When asked what they look for in a founder, most venture capitalists will almost always mention the ability to inspire others in their list of traits. It turns out this attribute is just as important for leaders in startups as it is for leaders of large companies. Harvard Business Review recently reported on interesting results from IMB’s CEO study “Leading Through Connection” and its own research in the area. The top three abilities CEOs found most important in their leaders were the ability to focus on customer needs, the ability to effectively collaborate with colleagues, and the ability to inspire. According to Harvard Business Review, the one that clearly stands out the most is inspirational leadership.
There are millions books and articles on how to be an effective business leader, most of which are sold alongside the candy bars and tabloid magazines at the checkout counter – appropriately placed since they are about as good for you as those items. As Mersive has grown and continues to grow, I’ve found the things I must do to inspire and motivate my team has had to grow and evolve as well. The things I could do to help inspire and motivate an engineer on my team (such as code with him until 3 a.m., buy him tickets to a Kentucky Wildcats game, or sit and rapid fire ideas on the white board that will become product within a week) can’t always scale far past a handful of energetic engineers. Instead I find myself spending more time looking farther down the roadmap with customers, investigating markets and building technology partnerships. I still think that an inspired group of 20 with clear direction and a vision will build better products than a wage-driven, corporate division with all the resources in the world. This is the beauty of software: Resources matter less than human traits such as creativity, energy and the drive to create change.
So I often find myself thinking about new mechanisms to inspire that will match the company as it grows. This is why I found the Harvard Business Review article so interesting. The article focuses on tangible actions of real leaders and how those actions can create better teams. Whether you run a company, want to run a company, or are already somewhere in between, it is worth a read.