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CEO Insider

The Five Attributes of Successful Startup CEOs

Even though every person is different, and every manager has a unique management style, when looking at many of the successful startup CEOs, one finds interesting similarities. These similarities related to their management characteristics can be categorized into five main attributes:

  1. They are leaders, not managers
    When you are a CEO of a startup, or of any company for that matter, leadership is more important than management. There is a saying that managers do things right, but leaders do the right thing. Doing things right might not suffice to meeting your objectives, but when one does the right thing, the chances of success are that much higher. A good leader has true passion, commitment, and conviction in their goal. This passion is contagious, and extremely important when leading a team, recruiting new talents, fundraising, and when selling a new and innovative solution to new clients.
  2. They don’t compromise on the quality of their teams.
    Almost every entrepreneur and investor would say the most important aspect of their startup company is their team. Since the market is dynamic, the product may change, the target market may shift, the technology may be replaced, and the business model may vary. The team is the spine of the company, the constant that will enable all these changes to happen. The founding team and the management of the startup are the engine of the company. And since the technology race is fast, the track is constantly changing, and the competition is fierce, one must make sure that every person on the team is a winner in their field and always strive to have the best team in the category.
  3. They have a high sense of urgency and are quick at their decision making
    Good CEOs have a high sense of urgency and competitiveness. They feel that they need to run fast and accelerate in order to lead the race. It doesn’t matter if they have a direct competitor or not, they always assume that someone, somewhere, is building something very similar to what they are, and they need to build it faster.
    Without this sense of urgency, you may build a good business, you may be even be number two or three in the market, but you will never become a global category leader – which as a startup, should be your main goal.
    This sense of urgency also leads to quick decision making. This doesn’t mean making reckless or irresponsible decisions, but the decision-making process should be quick. Get the relevant information, analyze the data, consider the alternatives, understand the operational implications, and make a decision.
  4. They are extremely focused and have a mission completion mindset
    A mission command doctrine combines centralized intent with decentralized execution. While the CEO and the company’s management define the mission, the managers and the employees are empowered to take the initiative and choose whatever tactics are needed to carry the mission out. The mission is the most important thing and it must be completed!
    The mission is about specific tasks and goals that must be achieved. Management by missions means that the organization is forced to define its priorities, objectives, and the means to achieve them. This focus on defining the mission and outcome creates clear key performance indicators (KPIs) for every level of the company – what needs to be done, by whom, and when. Everyone in the company at any level knows what their mission is, what is the priority, the fact that they will be measured by it, and in some cases, also compensated accordingly.
  5. They all have the right dose of chutzpah!
    Entrepreneurship is about being daring. It’s about having the chutzpah, the audacity, to pursue what seems like an impossible goal. To dare and question what everybody thinks cannot be changed. Any successful entrepreneur is guided by their internal voice, which usually says something along these lines: “I don’t have to accept reality as it is. The current solutions are not good enough. They are not answering current needs, and they don’t provide a solution for real pains in the market; there must be a better, faster, more effective way. I will find it, develop it, and market it.” Make sure you have the confidence and the chutzpah to say it, but also be careful that you are not being rude or arrogant when claiming it. It’s a thin line, make sure not to cross it.

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CEOWORLD magazine - Latest - CEO Insider - The Five Attributes of Successful Startup CEOs
Uri Adoni
Uri Adoni, author of The Unstoppable Startup: Mastering Israel’s Secret Rules of Chutzpah (HarperCollins Leadership, Sept. 8 2020). He is an angel investor and venture capitalist with over 20 years of experience in the high-tech sector. He spent 12 years as a partner at Jerusalem Venture Partners Media Labs, which has listed twelve companies on NASDAQ and sold numerous others to leading tech companies such as Cisco, Microsoft, EMC, PayPal and Sony. Uri Adoni is an opinion columnist for the CEOWORLD magazine. Follow him on LinkedIn.