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Must-Have Traits to Be an Effective Startup Boss

Posted by Early Growth

August 13, 2013    |     5-minute read (900 words)

Originally published in MonsterThinking.

The following answers are provided by members of the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.

What is the #1, must-have trait for a great boss?

1. An Understanding of Intrapreneurs

Today, there are more and more intrapreneurs within companies. A boss needs to understand that everyone wants more ownership over his or her tasks and projects. When someone feels like he or she is in control or contributing a lot, he or she performs better and enjoy the work more.

- Nathalie Lussier, The Website Checkup Tool

2. The Ability to Guide Others

True leaders must prepare their employees to go on a journey, not simply kick them in the right direction. Guiding them along the way means providing them with the necessary preparation in the form of tools, advice and examples. These strategies result in the trust and loyalty of their teams.

- Anson Sowby, Rocket XL

3. Effective Project Management Skills

A great boss must help her reports hit their milestones. Being a great project manager — helping your team know their deadlines and outlining a path to get them there—is critical. You need to know when things are slipping before they fall so you can inject yourself and help your team.

- Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

4. A Service-Oriented Attitude

The best bosses are helpful bosses. Focus on becoming someone who can put aside your own ego to be of service to your team. As a boss, you should work for your team—not the other way around.

- Laura Roeder, LKR Social Media

5. Self-Awareness

Any great boss understands that he is giving cues to his staff constantly. He demonstrates how to respond to issues, how to treat customers and how to respect co-workers. Self-awareness is key.

- Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

6. Accessibility

Employees—especially new ones—are bound to make more mistakes than necessary if they feel they can’t ask you questions or get your feedback. Make sure you are accessible and available as much as possible. Literally keep your door open to give the impression that anyone can visit to discuss an idea or ask a question of you.

- Benjamin Leis, Sweat EquiTees

7. A Team Orientation

Know that every project is a reflection of you and your team. To create the best product, learn your team’s strengths and weaknesses. Make sure you can effectively complete the project if needed.

- Peter Minton, Minton Law Group, P.C.

8. Flexibility

Every person has different motivations. Some people don’t actually need much managing. You tell them what to do and they do it—or they find things that need to be done and do them. Others need total micromanagement. If you manage every person the same way, you might end up with a bunch of unhappy people.

- Jim Belosic, ShortStack/Pancake Labs

9. An Understanding of the Team’s Strengths

A good manager should understand her team’s strengths and work with them. Good managers don’t push against the tide; they go with the flow. Strong leaders have a clear understanding of the strengths of their team, dividing and parceling out work in a way that makes sense. Their employees are set up for success by being tasked with duties they are capable of performing.

- David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

10. The Ability to Share Accountability

I wasn’t a great boss early on in my startup. One of the main deficiencies I had was wanting to be liked. That quality led to hesitation about telling people what to do and when to do it. Great bosses communicate goals and milestones, the metrics that matter and the expected deadlines. This fuels healthy pressure and a sense of accomplishment for team members.

- Derek Shanahan, Playerize

11. Great Communication Skills

Communication skills are the most important trait to being a good boss. Whether communicating values, goals, project guidelines, expectations, deadlines or feedback, it all comes down to being able to verbalize your thoughts to inspire and empower your team to perform better.

- Shradha Agarwal, ContextMediav

12. The Ability to Be Receptive

The one must-have trait for a great boss is the ability to be receptive. Are you willing to listen to your team and incorporate the feedback? It’s important to empower your team to speak up with any comments or suggestions that will allow you to improve processes in the company. Ultimately, this will lead to improved employee satisfaction and higher efficiency.

- Fehzan Ali, Adscend Media LLC

13. Directness

A great boss needs to be able to talk candidly with an employee and let him know where he stands and how he can improve. A boss needs to be able to get the most out of his or her team. That’s often the result of clear communication and expectations.

- Jeff Berger, Doostang and Universum Group

What do you think are the must-have traits to be an effective boss? Tell us about it in



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