The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtfuland 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 Cedric Bru, CEO of Taulia.
It was 1997 — the heart of the first Internet boom — when I first came to the US from France for an internship at a Silicon Valley startup I heard about. In truth, it was a tiny company, and we all worked out of the CEO’s bedroom, but the founder made her first million from the venture in less than three months. Suffice it to say, I was instantly hooked on the pace, energy and passion of American entrepreneurship and the tech industry.
I’ve since spent the past two decades working in tech in both the U.S. and France. My experience working in both countries has taught me two things: Silicon Valley has the rest of the world beat when it comes to cultivating innovation and the free flow of ideas. The Europeans, however, have a unique appreciation for the natural ebbs and flows of the world. We build things to last, since a history of war has shown us that summer is always followed by winter.
As CEO of Taulia, I believe that companies can embody the best of French and American entrepreneurship cultures. Here’s how I approach this at Taulia:
Diversity allows you to account for factors and issues that you might overlook with a more homogenous team. The result is that you’re able to move more quickly in the right direction than a company with a more narrow perspective. I’ve seen many companies spend millions of dollars as they prepare to expand globally, for example, because they have to retrofit their product to accommodate additional languages. In Europe, the connected nature of business is second nature. Most Europeans speak multiple languages, and we naturally approach problems with an international lens because we understand how connected our success is to that of our neighbors. Hiring a diverse leadership team — one made up of multiple nationalities, genders and races — is one way that American companies can avoid the pitfalls of homogenous thinking that sometimes plague Silicon Valley.
Move quickly but get everyone on board
In order to be effective as a leader, you need to build a team that moves quickly, while remaining in sync.Those two qualities can become contradictory if you’re not careful. In order to lead a team that is both nimble and aligned, you must ensure communication and collaboration are built into the company’s core value system; that goals are clearly communicated; and thatthere is genuine trust between team members. This three-pronged approach empowers as many people as possible to make smart decisions, while creating an environment where all employees feel like a team member’s win is their win, too. If you don’t lay this foundation early, scaling the business will become extremely difficult.
This type of open, collaborative communication is a value that is readily accepted by entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, where even competitors meet over coffee to discuss ideas and theories. In France, the business culture tends to be more protective, with less emphasis on idea sharing or collaboration. On the flip side, however, is that Silicon Valley’s love of speed sometimes comes at the price of clearly defined goals and the strategies to move towards them cohesively as a team. Incorporating U.S. entrepreneurs’ love for speed and collaboration — as well as the French emphasis on clearly defined goals — has helped me develop a balanced leadership style.
Don’t wear your team out
The French take work-life balance seriously, even going so far as to recently as to enact a bill that prevents companieswith 50 or more employees from sending emails after designated work hours. While this is a hotly debated issueeven in France, a commitment to work-life balance is an important way to ensure your team’s energy and passion is sustainable over time. I’m extremely proud when I’m able to get home for dinner and to put the kids to bed most days. I provide my employees the same flexibility, evaluating people based on long-term performance and impact, not their willingness to act like martyrs.
I’ve learned that when you are the CEO, you have to understand that your energy affects the whole team. Part of the job description is showing up to work positive, focused and driven each day. A lot of leaders are naturally quite intense, but this can have the unintended consequence of wearing out your team. Something I’ve learned throughout my career is to coach my leaders to diffuse their intensity, so it doesn’t overwhelm their employees, partners or customers. It’s the difference between a fire hose and an irrigation system.
Lastly, you have to make space for people to fail, and not stigmatize them for doing so. This is one of the key differences between American and European business culture. In France, if you fail you have a mark on your forehead, but in Silicon Valley, it’s a badge that you’re a true entrepreneur. Cultivating empathy and avoiding arrogance are critical — being able to have open conversations about failure is a sign of an innovative company culture. Too many leaders let their egos get in the way of this and are unnecessarily harsh on themselves or their employees. Over time, that stifles creativity and the life out of an organization.
I encourage all aspiring entrepreneurs to take advantage of opportunities to work and travel in other countries and collaborate with colleagues worldwide. There is much that we can learn from one another and now — more than ever before — technology is allowing businesses to connect and share ideas at scale.