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What’s one leadership best practice no early-stage startup can afford to be without?

5 min read


The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and e-mail lessons. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

What’s one leadership best practice no early-stage startup can afford to be without (e.g. transparency) and why?

1. Share the dream

I think this is the single most important leadership practice because it allows the company to attract talent they otherwise could not afford. There is an amazing amount of talented people out there who are stuck in a job they hate and are willing to take a pay cut to work for something they believe in. Therefore, share your passion and dreams of the future. This will carry folks a long way. — Peter Awad, GoodBlogs

2. Give ownership

In an early-stage startup, you need the entire team working at their best to get your product launched and profitable. If you want someone to go above and beyond, it’s crucial you empower them with full ownership of their tasks. True leaders know they aren’t the only one in the room with great ideas — let your employees shine! — Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

3. Be fearless

In a startup, leadership needs to be 100% fearless when entering the marketplace. There’s no time for self-doubt or second guessing. The leader needs to believe in the product even when getting customers is tough and costs are high. If leadership is confident in the product, then that excitement will funnel down the chain to the people selling it and even those who are buying it. — Dave

4. Lead with love

When you lead your conversations, decisions and conflict resolutions with love, you create a team of people who do the same. When you lead by example, you teach them to use love in guiding their relationships with your customers and with your community. That creates a culture of kindness, support and personal and professional growth. Lead with love and loyalty, and your company will skyrocket. — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

5. Know all people are different

Dr. Paul Hertz (a protégé of Dr. W. Edwards Deming) discovered each individual has a different view of the world based on his or her own unique set of unconscious motivators. People respond differently to situations and stimuli. As a leader, it’s important to understand not everyone is just like you, and to get optimal performance from your team, you must lead in a way that serves them best. Charles Gaudet, Predictable Profits

6. Be honest

The excitement of an early-stage startup can overwhelm you and your team. The one aspect that grounds us into making the right decisions is honesty. If we cannot be honest with ourselves or those participating in the startup, we will fail to pivot or make hard decisions at the right times. It’s the difference between playing entrepreneur and being one. — Phil Chen, Givit

7. Don’t make it about you

Being a leader is all about the effect you have on other people — it’s not about you at all. Being able to motivate your team and empower them is all about providing purpose, mastery and autonomy. Instilling these principles early on allows you to create a proactive team and a solid foundation for your company. — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize)

8. Create an environment of trust

To me, trust is one of the most important leadership values. In a startup, employees will often have to work long, hard hours doing work outside the scope of their original job description because the company’s needs may often change. In order to do this, the team must implicitly trust one another and the leadership of the organization. — Sarah Schupp, UniversityParent

9. Run effective meetings

Few of us want to attend meetings because they’re so poorly run, but no one wants to be left out of what’s going on. Things change so quickly in early-stage startups that it’s easy for a disconnected team to waste time on projects that are no longer relevant. An effective leader should run effective meetings that both coordinate action and don’t waste time. — Charlie Gilkey, Productive Flourishing

10. Communicate your vision

You probably don’t have all the resources in the world when you’re starting out, so you’re going to have to pull out a little bit of charisma to keep things moving forward. The vision of the company is ultimately the reason everybody is working for you in the first place; it’s important to remind people of that to keep them motivated. — Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction LLC

11. Over-communicate

As much as CEOs have to focus on recruiting amazing new team members, they also need to re-recruit the amazing team members they already have. Communicating and then over-communicating the vision will remind everyone that they’re building something special together and not just doing a job.Derek Flanzraich, Greatist