My top advice to CEO’s: Never lose composure

Startups will keep going as long as the company does not run out of cash and the CEO does not run out of composure.

If money is up, business is over. Also, if the CEO can’t keep his or her cool, value is quickly destroyed, often irreversibly, and business will be over.

We need business leaders who are authentic, personable, honest and truthful. Everyone makes mistakes; CEOs make big ones. The best leaders are ready to show vulnerability. Nothing wrong in that. On the contrary, those are great characteristics of a CEO.

Yet, a CEO must not lose composure. In a startup, uncertainty abounds. Team members are unsure of where all of this will lead. Many are new in the company and new to each other. They don’t know how to work together or solve problems together. The CEO functions as the organizational glue, setting a direction and steering confidently towards a successful future.

Sharp words create uncertainty, the organization loses direction and the ability to cooperate.

When the going gets tough, or perhaps just uncertain, everyone looks to the CEO. Is the leader leading, still moving forward? Does the boss radiate calmness and confidence? Does the CEO look like having a plan? If so, we will follow and we will stay on course, stay together.

But if the CEO is losing composure, the organization will soon lose direction and the ability to cooperate. Activities will stagnate and progress slow down. Trust will erode. Dysfunctions will appear. Use of cash will increase. The company will be in a negative spiral, heading towards irrelevance and downfall.

What keeps the spiral going up and not down is the CEO, instilling purpose and confidence. The CEO will often operate without certainty. But as Ralph Waldo Emerson said: In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.

Keep skating fast with beautiful composure. The team will skate with you and you have a great chance of success. Even if you run into tough times, remember that tough times don’t last, but tough teams do.

Marten

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