The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What leadership style should every entrepreneur try to adopt?” is written by Feris Rifai, CEO and cofounder of Bay Dynamics.
Entrepreneurs set the tone across their startup companies. Whether they are working with a team of 10 or two, everyone is watching them and, in some cases, acting like them. Their attitudes are infectious. If they are having a bad day and outwardly walk around with their heads hanging low, others around them will do the same. If they face a setback and throw their hands up saying, “This is a big problem. We have to give up,” their teams will also have that defeatist mindset.
Entrepreneurs’ tone forms the personality of their companies, and therefore, they must be cognizant of how they come across to others. When I am having a bad day, I try even harder to not let it show. I interact with my team as if I’m having a great day, reflecting positivity and drive to move forward. If we face a supposed setback as a company, I turn the challenge into an opportunity, getting my team to think creatively about how we can solve the problem together and move forward. For example, in the early days of Bay Dynamics, we faced a revenue setback. A partnership we were heavily relying on didn’t come to fruition. However, instead of treating the setback as a failure, we rallied, united, and mounted a campaign to provide even stronger value to our existing customers and expand our overall customer base. By hitting a snag on what we later realized was the status quo, we were able to offer the market something even more valuable and establish a strong, new direction for the company.
No matter the magnitude, if you treat a setback as an opportunity to create something even better, then you will lead your small army of people in a new, positive direction. Startups contain a lot of transparency. There is nowhere to hide. As a leader, you need to create a culture that thrives on challenges and holds its head high, no matter what happens day to day.
As leaders, entrepreneurs must also be maniacal about continuously improving their company. They must subscribe to the mentality that anything the company is doing can be improved. That includes frequently getting feedback from their team members, customers, and partners. They should engage everyone on their team to use feedback as fuel to come up with creative, new ideas. If you cannot foster creativity as a startup, you cannot grow or position yourself as a disruptor in the market. After I hire people, I do not just say, “Here’s your job. Go do it.” I want people to think and solve problems. That also means I have to be open to everyone’s perspective, and in some cases be assertive, all in an effort to protect the integrity of my team.
Entrepreneurs must recruit their teammates to protect the fabric of the organization. Every member of the team should truly believe that what he or she is developing is important. The best entrepreneurs want their teams to care about each other’s success, not just their individual success. Ultimately, an entrepreneurial leader wants to bring together the right group of people and make sure they are engaged, excited, and continuously improving.