The last blog entry I wrote [Who’s the Boss? What is a CEO?] made me think about overall business decisiveness and it’s critical role in growing a startup properly. There are many synonyms and attributes of decisiveness – certainty, determination, finality, resolve, authority. But there’s no single formula or magic combination for this quality.
Decisiveness is one of the key skills for the leader of a startup to succeed; not everyone involved, but definitely the leader/CEO. It’s fine if you’re not that type, just be honest about it and find someone to take role. An indecisive leader will get run over by the crowd quickly and lose the respect of those around him/her; better to let someone else run the show and focus on another task.
A strong CEO in an active startup should be making and implementing several decisions every day. The job of CEO of a real operating company includes many lonely times, no matter how many people surround you. But no matter what, the bullseye in on your head. For most strong leaders decisiveness is an innate quality, a feeling of empowerment and confidence that comes from somewhere within as well as the support of those around you. Some people are just born with it, or into it.
You thrive on the pressure of making decisions. Inspiration comes from beating obstacles in your past, overcoming a hardship or two, intense desire to succeed, past (or current) poverty, or some other experience in life where correct decision making took you from bad to good. Also, a startup CEO is usually much more decisive in his/her 2nd or 3rd startup than the first. They’ve “been there before”, understand the forks in the road, have been hardened and/or humbled a little by mistakes.
Lack of decisiveness at the top impedes growth. Lack of decisiveness running a startup usually is related to lack of experience, a different personality, or lack of desire to be that person. Can decisiveness be developed or taught? I think so. Self-confidence? Probably not so easily acquired. I was quite lucky early in my career to have several great role models (and a few bad ones). Examples and proactive mentoring came from several places for me, some quite early in my career. I’m now trying to give back by advising others and mentoring startups.
So be decisive as the overall leader of your startup and surround yourself with support to make better decisions. Find mentors, delegate, let go of details. Or be honest with yourself if this isn’t you and find find someone qualified whom you trust to take that role and let them run with it.
Your startup will be the winner.