Startup Leadership: Principles and Attributes of Successful Leaders

Whether you are a founder, a manager, or a startup employee, possessing strong leadership skills will help your company and career. A unique aspect of being a startup founder is being a different kind of leader at various stages of the company. As the business grows, the role of the leader will evolve and adapt in these four basic stages of startup leadership:

Customer Validation:

In the early days of a company, leaders are transforming an idea into a product that generates real, paying customers.  At this point, the company hasn’t been fully formed yet, so founders focus on building an early group of employees that work on core projects. With such a small team, everyone works alongside one another on product development.

Operational Validation:

Once leaders have found customers who are willing to pay for their product, they must set up sales and marketing systems. This requires a detail-oriented leader who can track project management, but who can also create a vision of the fundamental operations of the company.

Financial Validation:

At this stage, leaders should start standardizing processes and eliminating bottlenecks to make the company more efficient. This could mean outsourcing manufacturing, improving weak  processes, or automating systems. Standardizing processes will increase company efficiency and cost-effectiveness. 


In order for a company to sustain major growth, it needs inspiring leaders.  In large companies, leaders rely heavily on organized delegation and act as the face of the company. Many entrepreneurs decide to step down when their company becomes a large corporation to allow more seasoned CEO’s to take on that leadership role, which contributes to the company’s success long term.

The Five C’s

Regardless of what stage of leadership a company is in, there are five key components that make-up great leaders. Leaders that are able to possess all the following attributes have been found to be the most successful:


The most successful companies have leaders that help their employees. When these leaders correct employees, they lead not by embarrassing them but by lifting them. The best leaders understand that they are not perfect and humbly accept help from their team. 


Becoming a leader with courage is essential for any startup that’s rapidly scaling. A leader must be able to make timely, difficult decisions with integrity. This helps to create a company culture with strong values. 


Competent leaders are able to demonstrate strategic plans to help a company grow. Great managers can problem solve to focus on doing a lot with just a little. These leaders are able to strategize by clearly identifying problems, analyzing the competitive landscape, and setting ambitious goals.


In the workplace, poor communication leads to failure. Thankfully, this can be combated through weekly meetings with managers and associates. Frequent and transparent conversations reviewing data and KPI’s help leaders to see company performance, and set goals together. 


Leaders that are committed are willing to do whatever it takes for a company to be successful. Dedicated leaders are able to quickly adapt to new circumstances. These leaders are not only committed to building the company, but to helping foster a company culture with company loyalty.
To learn more about startup leadership, you can watch our most recent workshop. For more information on the services we offer at RevRoad, visit us at our website.

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