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Pawel Brodzinski on Software Project Management

Role of Leaders in Startups

Who should be a leader of a startup? An easy question. One of founders. Or even better each of them. They are naturally predestined to leading role. They got the idea. They own the company. They keep all things running.

Now the more important question: what kind of leaders are they?

Why is it so important you ask? Well, having a great idea, being a CEO of a company and managing it on a daily basis tells you nothing about leadership. You can end up working either for a great leader or for a sick asshole. No matter which one is true as far as the startup has money leaders won’t change anytime soon.

Because of a small size of the startup role of leaders is defined a bit differently. Not only they motivate their teams and set up a strategy of the company but they’re also personally responsible for building company culture and enabling company growth.

In a big organization one asshole doesn’t make much difference – you either work for dozens of them or he’s going to be the only low-performer among great leaders. In a big organizations company culture is already set and it takes a lot of effort and a lot of people to change it (for better or worse). In a big organization one person won’t hamper growth even if that’s CEO who believes leadership is all about yelling at people.

In a startup one person makes a difference if he leads the company. If he’s a sick weirdo don’t expect healthy atmosphere all over the place. If he makes working for him a hell you won’t see many long-runners in the team as everyone comes and goes as soon as they realize things just won’t change with that kind of boss. In small organizations poor leaders are the main reason why companies suck.

If you worked for a person who is physically unable to build anything bigger than a couple dozens of people or creating healthy atmosphere at work you exactly know what I’m talking about. Big corporations can be filled with these types and they’ll manage. Startups don’t have luxury to be lead be them.

That’s a final post of Entreprenurs Time series. I hope you’ve enjoyed it. Please leave your feedback and let me know whether I should post this kind of series in the future.


in: entrepreneurship

3 comments… add one

  • Andrew Meyer January 27, 2009, 4:27 am

    As someone running a business that’s struggling to remain cash flow positive, I recognized many of my own mistakes in your series.

    Engineers being too concerned about building rather than being concerned about marketing.

    Understanding business models and what it takes to build pipelines.

    The fact that a founder has to do everything and will often have to spend most of their time doing what they’re weakest at. (or at least it seems that way).

    Thanks for the series and hopefully the lessons learned will pay dividends in the future.

  • Pawel Brodzinski January 27, 2009, 4:52 am

    Lessons learned always pay dividends inthe future as long as your want to learn.

    While the last startup I was working on was a failure I consider it as a great experience.

    I wish your company will both: achieve a success and teach you loads of new things.

  • Trevor Roberts January 30, 2009, 10:00 am

    Hi Pawel,

    I’ve really liked this series, and just wanted to say how much I enjoyed it. I’m currently running my second business, and even though the first business ultimately failed, I still think the experience was worthwhile, because it taught me lessons I was unlikely to learn any other way.

    Thanks for writing the series.

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