Why it’s so important for startups to nurture leaders from within

One of the greatest challenges for a startup founder is growing the startup into an organisation that is far beyond his own strengths and limitations. It can be sometimes difficult to part with responsibility when what you’re responsible for, has become an integral part of you. That’s when you find you need to hand over responsibilities to people you trust and more importantly, people who can do what you do: lead.

But to be able to identify leaders, there are certain things you need to keep in mind. There are qualities that are common to all leaders like communication, team building and strategic planning.

Apart from that, there are qualities that are unique to every organisation. This could be related to things like the stage the business is at, market opportunities, growth rate and even threats the company faces.

Sometimes it’s difficult to know what you’re looking for. Here are a few things you could consider when identifying potential leaders:

1. Develop the right kind of culture

To get the right kind of leaders, develop the right kind of culture. There are certain things that should be valued when it comes to an employee. There is no replacement for honesty, integrity and hard work. Foster a culture that rewards such qualities in an individual and you will surely find more and more employees stepping up to take on more responsibility.

2. Focus on interpersonal relationships

Team members who are capable of forging good relationships with others within the team/company are indicative of a certain level of emotional maturity. This includes giving credit where it’s deserved, starting technical or business discussions or even, improving the overall working environment.

3. Find out what their priorities are

A good leader, especially in a startup scenario, needs to be aware of the big picture. Employees who are result­oriented and in turn, encourage others within the team to meet their goals, are people worth looking out for. As a startup founder, it isn’t the most difficult job to get to know each and every one of your employees. You never know what hidden talents you might discover.

4. Customer first

A team member who is focussed on providing value to the customer with every task they take on, is a potential leader. And this isn’t just about taking care of the current customer’s needs but also keeping in mind what could be beneficial for future customers. It takes a certain kind of vision and this is key in a great leader.

Now, as a startup founder, you mustn’t stop at simply identifying future leaders. It’s necessary to nurture their skills and engage them in ways that would enhance their potential for leadership. Here are some tips on how to foster leaders in your company:

1. Allow for stronger motivation

I say allow, because it’s easy to just tell someone to do something a certain way but it isn’t a great way to motivate a person. They will not be fully invested in tasks that are assigned to them as part of a to-­do list as opposed to work that actually makes a difference in the company. If you allow team members to come up with ideas and in turn, allow these ideas to blossom or perhaps ripen, they would be more involved in what they have to do.

2. Communicate strategy

Discuss your goals and strategy with team members. Potential leaders will want to contribute more towards the goals of the organisation but this can only be done if you communicate the same to them and this is well understood by them and everyone on the team.

3. Be open to change

Ideas and innovation are what make things better and you should foster a culture of innovation in the organisation. Reward innovative ideas and processes, even when they do not work entirely as well as planned.

A startup may have found its beginnings with just one or two leaders but it needs many more if it has to scale up and grow bigger. So while you can put in energy and money towards hiring leaders from the outside, it’s important that you also put in the same efforts towards nurturing hidden leaders within the organisation.

Image by Juanedc via Flickr

Surekha James


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