What World-Class Startup Leadership Looks Like.
My experience has shown me time and time again that the direction and tone of an organization come from the top down. Leadership matters, period!
I know being a leader at a startup isn’t easy – I’m getting a serious taste of it myself right now at ATP. But sadly, I know first hand what it looks like when it’s not done well too. It’s not pretty – failures in leadership dramatically impede a startup’s chances for success (not to mention destroy the morale of the people who work for them).
That said, there are a lot of people in leadership out there who are making a tremendous difference in business... and fortunately I’ve had the opportunity to work for a couple of them that have had an indelible impression on my career.
So rather than focus on everything leaders get wrong (there are PLENTY of postings that do a great job of covering that topic), I want to take some time to highlight what great leadership in the startup space truly looks like – and call out some of the people I’ve personally seen get it right.
Here are the 5 most critical qualities that the best startup leadership embody, the ones that exemplified it for me, and what it did for their businesses.
World-class leaders create psychological safety.
Of all of the qualities a leader can possess, this is unquestionably the most important. And I’m not the only one embracing this idea… Google spent a lot of time and money studying psychological safety in 2012 and found this single factor was THE thing that determined how productive a team would be.
For those that aren’t familiar, psychological safety is “the shared belief that the team is safe for interpersonal risk taking.” Or simply put, the ability to be and express yourself without the fear of negative consequences on your reputation, status, or career.
Great leaders make it easy for their team members to be themselves, and to express their ideas without being or feeling judged for them. They create a transparent, open environment where people don’t think twice about sharing their thoughts.
This in turn keeps your team focused on finding the best solution, rather than spending a significant portion of their efforts navigating a political game. And as a result, people are much more engaged (side note: