Important Leadership Skills Needed by Startup CEOs

By Fernando Berrocal

There are a variety of skills that the highest position of a new startup, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) needs to excel to achieve a successful business. It’s widely known that startups are recognized for their levels of risk-taking and high levels of creativity. While enthusiasm and boldness are characteristics of the classic entrepreneurial spirit, CEOs must be more than entrepreneurial gentlemen. They need to improve their innovation to guide their businesses through the early stages of their development. Some essential traits of a successful startup CEO include the capacity to be flexible when dealing with curveballs, the ability to create trust-based relationships, and the ability to walk the line between empowering team members and making top-down choices.

startup ceo leadership skills



Flexibility: Being the CEO means you're generally working without a plan. And if you do have a plan, it's better to not follow it since things will come up that you couldn't have predicted, forcing you to make modifications and adjustments to your finances, product, team, marketing, among other things. Someone else might release a game-changing product just as you're getting ready to launch. Your competitors may knock the ball out of the park with a superior product at a lower cost. Investors might not show up. You may have to pivot to stay alive.

Developing Mutually Beneficial Connections: Since startups are frequently in a position of financial instability, it's critical to demonstrate financial transparency to workers and investors. Employees working for low compensation in hope that the business will flourish may feel disappointed if they learn that the CEO is earning a large salary that might be used to expand resources. Make sure you and your co-founders are demonstrating solidarity and good leadership ethics by making the sacrifices you want your team members to make. Similarly, CEOs are the ones in charge of the meetings when investors write cheques. They must be truthful in their reporting and refrain from making misleading promises regarding progress or statistics. Of course, any reputable investor would conduct due diligence before investing, but it's never a good idea to take advantage of an investor's inexperience to get financing; even if you believe the promise you're making to them will be fulfilled, there's no assurance. It's not worth risking your future reputation. Any exaggerated success story will be valued far less than the ability to be honest, and establish trust. You and your investors will be able to grow together, and they will know they can always rely on your honesty.

startup ceo leadership skills


Balancing Empowerment with Top-Down Choices: Startups are recognized for providing a high amount of autonomy to promote greater levels of creativity. However, this is a significant amount of responsibility to entrust team members who are, on the whole, inexperienced in leadership. Furthermore, they are most likely already working long hours to complete their tasks without being asked to consider the broader picture and continually come up with creative ideas. Encourage and respect their thoughts and ideas in regularly scheduled problem-solving meetings, but also make sure they understand that someone is guiding the ship through the storm. When used appropriately, using your power to executive decision-making helps to provide structure and clarity regarding roles and duties among team members while also giving them flexibility. Younger team members enjoy the opportunity to make a meaningful contribution and experience greater fulfillment when given the opportunity. While they may have excellent ideas and outstanding understanding in a certain area, the overall picture is ultimately your department as CEO, as well as their ability to present their solutions inside a practical framework.

Decisiveness and Grit: Great startup CEOs are not perfectionists. Rather, they recognize when something is ready to be released, and they recognize that the startup game is all about who can get the idea out first. Don't wait to get early consumer input; it'll help you develop a more useful product. Also, Startups are notoriously difficult environments to manage, with high failure rates. A certain level of grit is required to succeed. Dealing with funding difficulties, coordinating team productivity and product rollout, predicting the best moment to expand, and essentially developing from scratch frequently entails working long hours with no assistance. Indeed, many entrepreneurs defy the counsel of family members, friends, and mentors who are attempting to save them from what they believe to be impending calamity. Patience, perseverance, and, yes, “grit” is required to weather these periods of loneliness, uncertainty, and doubt while still piloting your business.


Successful startup CEOs understand when and how to be flexible, as well as how to empower their employees to innovate. They also possess honesty, the ability to form trusted connections, and the ability to make rapid judgments. Finally, they are a persistent group that distinguishes itself from startup failures by their determination to persevere when others would have given up.

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