HomeStartup Insights12 Ways Startup Founders Can Display Human-Centric Leadership

12 Ways Startup Founders Can Display Human-Centric Leadership

How can startup founders display human-centric leadership?

To help startup founders display human-centric leadership, we asked entrepreneurs and business owners this question for their best pieces of advice. From sharing your Achilles’ heel to balancing decisiveness and openness, there are several ways for startup founders to display human-centric leadership.

Here are 12 ways to display human-centric leadership:

  • Share Your Achilles’ Heel
  • Pay Attention to Organizational Needs
  • Foster Community and Trust
  • Train Managers as Coaches
  • Lead by Connecting
  • Match People and Positions
  • Create Solid DEI Initiatives
  • Focus on People over Tasks
  • Be Personable
  • Host Weekly Kickoffs and Wrap Ups
  • Talk One-on-One
  • Balance Decisiveness and Openness

Share Your Achilles’ Heel

One mistake leaders make, regardless of startup or large enterprise, is to not admit that they don’t know something or that they need help with something – or worse, not admit when they may be worried. It’s easy to believe that being Superman is the way to go. The truth is that sometimes Clark Kent does a better job. Admitting you’re human, with all the baggage that comes with it, makes you more believable and relatable as a leader. This isn’t promoting false humility so much as championing transparency.

Parissa Behnia, Sixense Strategy

Pay Attention to Organizational Needs 

Think about how you can balance the needs of your business, employees, consumers, and stakeholders during any phase of the organization’s existence. Along with fostering an organization that is driven by a mission and values, communicate directly with your employees to determine how they handle times of crisis and develop strategies to reduce employee concerns. Having a better understanding of the needs of your entire organization allows for greater self-awareness and inner resilience for managing any success or challenge that presents itself.

Rachel Roff, Urban Skin Rx

Foster Community and Trust

Employee trust helps firms in becoming more human-centered. Transparent and honest communication, as well as regular feedback from leaders, help to build this trust. In order to maintain regular video meetings with your team while working from a distance, digital technology solutions are essential. Interaction with coworkers is necessary for both the motivation and the energy it provides. To avoid social isolation, leaders should pay attention to the various personality types in their workforce and provide them with planned alternatives to the coffee machine discussion. The simplest approaches to demonstrate human-centered leadership are to see and hear everyone and cultivate a sense of belonging among them.

Eric McGee, TRGDatacenters

Train Managers as Coaches

One way startup founders can display more human-centric leadership is by training managers to be better coaches. Human-centric leadership is at the core of coaching and is crucial to developing employees’ potential. A coach helps employees focus on growth, while a boss just focuses on reports. Training managers and practicing what you preach with coaching is critical to being a more human-centric leader.

Phillip Akhzar, Arka

Lead by Connecting

Set clear objectives and lead by example. I believe in collaborating with the entire team, so they know I am in it with them and encourage their feedback. By setting clear objectives on projects and encouraging them to think outside the box, it inspires them to create their best work and know they are part of creating something truly special. Connecting with your team and showing them what you know they are capable of will produce great results.

Stephen Skeel, 7 Wonders

Match People and Positions

As a leader, we’ve all probably hired someone for a particular role, only to find out down the road that they’d be a much better fit for another department. This type of active engagement with your team is what will build a positive, happy company culture. As a team member learns and grows, they shouldn’t feel confined by their title. Instead, keep an eye out for when an employee learns new skill sets, or when you see them excel during a cross-collaboration with other divisions of the company. You’ll see a dramatic change in employee retention.

Mark Sider, Greater Than

Create Solid DEI Initiatives

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) is not only written into the rule books, but it is understood as one of the critical keys to success as an organization. Startups are currently in the process of defining DEI guidelines. However, founders have the opportunity to “walk the walk” in selecting diverse vendors and partners, as well as diverse models in our lifestyle photography and media.

Lindsay Hischebett, Flaus

Focus on People over Tasks

Ask questions and find out what people’s goals and needs are. Everyone is unique, and what one person is interested in, another person may not be. Instead of assigning the top tasks that you want done, start asking people what they are interested in (instead of just assuming). You may find that they are all interested in different tasks. When someone is interested in a certain task, they’re more likely to perform better. You can’t always pick and choose what to work on, but as a startup founder there are so many priorities, you can delegate tasks according to someone’s interests.

By focusing on their interests and needs, you might also see that some people work or learn differently than others. So when you stop focusing on the task and more on the person and show empathy and compassion, that will make you a better leader with happier employees.

Michelle Beauregard, Quietly

Be Personable 

Be personable as a leader. Leadership drives small teams to achieve great things. Budget time to join sales calls with new sales team members. Not only do the newest members get to see and get repetitions with the best pitch-givers in the company, they get to feel the support of the ownership guiding them towards there sales goals. Also, give personal calls to your employees regularly. Everyone works long hours to improve things for customers, but a call to check in and ask personal questions is incredibly refreshing.

Brad Kennedy, Polycarbin

Host Weekly Kickoffs and Wrap Ups

One of the best ways young companies band together is when their founders create a way to address big moments organically and remain in touch with the company’s staff. As a leader, it’s easy to focus on the daunting challenges quietly. This leaves employees to wonder what’s going on and feel detached from the exciting successes and failures of the company as a whole.

Display human-centric leadership by hosting a weekly kickoff and wrap-up meeting every Monday and Friday. Use that time to bring on co-hosts from various departments and chat about the amazing work they are doing. It makes everyone in the company, even in usually-siloed jobs (legal, accounting, etc.) feel a part of the bigger picture. It also allows leadership to discuss company-wide wins, challenges, and changes in an organic manner. There’s nothing worse than only hearing from your company’s founder when something big happens.

Kelly Skelton, Backyard Assist

Talk One-on-One

Set up meetings with your team members to check in on them. Human-centric leadership is all about valuing the people in your organization, so it’s important to provide opportunities for them to express feedback. This is particularly important in startup environments, where grueling hours are often the norm. Having regular check-ins with your employees can help founders assess their staff needs and provide a healthier environment.

Rachel Reid, Subtl Beauty

Balance Decisiveness and Openness

To show real, human leadership in the often chaotic world of startups, founders must adopt a culture of radical transparency in which members of the team are unafraid to share their views with you. By asking team members for feedback on different aspects of the business, you can get a proper sense of how the company is running on the ground and begin to introduce improvements. But remember – as the founder – the buck ultimately stops with you. It’s up to you to prioritize changes and justify these decisions with your team. Be transparent, be curious, but be decisive.

Benjamin Graham, AnswerConnect

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