There are Leaders and there are “Leaders”

I have been wondering what makes a startup successful. Of course, there are many factors that contribute to the making or breaking of a business, but one key component is the people working to build the business. Without the right people at the right place any business, be it a startup or an established enterprise, will flounder.

People are a diverse lot with different wants, behaviours and visions that need to be carefully nurtured and stitched together into a winning team. Do you have it in you to get your team to perform at 100% all the time? As an entrepreneur you have this “selfish” goal of making your dreams a reality, and rightly so. You also have the moral responsibility, as the owner of the vision, to lead your people, communicate your vision and inspire as well as manage. You have to be a leader and not just an entrepreneur or a manager. To quote Sanjeev Bickchandani of Info Edge .An entrepreneur must have the ability to build trust across investors, customers and employees.

You must build up a list of key strategies that you would like to adopt, tailored according to your focus areas. Most of the gurus of management talk the same language using different vocabulary and terms, which you will find in abundance on the internet. Here are some of the strategies that I practiced during my short stint as an entrepreneur.

Visualize the future:
You have to have a big vision and take very small steps to get there. You have to be humble as you execute but visionary and gigantic in terms of your aspiration. In the Internet industry, it’s not about grand innovation, it’s about a lot of little innovations: every day, every week, every month, making something a little bit better.-Jason Calacanis.

Have a vision statement that clearly indicates the purpose of your company’s existence and the direction in which you want to take it. Derive short-term and long-term goals that will enable you to meet the organizational objectives. Communicate your vision and goals with each member of the team on or before their onboarding and clearly define where and how their contributions will support you. Adapt your style to the person and only then will you be able to motivate her/him to achieve and stretch performance parameters and get the best out of each person. Create and sustain a positive outlook and encourage the team to maintain a positive environment. John C. Maxwell said .A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.

Business and stakeholders:
The laws of business physics have been broken in terms of how many customers you can acquire and how fast. No one in history has ever acquired 450 million customers in the same amount of time that WhatsApp did.Ben Horowitz

Your understanding of the commercial priorities and business targets must be crystal-clear with activities focused around it. Keep exploring and identifying opportunities. Customer complaints and feedback are also a source of learning as Zig Ziglar said Statistics suggest that when customers complain, business owners and managers ought to get excited about it. The complaining customer represents a huge opportunity for more business. The Nano was born when Mr. Ratan Tata saw an opportunity in a family of four riding a scooter. Your stakeholders include customers, employees, business partners and the communities in which you operate. Put the customer at the center of your universe, understand their needs and fulfill those needs. Now, that your customers are taken care of in the scheme of things, treat your other stakeholders like they are your customers.

Engage with the teams:
If you want to do really important things in life and big things in life, you can’t do anything by yourself. And your best teams are your friends and your siblings.Deepak Chopra

Motivate people to build synergy within teams, because, like a well oiled engine, a well-knit team can take you anywhere. Be an active listener in all interactions with the people. Listen to their views and value their contributions. Treat each person as an individual and observe their behaviours. The walkman was born because one of Sony’s co-founders would lug around a bulky cassette recorder during his business trips to be able to listen to his favourite music. Be empathetic and quickly and effectively resolve conflicts with “win-win” outcomes. Azim Premji once said “People are the key to success or extraordinary success”.

Achieve results:
I have been constantly telling people to encourage people, to question the unquestioned and not to be ashamed to bring up new ideas, new processes to get things done. Ratan Tata

Ensure that your company’s policies and strategies are implemented effectively. Set the priorities and see that they are not diluted or deviated from. Judiciously allocate the resources that you have, be it people or money or time. Regularly monitor the objectives and review the progress of actions directed towards achieving these objectives. As the leader, you are responsible for the delivery of promises made by the team. Motivate the team to lead and achieve results. Practice what Tom Peters advocates .Leaders don’t create followers, they create more leaders.

Influence and communicate:
I think, in terms of corporate philosophy, I’ve always believed that you’ve got to treat people in a very very egalitarian manner in the sense I like to treat people on a one-to-one basis. And I like people to take on a lot of responsibilities because I think with a sense of responsibility also comes a sense of purpose. Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw

Appreciate and explore the viewpoint of others with the aim of improving the outcome. Anticipate objections and resistance and proactively work towards removing them. Use your knowledge and ideas to influence and win over people. Whoever the audience, always speak with authority and confidence.

Welcome change:
It is change, continuing change, inevitable change that is the dominant factor in society today. No sensible decision can be made any longer without taking into account not only the world as it is, but the world as it will be. Isaac Asimov

Don’t go with the thought that when change comes you will handle it. Change does not announce itself, suddenly it will hit you and hard enough to throw you out of competition. Look for and be the change, so that you have your strategies well in place to take advantage of the opportunities. Always show a positive approach towards changing demands and circumstances. Encourage the teams and individuals to generate ideas and follow them through to completion. Be your own biggest critic and challenge your ideas and practices to discover new and better ways of achieving your goals. The inevitability of change has also been discussed by great philosophers:
*If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.Lao Tzu
*There is nothing permanent except change.- Heraclitus
*You must be the change you wish to see in the world.- Mahatma Gandhi

Ultimately, it all boils down to the people. Whether it is vision, objectives, strategies etc, it is the people who will work towards them and realize your dream. Cherish the people you have and be a true leader to them. Remember John C. Maxwell’s adage Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.
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Derek Lidow. Startup Leadership: How Savvy Entrepreneurs Turn Their Ideas Into Successful Enterprises. 2014. Publisher: Jossey-Bass. ISBN-10: 1118697057. ISBN-13: 978-1118697054
Eric Basu. Leadership in Startups. 2013.
Young Entrepreneur Council. 12 Essential Traits Of Successful Start-up Leaders. 2013.
Robert Reffkin. Why Startups Need Leaders, Not Bosses. 2015.
Stephen Key. The 15 Practices of Outstanding Leaders. 2015.
David K Williams. 6 Strategies For Startups To Bust Out Of The Pack And Create Lasting Success. 2015.
Nabomita Mazumdar. HR Lessons from Start-ups. 2015.
Peter S Cohan. Does Your Startup Have a Strategy? 2014.