5 Ways to Easily Improve Your Skills as a Startup Leader

Keith Krach
October 28, 2016

Leadership is one of the most important factors behind a company's potential success or failure. Quality leadership allows different components of a business to work together seamlessly, streamlining the work and ideas of all departments together in order to create one, cohesive strategy.

In addition, great leadership has a significant impact on the satisfaction of employees. Employees may perform better when working with leaders who are perceived to be supportive, committed to a strong company vision, and who are well-equipped to navigate business challenges as they arise.

The founders and CEOs who head startups may play an even more significant role when it comes to leadership. The small-scale nature of startups means that every decision that leadership makes can have an immediate impact, for better or worse. Listed below are five ways that startup CEOs should consider improving their leadership skills.

1. Understand that leadership is a skill, rather than an innate ability.

Most people are familiar with the concept of a “natural-born leader.” However, this phrase implies that the ability to lead is something that an individual is born with, rather than a talent that can be developed.

As a startup leader, it’s important to acknowledge leadership as a skill before you can work on it. Let this acknowledgement guide you toward making a commitment to seek out and practice techniques that can improve your personal leadership style.

2. Put a focus on communication.

Regardless of the industry that he or she is involved with, no startup founder can become a great leader without a talent for communication. Leaders must know how to conduct a comfortable conversation in both one-on-one and group settings, and most importantly, must focus on communicating expectations and company goals clearly.

Some studies suggest that regular reading can help professionals develop the verbal communication skills that will allow them to express ideas aloud in a more direct, organized manner. If you can’t clearly communicate goals, you’re less likely to find the support that you need to achieve them.

Furthermore, statistics show that communicating in an open, honest manner with employees can increase levels of employee engagement. This factor leads to higher overall satisfaction and productivity in the workplace.

3. Learn to delegate.

In the earliest stages of a startup, founders often find themselves running operations singlehandedly, working overtime to keep things moving forward on a day-to-day basis. Once a startup experiences enough growth that additional employees are added, fully stepping away from some of these responsibilities can be extremely difficult for some leaders. However, it is crucial for the creation of a healthy work culture and ultimate success of the startup that leaders learn to loosen the reins in certain capacities.

Delegating tasks to skilled team members leaves leaders with more time to focus on the new areas of business operations created as a result of company growth. They can then put their energy toward tasks that will drive the startup forward.

Startup leaders should learn to prioritize their work and delegate those tasks that they can comfortably give to other employees without any semblance of micromanagement. Employees should be allowed to handle tasks in the way that they see fit, but leaders can still verify that tasks are adhering to an established timeline while showing trust.

4. Build a better team.

The best leaders understand the value of teamwork as well as the importance of having strong individual team members. Since business is a team-oriented enterprise, it stands to reason that the most talented leaders surround themselves with skilled, passionate people who are willing to work hard toward a common vision.

Great leaders do not feel threatened by the abilities of their employees. Rather, they motivate and inspire their workers to use their talents in a way that positively influences the company.

To be better leaders, startup CEOs should focus on finding a gifted, diverse collection of workers to surround themselves with. Learn to recognize an inclination toward leadership in your employees as well, and help them develop their abilities to create a healthy framework of management that you feel comfortable relying on to get things done.

5. Model positivity.

In the process of growing a startup, leaders are likely to encounter unexpected obstacles, quickly-changing circumstances, and a high degree of stress before ever seeing the kind of success that makes all the struggle worth it. To be better leaders, it is important that company founders and CEOs learn to take these stressors in stride and remain a positive force within their companies - even when circumstances seem bleak.

The behavior that you model as a startup leader has a major impact on the morale of your team. Learn to communicate in an optimistic manner in both good and bad times. If a business plan is not having the desired effect, move to change it rather than lamenting about lost time or resources. By modeling this behavior, your employees will be more likely to stay motivated and think creatively to work past difficulties for the benefit of the company.

Keith Krach

Keith Krach is Chairman of DocuSign, The Global Standard for Digital Transaction Management.