Five Qualities To Look For When Hiring Leaders In A Startup

Hiring the right leaders is crucial for the success of any startup. They are the backbone of a company because they drive business growth and act as the pillars of a business that help take the team from 20 employees to 100 and beyond. And there is no formula to get this hiring right. Just like the best athletes are not always the best coaches, the high performers do not necessarily end up being the best leaders.

So how do you ensure that you are hiring the right people?

In my experience, while you continue to look for specific skills when hiring your leadership team, there are some fundamental qualities that every leader should have regardless of the industry or size of the company.

1. Storytelling Ability

Everybody loves a story, and more importantly, most remember the details of a good one. Stories are integral to every organization, and a good storyteller helps make sense of the company, its products, its people and so on. As a leader, you interact with various stakeholders — employees, investors, existing and potential customers. Therefore, it is important to understand all these perspectives and have the ability to narrate a story with a broad view that connects the dots for these stakeholders.

It is this ability to communicate with everyone in the room — those from product, design, business, finance or human resources — that distinguishes a great leader from a good one.

2. Attention To Detail

Attention to detail matters in order to make world-class products, build an exceptional brand and create a global business. The ability to spot erroneous nuances and think through user journeys in depth is a skill not many professionals have. With big ambitions and growth goals in mind, leaders could overlook minor yet important details, which can prove very costly to the business.

As a leader, this is one skill your team will learn by exemplification. If you don’t have an eye for detail, your team also would follow suit, resulting in substandard work. If you don’t take pride in your work, they won’t care either. Attention to detail matters because a lack of it can ruin credibility.

Ensuring cadence on this skill will ensure faster turnarounds and reduced review cycles, resulting in a productive team.

3. Good Culture Fit

In a study of over 1,400 North American CEOs and CFOs, over 50% of them feel that corporate culture influences profitability, creativity, growth rates and productivity. Hiring talented managers who suit the company culture is shown to produce 27% higher revenue per employee.

Your leadership team defines the culture for the entire organization, and this trickles down and spreads across the company. Therefore, hire those who share the ethos and values of your company. Culture and leadership are deeply linked. The right culture attracts the right talent, and this talent retains the culture.

4. Being Collaborative

Collaborative leaders spend efforts on building relationships, elevating teams and sharing responsibilities. This is possible with the leader’s ability to share constructive feedback and understand conflict resolution. The responsibility lies in harnessing a positive work environment that encourages learning.

The important thing to remember is mistakes happen, and you rectify them, learn from them and move on. There is no finger-pointing in the organization, and leaders have an important role to play in creating an open environment.

Further, emotionally intelligent leaders often build teams that do not panic in challenging situations. This is key while giving and receiving feedback, meeting with tight deadlines, dealing with conflict in the team, and handling mistakes and failures.

No technical skills or domain knowledge can help in sailing the team through these, but a compassionate leader can build trust and confidence across teams.

5. Seeing The Big Picture

Effective leaders should be intuitive and experienced to understand the kind of decision-making style required in different situations — either consensus-based decision-making, which is inclusive, or management-based decision-making, which is centralized. Decision-making is a combination of organizational culture and leadership, but the decisions in a startup always need to fit the bigger company goal.

One of the main barriers that stops growth and innovation in a company is the lack of decision-making abilities in the team. A good leader needs to be able to give direction in chaos and navigate unprecedented circumstances.

Published in Forbes.