A leadership expert gives her five tips on how to successfully guide a team.
You have the passion, the objective, the team and the backers. The rest should fall easily into place, right? Not quite. One of the most important foundations for a startup is thoughtful, effective leadership. Guiding your team through a productive, balanced game plan can be difficult at first, but honing your leadership style so that it works for you and your team is an absolute necessity in helping your venture grow.
Renee Freedman, co-founder and co-director of SupporTED, a coaching and mentoring program for TED fellows, helps coach many startup founders and social entrepreneurs on how to develop the skills necessary for strategic decision-making and leading innovative teams and projects. She has worked in both the corporate and not-for-profit fields, and serves as director of the coaching program for the Female Filmmaker Initiative of Sundance Institute. Freedman specializes in coaching those who look to make a difference. “Social entrepreneurship really marries the professionals who are helping and making an impact with those who work with enterprise and help the economy,” says Freedman. “I love that—that businesses are not just for profit, but they make an extension into the world.”
Freedman shared with The Venture her top five tips for effective leadership.
1. Fill and replenish your energy.
There will always be plenty of people and business matters that compete for your attention. How well you handle these from a time management, focus and relational perspective comes down to your energy level. Be sure to fill up your tank in the morning, replenish it throughout the day and sleep well at night. Ways to do this include exercising, reading, getting outside, eating well, staying hydrated, meditating, taking quiet time to reflect and sharing a good laugh.
2. Think like a leader.
As individuals, we are organically familiar with managing—we manage ourselves, we manage our tasks, and sometimes we manage others. As a leader, thinking can no longer focus on front-line functionality. Thinking, especially at a CEO level, has to shift into a strategic big-picture perspective in order to be able to guide your organization to achieve its vision. You must develop strategy and execute action that creates maximum impact and optimal outcomes.
3. Be open, transparent and approachable.
To lead others, they must know where you are going and what you are thinking. Be willing to share your thoughts, conversations and information. Be clear about what your care is and why—and articulate it with language others easily understand. The more you are willing to engage others, answer their questions, and share your vision and strategy, the more folks will want to be on your team.
4. Be interested.
One of the most effective ways to learn what’s going on in your organization, community or team is by listening and observing the people in them. In your position of leader, you have an audience that will listen to you. However, the people in your organization are hired because of a skill, talent or knowledge that they possess. By being genuinely interested in hearing their ideas and opinions, you open up the gateway for employee satisfaction, resource expansion and, most importantly, learning about the health and well-being of the organization.
5. Practice character before competency.
To lead effectively, people must trust you. Trust is determined by both character and competency. However, there is a learning curve allowed for competency that generally is not given for character. Without impeccable character, you can be the best at something, but folks won’t follow your lead.
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