As the leader of a startup, you have to deal with a never-ending series of issues. Startup CEOs must motivate the rest of the team, establish a company culture, and find a way to keep everyone together.
When stepping into a leadership position, it's easy to become overwhelmed. To help, here are five phrases that you should repeat as often as possible. Use these phrases as guidelines for decision making, and you'll become much more effective as a leader.
1. "I trust your judgment."
When your team members are facing hard decisions, there will be plenty of times when they come to you looking for a solution. While your natural tendency will be to tell your team what to do, it is better to let them make decisions themselves. It is your responsibility to help your team grow; if you always have the final say in everything, you prevent it from growing.
2. "I don't know."
As people step into leadership roles, there is pressure for them to act like they know everything. Many times, leaders will push an idea on their team or convince themselves that they have to know the answer to everything. This is a disastrous way to lead a company. As a leader, you have to be the first one to admit that you do not know everything. Members of your team may think that by admitting they're unsure of something, they are doing something wrong. This not only prevents them from improving, but also builds a company culture that won't allow people to make mistakes. When you show that it's OK not to know the answer to everything, your team will have much better communication and trust.
3. "What did we learn from this?"
Being a leader is a roller coaster ride, especially in a startup. One day your company is booming and the next you're almost out of business. Mistakes are happening and many times your team is facing obstacles for the first time. When things go sour, it is your job to make sure your team is taking full advantage of its failures. Instead of getting angry with team members, take a step back and ask your team what they've learned from their mistakes. Don't answer this question for them. Instead, give them time to think about what the root cause of the problem was, and how to prevent it the next time. When you do this, you not only prevent future mistakes, but you also keep your team motivated to take future risks.
4. "I'll take care of it."
The ideal situation for a leader is to recruit a team where every member is smarter than than the leader. Then, when faced with tough decisions, they can delegate to the best person on the team. With that said, there are times where you will be the only one on the team that can take care of a problem. When these situations occur, you need to tell your team you'll handle the problem, and to do whatever it takes to execute. Startups are anything but stable, which is why, as the leader, you have to be the one person upon whom everyone on the team can rely.
5. "We're all in this together."
There's a lot of advice for how leaders should overcome failures. There's not enough written about how you should also celebrate success. Being the leader of a company is a double-edged sword. When your company fails at something, fingers usually are pointing at you. Even worse, when your team succeeds, people will try to say it's because of you that your team won. This is one of worst beliefs a leader can have. If you watch interviews with Steve Jobs, you'll notice how many times he attributes Apple's success to his team. While no one will make a movie about every employee at Apple, Jobs knew he would never have been successful without his team. When your team accomplishes something, remind them that they're the ones who got you to where you are. You win together, and you fail together. That's how you build a great company.