Goldee was a huge lesson of leadership for me. I’ve worked with all kinds of people — younger and older, super talented and experienced, juniors with no experience and yet with huge potential… I made many and big mistakes since this was my real first experience of leading the team. Before Goldee I didn’t know what the leadership word meant, in a matter of fact I didn’t even know there was a word like that in a vocabulary.

The first time I realized I need to do something about my leadership was five months after we started working as a team. I invited a new guy to be CTO at my project (back than called Goldenfish Lighting) to lead the hardware team. What I learned later was that he was trying to get the team under his control and turn them against me. I completely trusted the guy and didn’t know his intentions. We had some conflicts but we never talked about them. It all was cumulating and eventually exploded to the point when we just couldn’t work together any more. He was a better leader than I was and he also had big influence on team. I realized that people he was leading were happy with him. That was the first time Goldee almost ended. It was before the smart bulbs even came to the market in 2012. Since I had no experience with leadership or management I had really difficult two weeks to come to settle this crisis down and still count on people that he was leading. That’s when I first typed: How to be a great leader in Google.

I changed my view on leadership recently when one guy asked me a question that made an impact on me: “Did you ever think about yourself as of the father of company?” Meaning that I should approach everything that happens in the company as a father. Now I pretty much see that parallel a lot and I see leadership as fatherhood. Before even talking about leadership I think it is important to note that for a man to become a good father he needs to be mature before he becomes one and the same applies for a potential leader.

Leader, the visionary

A good father is a visionary and sets the vision for his family. He needs to able to set his own personal goals for himself but also goals for his family/company. Obviously it cannot stay at setting the goals. He needs to reiterate the vision and the dream for his members periodically. It’s like when you plant a seed, it cannot stop there — you have to water it and put it on the sun… He has to be the one to bring the sunshine on the team members when they are down. It must be him who brings the hope, better future we all strive for. He needs to come up with ways how to motivate others to grow and inspire them to do the impossible.

Leader that creates the environment

I think that really good leaders create a family environment where others feel they are part of it, where they can expect help, support, kindness, forgiveness… so it essentialy becomes their second home. A place where people look forward to go to after they wake up. A place they don’t want to leave after 5pm. A place where they can find transparency, because it builds trust, shows fairness and also shows that company values them. The leader needs to build relationships with his teammates. We want to be treated as human beings because we are human. It’s important to get personal, just not too personal. You don’t want to regret you have said too much of your personal life since at the end of the day it’s business, and those guys may actually start competing you one day. Oh, and don’t forget about jokes, birthdays and other little things that make up the difference.

Leader that develops people

A really good father doesn’t dictate his children what to do but develops them instead. What the real mission of fathers is, is to prepare his kids for the adulthood. He should build an environment where it is okay to make mistakes but it’s not okay to repeat them. The true leader gives his people freedom and space to do things their own way and to make their own decisions. Everybody is different, has different learning style, has different management style… There is not only one rule for everything. We shouldn’t delegate tasks but the role. Big part of developing others is by building their confidence. I once heard:

“Good leaders make others believe in him but great leaders make others believe in themselves.”

Only confident leaders can build confidence in others. Trust is an important key to it. If someone feels that his leader trusts him, his confidence goes up, and he can be freed up from this emotional stress and can be even more motivated to do his best.

Leader, the great communicator

Very important thing to learn in order to become a great leader is to become a really good communicator. A leader may be a good speaker but needs to be especially a great listener, so he can listen to problems of others and be a help. Leaders lead with their words (besides their actions), so the words must be crystal clear, so there is no more ways of interpretation. If there is a problem, the leader must solve it or at least talk about it as soon as possible because if he doesn’t do it right away and it’s not a one-time problem thing, it’s going to cumulate into a much bigger problem later on, like what happened with our the first CTO.

Leader by example

I used to believe that the best way to raise kids is not by telling them what’s good and bad but by showing them the real example of how to live. But a few years ago after I somewhere read an article about it I got convinced that it’s not the best way but the only way. Leaders have to walk the talk, otherwise no one is going to follow them. Who should the teammates learn from how to be a great leader if not from their leader? Storms, emotions, and crises come and go and the leader needs to know how to handle it. People look to the leader during times of uncertainty and unfamiliarity and find reassurance and security.

Being a great leader is difficult, especially in a startup since it’s not the only responsibility of a CEO, CTO, CMO… They also have business responsibilities and need to provide more tangible results in other areas. During Goldee I sometimes felt guilty when we were having fun with our team outside the office since I knew how much work was waiting for us. However now I see that none of those times was a waste of time, actually it was quite the opposite. This is an important investment. When people have good relationships with others and like the work environment, the results of their work are going to be stunning because they do it with love and passion. In general, leading others take about 50% of your work time, so be prepared to set that time aside to help others develop. If you have anything interesting to add or perhaps your story or experience, please comment below the article.

Tomas