7 Leadership Strategies for Startup Success

Chris Pierce-Cooke

What is the main challenge keeping startups from sustainable growth?

If you think of financing or market conditions, you’re not entirely wrong. After all, the startup environment is filled with risk, from tech to product. But there’s a bigger threat to young companies, one that is often overlooked until it’s too late: people.

Human-related issues have been found to be the most important factor contributing to a startup failure. That was the result of an extensive research* led by Google for Startups, which involved leaders in over 40 countries.

The company interviewed more than 900 startup founders and leaders, with a focus on CEOs and CTOs. The results led researchers to the main people problems faced by emerging firms:

– Cofounder conflict

– Hiring and retaining talent

– Poor decision-making and prioritization

– Reluctance to make tough decisions on team members

In a nutshell, startup failure comes down to leadership and management skills.

Thankfully, so does startup success.

Google’s research also set out to provide actionable advice for founders of companies in all stages. By studying the most and the least effective founders in their dataset, the report reached seven leadership strategies at the core of success:


1. Treating people like volunteers

Mission rather than compensation is what attracts and retains the best talent. Charismatic or transformational leadership is much more effective than the traditional transactional approach. The study found positive outcomes in areas such as productivity, task persistence, and work satisfaction.

2. Protecting teams from distractions

Focus is an essential skill for the ever changing world of startups. Setting clear goals and priorities helps teams to build momentum and fuels both better performance and morale.

3. Avoiding micromanagement

The data in the research suggests that micromanaging leads to huge setbacks, especially for CEOs. Some team members might need close supervision, but it’s a leader’s responsibility to empower employees to make good decisions independently.

4. Embracing disagreement

When leaders invite different opinions and perspectives into their decision-making process, the results are often more innovative and effective.

5. Preserving interpersonal equity

Open and clear communication, as well as firmly set agreements are essential for ongoing success. Google’s research shows that many founders keep track of their co-founder’s duties, but unknowingly define lower expectations for themselves, which ultimately leads to conflict. Balancing duties and rewards is key.

6. Keeping pace with expertise

Stepping up in people-related skills does not excuse startup leaders from staying on top of technical knowledge. In fact, 93% of the most effective founders were found to have the specific expertise to manage the company’s work – which may include coding, closing sales deals, finance, and much more.

7. Overcoming discouragement

Every leader eventually struggles with self-doubt. But the best founders and leaders use it to fuel learning and trial. On the contrary, too much confidence is often the mark of ineffective leadership.

These strategies actually reflect important leadership principles which can be applied to any professional services firm. If you need guidance on managing the people-side of your organization, please reach out! We’re here to help.

The Effective Founders Project is a very important initiative that sheds light on the challenging universe of startups. The report from the research is filled with great insights and inspiration for leaders at any stage of development. You can read more at https://bit.ly/3j78Cr8.

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