What to look for and what to avoid
In a company In the early days, the difference between C-level executives and the rest of the organization is simple: Employees can walk away from failure, but leaders cannot. Under these conditions, certain types of people thrive in leadership roles and can take a company from ideation to production.
While there is no magic formula for what works and what doesn’t, successful startups share common traits in terms of the way their foundational leadership teams are built.
We’ve all experienced what seems like the negative end of the spectrum: people making points simply to hear their own voice, leaders vying for credit, and conflicting agendas. When people prefer to be heard rather than contribute, the outcome suffers. Members of a healthy leadership team are not afraid to let others be the center of attention, because they trust the mission and culture they have built together.
An honest self-assessment is necessary and this is something that only exceptional and disinterested founders are capable of doing.
We are all imperfect human beings, including founders. There will always be moments that leaders cannot predict and mistakes come with the territory. The right leadership team should be able to mitigate the unexpected and sometimes make the future easier to predict. Putting the right people in the right roles early on can make the difference between success and failure, and that starts at the top.
Start by determining who will lead as CEO
Investors love founder-CEOs, and founders are often fantastic candidates for this position. But not everyone can do it well, and more importantly, not everyone wants to do it.
Startup founders should ask themselves a few questions before losing sleep at the prospect of handing over the reins:
- Do I even want to be CEO? If so, for how long?
- Can I maximize the potential of the company if I am not the CEO?
- Am I really the best person for this job at this stage?
An honest self-assessment is necessary and this is something that only exceptional and disinterested founders are capable of doing. In many cases, the founders decide they need outside help to fill the position. While a CEO may not be your first employee, or even one of the top five, the person you choose will ultimately fill the most important leadership role in your organization, so choose wisely.
What to look for: Ambitious vision based on the reality of the execution. Your CEO should have hands-on experience to see around corners, predict pitfalls, and identify opportunities.
What to keep in mind: Leaders who do not respect the foundational vision or the ability to hire and balance an executive team quickly. A good CEO should be able to manage short-term cash flow and go-to-market needs without compromising true north, while building a long-term foundation and culture.
Then hire a leader for your engineering team