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Growing by Example - Not at All Cost

Terry Farber Eliasaf | Aug. 21, 2022

These days, many startups find themselves in a race to grow at all costs, when what they really need is to slow down, strategize, and grow smarter. Here, leadership is not an added bonus, it’s an absolute must. Read this week’s blog post to understand the role leadership plays in startup growth, and how Hunter can help you find the right leaders to grow your startup the right way.

Startups are always talking about agility and growth. A simple Google search on startups will result in hundreds of articles on how to achieve long-term agility and grow your startup, how agility is the most significant advantage startups have over corporations, how startups can retain their agility while growing, etc. But have you ever wondered if agility and growth indeed are the be-all and end-all that determines a startup’s long-term success?

Often, startups are forced to implement pivots into their business and development strategy and execution. Namely, they must shift their focus from one product or business model to another, in order to meet their customers’ needs, gain a competitive advantage, and enjoy even more growth, down the line. To do so, they must first step back, regroup, and build the foundation for their next moves. However, it’s important to note that while product and strategy pivots within the startup ecosystem are more-or-less a given, the pivots that are subsequently required within startups’ leadership strategy and actions to enable these shifts are not. The result: 20 to 40 percent of startups’ founders find themselves replaced with professionals considered more experienced and better suited to navigate critical changes within the startup’s lifecycle.

Growth is the goal, but not at all costs, and not in the way you might think

While growth is an important business goal, it’s important that startups do not only take measures to grow their bottom line. Despite operating within a very technological industry, startups must remember that the people behind their developments are who keep the company running and advancing, not the developments themselves. Understanding and developing executives so they are empowered to lead your teams through change is the critical element every startup needs to grow product releases, audience bases, markets, revenues, and reputations.

Are your executives leaders? Do they possess the right technical and soft skills to lead teams through change and grow employees so that they’re ready to scale their abilities and meet the company’s KPIs through the next stage of your startup’s journey? Are they the right people to identify when teams aren’t ready to move forward, and empower them to learn the necessary next steps infused with a can-do attitude and abilities to act in your startup’s best interests?

At the end of the day, the growth you want to generate is, first and foremost, the product of the leadership you need your executive team to exude. You want them to communicate openly, build trust, demonstrate ethics and integrity, and provide added value to each and every team member. You want their strategic acts to infuse your employees with the energy and motivation needed to take the leap and reach business goals, while developing leadership skills of their own. In layman terms, you want them to lead with their hearts, not with their coding fingers or gantt charts.

Defining leaders to drive startup growth

The first step in finding the right leaders to take your startup to the next level is to ensure that all decision-makers (i.e board members or other people who have a say in the hiring process) are aligned on what leadership actually looks like, within the startup ecosystem. This definition must be independent from board members’ disparate agendas for your startup’s growth, so that disagreements about your startup’s direction can be kept to a minimum, or at least resolved in a clear manner that serves the company, rather than its individual stakeholders. Once you’ve set the tone, finding the right leaders who “walk in its pace,” will be easier than you think.

Second, valuing candidates’ soft skills over their ability to “act the part” of the CEO or other executive position is key; their charisma might charm you at first, but its accompanying ego is in no one’s service, in the long haul. A true leader is someone who acts, rather than speaks, enabling their team members to learn from their example. Beware of falling prey to an inflated CV; what your leadership candidates have accomplished start-to-finish is more important than where they previously worked, or the titles they held.

Third, leadership must start from the absolute top. You can’t expect your executives to lead, if you don’t set that example first. The stronger your leadership approach is, the stronger you’ll be able to attract executives to leadership positions within your startup. This is true, independent of the compensation packages and perks you may or may not offer.

Finally, take a deep breath and be ready to play the tortoise in the “race” towards growth. Slow and steady is the best way to succeed in the long term. It’s better to shift slower and obtain your desired results, than fail fast and see your teams and your budget crash and burn. Real leaders understand this and won’t veer off course to satisfy your board’s hunger for immediate results, or better Q3 returns, if it means even better results, in the next fiscal year.

Hunter understands the unique challenges faced by startups looking to grow in a fast-paced market, and we have the exact solution you need to lead: executive search services that align with your startup’s DNA and the formation of leadership-building relationships.

Learn more here >> https://hunter.co.il/en/Executive-search/