Success in a company usually comes from the top down, starting with a quality leader and moving on down the ranks. Think about Larry Page at Google. Through his company’s ups and downs, Page is a fantastic leader, one with a vision, goals, and the drive to push those around him to achieve greatness.
But it doesn’t start and stop with leadership. A successful company is built on a healthy ecosystem, which includes a quality leader, the right employees and some inspiration.
First: Set the Tone
Great start-up leaders tend to envision a world that’s better than it is today, a world where something--be it education, technology, communication--is more dynamic and enhanced when they’re done. At the end of the day, they’re evangelists for whatever they’re working to improve and are the driving force behind the product and company.
The first quality of a great leader is an understanding of the importance of surrounding themselves with smart people. To be viewed as a great ecosystem, a work environment needs to be a great place for people to come and be nurtured.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned in leadership positions it’s that people really can do amazing things when they’re inspired. When you find ways to pull that inspiration out of them and really determine what they want, you’ll see some truly incredible work.
From my experience, people tend to fail when they aren’t inspired. Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, said, “No company, large or small, can succeed over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it.”
Next: Nurture Greatness
And if you’re thinking money is the ultimate motivator, you’re wrong. Greatness comes from passion and from dedication. You can't get truly brilliant things from people just by paying them. You can get bursts of greatness from them, but you need to engage them to answer, "Why am I working on the weekend? Why am I here?" The best leaders understand that they need to inspire their workers but they also recognize that everyone wants something in their career, and it’s up to the leader to deliver that to them. When employees recognize their leader is working hard to push them towards their personal career goals, they’re even more likely to harness the passion and dedication needed to do amazing work.
The people you surround yourself with need to be fundamentally smart, hard working, and have good judgment. That's the easy part. More difficult, you have to be willing to let them go if they’re underperforming. When the founder of my company started the business, there were some smart people working here, but some had very poor judgment. He was quick to let them go.
After all, your company’s first hires should drive the vision forward and doing so requires strong judgment. You must be willing to let them go if they’re holding your company back.