10 qualities every startup CEO should have

by | Sep 1, 2017

Being a startup CEO is often times not a natural ability. In the age-old debate on whether leaders are born or made, a school of thought suggests that leaders are made and it takes conscious effort to cultivate certain traits associated with leadership.

Here are major pointers to look out for in leading a startup successfully

Make the best use of your time

There are several things out to distract and hamper your productivity each day. It is, therefore, important that a startup CEO pays more attention to productive rather than busy tasks.

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Being focused is so important because it is essential to your thinking, perception, memory, learning, reasoning, problem-solving, and decision-making.


Read8 time management tips for managing your business


Be passionate about your startup

The entrepreneurial journey is not as easy it seems. To lead a startup, one must imbibe a high level of passion to keep you going. The road is no smooth one but your passion for what you believe in would get you up each morning, ready for a new challenge.  If you don’t have the passion for your startup, how do you intend to cope during dark times?


Read6 reasons not to give up on your business idea


Be accountable

In any organisation, the single person accountable for results is the CEO. Most CEOs think they are above the law and above being accountable for their expenses and actions.

They have forgotten that whatever habits and expenses they incur would eventually affect the success of the company. They make trips on company funds, buy unnecessary luxury items with the mindset that they have suffered a lot in the past and need to show the world how much they have succeeded. It doesn’t work that way if you want to lead a startup successfully.

Being accountable helps in the long run because you don’t want to send the wrong signals. Doubt and trust issues begin to set in when the leader is unaccountable.

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Learn to inspire others

Inspiring others isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if you want your employees to grow and stay satisfied with their job. It is the driving factor that leads people to work harder — meaning more productivity for your organisation — and the most important contributing factor to overall satisfaction, which leads to higher employee retention.

A leader who can’t inspire others would have problems eventually especially when things are not working well. You need to learn the skill of inspiring those around you. You can start with yourself, inspire yourself to always do more.


ReadFlashback Friday: 5 movies that will re-inspire you


Always be transparent

In the past, businesses kept secrets from employees and decisions were made behind closed doors.  Transparent leadership is not just an option but is critical to the success of your company.

If your employees don’t already know the truth about your organisation, it is only a matter of time before they will. No matter how hard you try to hide the truth or cover up awkward situations, the truth will always surface eventually. Given this reality, the best approach is to be transparent at all times; act ethically and talk openly at all times.


Read4 disastrous ways to push your Startup through lies


Confidence is important

Confidence is everything for a leader. People invest in confident leaders –whether they are VCs, business partners, employees, or customers. Confidence leads to success, but success also leads to confidence. So when things are rocky, your confidence level drops. But what makes you a great startup CEO is having confidence not just in your startup but yourself during these rocky times.

We’ve all been there. It is possible to have conviction in your startup without being 100% confident in yourself as a CEO yet. It’s OK. It’s natural, work on it.

Be accessible to everyone

Leading a startup is different from running a corporate brand, although you can outgrow the ‘startup” phase.  You need to be personable and accessible to everyone.

Listen to people’s opinions, relate with people outside your comfort zone, and have some fun with your employees. All this would only increase the love for your brand and culture. Most people do transactions based on emotions and if you are not relatable, you might pass on some good graces meant for you. Egotism and self-centeredness won’t get you far.

Learn to be decisive

If you intend to lead a startup successfully, decisions are what you would make on a daily basis. These decisions are what would determine if you would succeed. If you are not decisive, there will be enough room for a slippery slope.

Especially if key players in your company are involved, you have no right to go back on your word without any concrete reason. You won’t make the right decisions as often as you think you can, wrong ones would be made and you have to deal with it as a team.

Communication is key

The CEO is the leader of the business and, as such, is expected to be an excellent communicator. This is not just about being eloquent; he or she must know how to communicate their thoughts. This means delivering meaningful content as well.

The effective use of language and writing is a challenging skill which many of us poorly developed during childhood. Whether a company succeeds or fails in navigating a crisis, or executing everyday operations depends heavily on skillful communication. CEOs who have bad communication skills commonly blame their childhood for the deficiency. It is a turn-off if a CEO can’t communicate properly.


ReadThe secrets of good communication


Remember, you should be a problem solver

Problems are not peculiar to those leading startups; what is required is to be a spontaneous problem solver. There should never be a time where your startup is out of options and paths to follow. You have to constantly challenge yourself to create solutions to problems as they emanate.

This is a major trait to decipher a true leader, he never runs out of options. This singular reason is what makes the entrepreneurial journey interesting, unlike the corporate world where there are schemes to follow.

The entrepreneurial journey is not smooth and you can’t know it all. However, there are habits you have to disregard if you want to start and lead a startup.

Nifemi Akinwamide
Nifemi Akinwamide

Building interesting stuff at Kudi.

On January 22, 2022, be part of the largest gathering of innovators, startup founders, thinkers, programmers, policymakers, and investors in West Africa. Register free.

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