What Goldee Taught Me about Leadership

Goldee was a massive 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 substantial potential. I made many and big mistakes since this was my real first experience leading the team. Before Goldee, I didn’t know what the leadership word meant; as a matter of fact, I didn’t even know there was a word like that in a vocabulary.

The first time I realized I needed to do something about my leadership was five months after working as a team. I invited a new guy to be CTO at my project (back then called Goldenfish Lighting) to lead the hardware team. I learned later 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 couldn’t work together anymore. He was a better leader than I was, and he also had a significant influence on the team. I realized that the 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 leadership or management experience, I had tough two weeks to settle this crisis and still count on the people 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 impacted me: “Did you ever think about yourself as the father of the 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 becoming one, and the same applies to a potential leader.

Leader, the visionary

Steve Jobs

A good father is a visionary and sets the vision for his family. He needs to establish his personal goals for himself and goals for his family/company. 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 sunshine to the team members when they are down. It must be him who brings the hope, a better future we all endeavor. He needs to develop ways to motivate others to grow and inspire them to do the impossible.

The leader that creates the environment

Nelson Mandela

I think that outstanding leaders create a family environment where others feel they are part of it, where they can expect help, support, kindness, forgiveness. So it essentially becomes their second home. A place where people look forward to going to after they wake up. A place they don’t want to leave after 5 pm. A place where they can find transparency because it is built upon trust, fairness, and respect. 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 it’s business at the end of the day, and those guys may start competing with you one day. Oh, and don’t forget about jokes, birthdays, and other little things that make up the difference.

The leader that develops people

Richard Branson

“Train people well enough, so they can leave. Treat them well enough, so they don’t want to.” — Richard Branson

A caring father doesn’t dictate his children what to do but develops them instead. What the real mission of every father is, is to prepare his kids for 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 way and make their own decisions. Everybody is different, has a different learning style, has a different management style. There is not only one rule for everything. We shouldn’t delegate tasks but the role. A 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 essential key to it. If someone feels that his leader trusts him, his faith 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

Martin Luther King Jr.

The vital thing to learn is to become an excellent communicator. A leader may be a good speaker but needs to be predominantly a great listener to listen to others’ problems and help. Leaders lead with their words (besides their actions), so the terms must be crystal clear, so there are 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

Elon Musk

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 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 them. 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 had 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. It is a substantial investment. When people have good relationships with others and like the work environment, their work results will be stunning because they do it with love and passion. In general, leading others takes 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.

Originally published at http://tomasbaran.com on July 10, 2015.

husband, father, entrepreneur (Ambee/Goldee), designer, developer, marketer, adventurer