You have the idea and the vision of the next product that can potentially make the world a better place. You have amassed valuable experience working for Small and Medium Enterprise (SMEs) and big corporates and you have led teams to success. However are you ready to run and lead your very own start-up? Netflix CEO, Reed Hastings spent two years in sabbatical thinking about how to avoid the mistakes he made in his previous job before launching Netflix.
Here are some pointers to assess whether you have what it takes to take the leap.
- You are not afraid to disagree.
Confidence is the first step to success. As a leader, you believe in your idea but you need to be confident to present your idea to the world in an articulate manner. Even more importantly, when managing a team, you are able to disagree with your team and challenge them for better results. Your team might occasionally disagree with some ideas but ultimately, they respect you. They trust your vision. Be a leader that your team respects and know how to disagree articulately; never in a condescending manner.
- You are decisive.
You are the decision-maker of your company, but are you decisive? Decisiveness comes from a combination of being prepared and having actual experience. Decisions should come from a place of evaluating objective data and should not be driven by emotions. Yet, often times, in the fast-moving world of startups, not all information is available and being a leader means you need to be confident to take calculated risks and make sound decisions firmly and quickly for the company.
- You fail forward.
Running your own company is exciting and rewarding in many ways. It also requires a team that thrives on being able to innovate and to create meaningful products and services. As a leader, especially in startups, it is important to cultivate a culture of empowerment in your team where they are encouraged to explore and come up with new ideas. It is therefore equally important to allow room for mistakes because they are inevitable. As a leader, you want to inspire your team to learn and experiment as the company evolves.
Remember Google Buzz? It was introduced in February 2010 as a social networking, microblogging and messaging tool aimed to compete with Facebook and Twitter. The service rolled out with multiple criticisms laid on the service with many citing privacy concerns as an issue. Google Buzz discontinued in December 2011 and Google+ superseded the service, with better success after numerous refinements. Google’s culture of innovation relies heavily on their employees exploring and developing new products but they also allow themselves to learn from failures. When mistakes happen, it is important to own the mistakes, learn from them, and move forward with even greater ideas.
- You communicate honestly and clearly.
You speak your mind but are you communicating clearly? A leader communicates intentions and delegates tasks clearly. There is no ambiguity when your team receives a memo or an instruction from you. Even more so if you are providing critical feedback regarding company products or processes and a clear line of communication commands respect and trust. Employees trust and respect a leader who can communicate without ambiguity and knows that the leader’s words are solid.
- You appreciate your team.
You give credit where credit is due. You recognise efforts and make sure your team is appreciated. Running a startup often means you have a lean team of a handful of people at the start. It is easy to overlook the amount of work that the team undertakes which sometimes means they go above and beyond their job function. Research shows that the power of recognition and praise is critical in workplace productivity and ultimately spells out the culture you are building. Dr. Jooa Julia Lee, one of the co-authors of a Harvard study found that those who read positive statements about their past actions were more creative in their approach, more successful at problem-solving and less stressed out than their counterparts. You need to demonstrate a leadership that commands respect and trust. A simple act of showing appreciation for your team’s work goes a long way in planting the seeds of company loyalty and productivity.
Ultimately, you have to be at a stage of your career where you are prepared for the challenges of running and leading your own startup. If you demonstrate any of the qualities we outlined in this article, then you are battle-ready at the very least. Environmentalist and entrepreneur Paul Hawken very adequately summarised what makes a good leader:
Good management is the art of making problems so interesting and their solutions so constructive that everyone wants to get to work and deal with them. We couldn’t agree more.
ALPHA Camp is launching a full-time bootcamp covering various startup skills. Along with technical skills, our program also helps help you polish leadership qualities required to run a startup! Talk to us, and find out more.