Why leadership is important
In times of uncertainty and disruption, good leadership becomes even more critical. During these challenging periods, teams look to their leaders for guidance, support, and direction. This applies to both startups and large corporations. However, startups, given their very nature of building something new, have an even stronger need for visionary and empathetic leadership. Whenever you’re building something completely new and innovative, the need for good leadership becomes more prevalent:
- When facing uncertainty, teams require stability within themselves. You have to provide a sense of stability, establish a common North Star and ensure that each team member feels supported and motivated. Collaborating under a shared vision creates clarity and will help your team navigate challenges more effectively.
- Building an innovative product in an ambiguous or complex environment can be emotionally taxing. You have to understand the emotional needs of your team and show empathy by actively listening to concerns and ideas and providing support, when needed. By offering care for your team members’ wellbeing, you will create a positive work environment and a strong basis for emotional wellbeing and resilience within your team.
- Having a strong trust basis will significantly improve team members’ collaboration. Communicate transparently, be honest, but kind, and approachable and treat everyone with respect and care. This will build trust, and team members will be more likely to collaborate effectively, share ideas, and contribute to the overall success of your project, product or startup.
Becoming a better leader
To become a better leader, it’s important to practise self-awareness, stay open-minded, learn continuously, and commit to this journey of personal growth. There are countless ways to get started. Here are some of them:
- Practice self-awareness: Take the time to reflect on your strengths, weaknesses, and biases. Understand how your emotions and actions impact your team. By cultivating self-awareness, you can better manage your responses and communicate with empathy. Having a great knowledge about your strengths and weaknesses, also allows you to delegate better and identify areas that you should improve and target in your learning sessions.
- Invest in continuous learning: Stay curious, open-minded, and willing to learn. Invest time in your personal development, attend relevant courses, and stay up to date with industry trends. Embrace new perspectives and ideas to inspire your team and lead with confidence.
- Communicate effectively: Communication is a cornerstone of good leadership. Develop strong communication skills, both in listening and expressing ideas clearly. Be open to feedback, encourage open dialogue, and foster a culture of transparent communication.
Structured feedback for growth
Providing constructive feedback is an essential part of your role as a leader. You should support your team members’ growth and development. Here are some steps and recommendations for practising effective feedback sessions:
- Make sure to go into feedback sessions prepared. Look at data, outcomes, and overall team sentiment to comprehensively understand the situation. Don’t ever depend on just one person’s opinion of someone else.
- Determine the purpose and goals of the feedback session to provide valuable and targeted guidance and choose an appropriate time and place. Find a comfortable setting, don’t criticise someone in front of other team members and avoid high-stress situations.
- During the feedback session, make sure to ask open-ended questions to understand the viewpoint of the team member. Encourage dialogue and view every feedback session as a two-way road to receive feedback for yourself or any of the processes and systems in place. Instead of “scolding” someone for a mistake they made, frame the feedback as an opportunity for improvement and set actionable and measurable milestones that they can achieve to grow professionally and achieve their goals within the company.
Lead by example to foster growth, trust, and collaboration within your team
There’s not a single more powerful way to inspire and motivate your team than to go ahead and lead the way by example. When you act on what you preach and are a living embodiment of the desired behaviours, values, and work ethic, team members are more likely to follow suit. By setting high standards, being accountable, and actively participating alongside your team, you can show your dedication and commitment. Because, after all, when you are taking on challenging tasks enthusiastically as a leader, it gives every team member the sense that you’re right there in the “trenches” with them, instead of just calling the shots from above. Leading by example will encourage all team members to strive for excellence and allows you to build stronger trust and bonds.
Creating a culture of psychological safety
Psychological safety is vital for team members to feel comfortable expressing their ideas, taking risks, and being vulnerable. Leaders can foster psychological safety by creating an environment that encourages open communication, values diverse perspectives, and embraces failure as a learning opportunity. When team members feel psychologically safe, they are more likely to collaborate, share innovative ideas, and contribute their full potential to the startup’s success. An important part of this is giving valuable feedback, for example.
Using the methods mentioned above ensures that you’re providing feedback in an emotionally safe way. You are providing guidance, instead of shaming someone for a mistake, which inspires growth.
On the other hand, if you criticise someone publicly or your feedback sessions are 30-minute-long rants about their shortcomings, then you are fostering a culture centred around fear. Another way to actively promote psychological safety is by actively listening to concerns and valuing every individual’s contributions. This creates a supporting atmosphere, in which everyone can feel safe to voice their opinions, challenge the status quo and propose innovative solutions. As a result, you can pick from a pool of creative solutions, instead of having an army of yes-sayers around you.
To wrap it all up nicely, in an ever-changing landscape, empathetic and kind leadership plays a crucial role in navigating uncertainty and fostering growth. As a leader, you must possess adaptability, exceptional communication skills, emotional intelligence, and a commitment to continuous learning. By practising self-awareness, providing valuable feedback and encouraging open communication and transparency, you can create a culture of growth, trust, and collaboration within your teams.
Empowering your team members to grow and excel will help you build truly exceptional products, no matter the external changes happening around you.