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Five Leadership Tips For Founders

The concepts of leadership and effective communication have been around for centuries, even dating back to the times of Aristotle. Today, a quick Google search for leadership and communication yields millions of results.

There is no silver bullet to leading effectively, but I’ve gained the battle scars as the co-founder of a venture capital firm and learned a few things. Below are five of my tips on how you can become a more resilient leader in uncertain times like these.

1. Have the confidence that you will succeed.

Anyone can be a boss or a manager, but not everyone has mastered being a leader. The Stockdale Paradox (as explained in the book Good to Great by Jim Collins) is based on U.S. Navy Adm. Jim Stockdale’s experience as a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Stockdale taught us that to survive a war, you must be realistic about the situation on the ground, coupled with the confidence that you will succeed.

Although a startup’s survival is not a life-and-death situation, it’s a battle that the Stockdale Paradox can guide. Considering the uncertainty with Covid-19, we can see the harsh realities of this situation, such as economic downturns. Therefore, it’s imperative to couple this realistic belief with having the confidence to succeed.

2. Be prepared to make quick decisions.

In business, you don’t always have all of the data you’d like to make informed decisions, and leaders often don’t have much time to be meticulous. Consider a neurosurgeon, for example: They must ensure they make every cut as precise as possible. One false move could have life-threatening consequences. While the stakes are still high, a doctor in an emergency room, on the other hand, often must make quick decisions based on limited information.

In the startup environment, a leader needs to be more like an ER doctor. Making quick decisions without all of the information is how founders often must operate. Although you cannot reverse some decisions, remember that you can change your mind and fix mistakes more often than not. I’d rather make 99 decisions in a day and have 70 of them be right than only make one or two that are perfect.

3. Create a winners circle.

Startups take a village, and creating an advisory board is an excellent way to build one. To get started, create a winners circle of people close to where you envision yourself and who have recently accomplished similar goals as yours. If they are far removed, they’re just not going to be helpful and as relevant as possible. More experienced mentors can also help in different ways, such as facilitating introductions to new customers. An essential piece to this is to remember that it takes time and effort to keep these advisors engaged, so developing a mutually beneficial relationship is vital.

4. Build a community of users.

In the early stages of growing users, it’s a good idea to use what has been termed “collision installs,” which refers to installing your software or app in person. This way, you can observe customers using your product and see for yourself if clients are using it as intended, which will give you real-time insights and feedback for product improvements.

Community building is another strategy that takes more time than money, but the long-term results prove worth it. Take the time in the early stages to build an email list or start a social media group. You can begin to bring your customers together around a shared problem that your product or service solves and create a following with specials, exclusive offers and opportunities.

5. Act like a CEO, not a manager.

As your startup grows, founders frequently forget that it is not the CEO’s job to manage every action of the team. Being a great leader requires stepping out of managerial duties in your business. It is easy for a founder to get pulled in a million different directions, so setting this precedence from day one is critical. First, CEOs develop the mission, vision and values of the company. Next, they recruit and maintain talent, as this provides a strong foundation for a resilient startup that survives the test of time.

In a perfect world, you could also take on one extra duty that involves your specific area of expertise (in addition to everything mentioned). So, if you’re a developer, a sales expert or have product expertise, for example, you can add it to this list of responsibilities, along with plenty of space to stay focused on leading the company itself.

A common myth is that you need to be extroverted to be a leader. If you happen to be an introvert or someone who doesn’t fare well in front of cameras or large crowds, then master the skill of communication through writing. If you want to work in startups, you either need to be a phenomenal writer or a phenomenal speaker, so craft one and use that as your method to lead others.

Winners never quit, and quitters never win.

There is no silver bullet when it comes to leading through the tough times we are currently facing. But one thing I am confident of is that you will not win if you quit just because times are tough and uncertain. By keeping the best practices above in mind, you can set your business up for success, even in periods of uncertainty.

Originally published in Forbes

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