing immediate advantages,” says Kamalika Bhattacharya, Co-founder and CEO of SaaS startup QuoDeck.
The guiding light
A good leader should be the guiding light in a startup. They should possess self-awareness, and know the strengths and weaknesses of their employees. It is essential for a startup founder to have in-depth knowledge and understanding of the ecosystem and market that they are entering.
They should be able to evaluate both the positives and negatives, be aware of their competitors, and constantly upskill and evolve with the evolving ecosystem.
It is important for any entrepreneur to understand the market they are entering, evaluate the pros and cons of business, be aware of their competition, and constantly upgrade.
A good leader should be truthful and ethical, have strong morals and, “Implement what they preach,” adds Kamalika.
Additionally, a leader should have the ability to predict future outbreaks or challenges. “Without this vision, you are at a risk of missing out on lucrative opportunities,” says Milan Ganatra, Founder and CEO at 1Silverbullet.
Foster future leaders
The function of a leader is to produce more leaders, and not more followers. According to Kamalika, a leader should be able to identify and help potential leaders to hone their leadership skills. They should promote out-of-the-box thinking and eliminate methods such as micro-managing employees and following specific templates for getting work done. A leader must enable employees the freedom to grow and find methodologies that work best for them.
“An employee should not feel trapped and burdened with deadlines,” she adds.
Now that we have established the major qualities that a person needs to possess to be a good leader, YourStory asked entrepreneurs how an aspiring entrepreneur, or a seasoned startup founder can instil these qualities in themselves.
First and foremost, it is essential for startup founders to have clear communication with their team members. It fosters both personal and professional growth. Transparent communication acts as a bridge between the founder and the employees, providing the latter with a sense of belonging, of being together and working towards a common goal, and allowing the free flow of feedback. Additionally, two-way communication fosters trust and promotes a healthy work environment.
Priyanka Salot, Co-founder of sleep solutions startup The Sleep Company, asks entrepreneurs to share both their achievements and setbacks with the team.
One of the major responsibilities of a leader is to provide growth opportunities to employees.
Therefore, it is essential to tap into the hidden strengths of employees, help them work on their shortcomings, and collaborate with employees to churn out innovative ideas. “Listening to team members and making them feel heard encourages creativity and multiple solutions to different problems. It is a great way to build team strength,” says Kamalika.
Employees can also be empowered by assigning them responsibilities and decision-making responsibilities to make them feel valued. Trusting each other helps build a healthy work culture.
Appreciate your employees
Appreciating employees goes a long way to encourage them to work better towards the shared goal. Entrepreneurs should keep a check on the small things that eventually matter in the long run.
Milan reveals that his company follows a culture of acknowledging and communicating. “Being a relatively new company and working relentlessly to achieve targeted goals in times of COVID-19 caused a lot of stress and anxiety in our team. I always acknowledge these signs of burnout and communicate with my employees, letting them know that the company understands their stress, making them feel safer and more valued.”
A good leader should always prioritise team members and motivate them to keep their morals high. Leaders who take good care of their team and add value to their life are always rewarded with team loyalty and great results. Priyanka says, “Delegating tasks correctly may make a significant difference in work output and also in results.”
Anand Achyut, CEO and Founder of Wonderslate, says, founders should, “Be aware of the strength and weaknesses of the team and motivate them timely.”
Being a leader comes with both opportunities and responsibilities. The primary focus of their position is leading the team and recognising that they are accountable for their deeds. To sum up, in order to foster leadership within a startup, it is thus essential to keep the team informed on the updates to help instil a feeling of ownership in them.
A startup’s most valuable asset is its people. Leaders should therefore focus on hiring people who are aligned with the company’s goal. For this, leaders should connect and interact with other leaders and industry stakeholders by attending industry events and roundtable discussions. Finally, leaders should be critical about their business and be open to constructive criticism.
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