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4 Tips to Overcome Leadership Plateaus to Fuel Startup and Early Stage Company Growth

Startup Growth Plateau

Startup and early stage companies depend on growth. If you aren’t growing, you’re shrinking. That’s why it’s so critical for startup and early stage company leadership to invest in their own growth.

Unfortunately, leadership plateaus are a real problem for you, both professionally and personally.

Leadership plateaus occur in even the most talented and knowledgeable leaders.

You may have amazing technical skills, but you aren’t growing in other key areas, like your soft skills. You know you’re doing good work, but you’re not able to move ahead onto something greater.

As a consequence, stagnated leadership can lead to low morale, lack of action, and absence of innovation. In the world of the startup, plateaus can often prove deadly.

4 Tips To Overcome Leadership Plateaus in Early Stage Companies

When your company’s leadership ceases to grow, so does your company. That’s why engaged and growing leaders are the key to success for an early stage company.

Follow these guidelines to overcome leadership plateaus within your startup.

1. Find the time

Although everyone’s time is precious, leaders have to be even more judicial with their time and it comes down to prioritization. For example, you can’t have your CFO handling every aspect of billing, contracts, and sales calls.

It’s easy to hit a plateau when you burn time doing monotonous tasks. Leaders have to prioritize their tasks so they can grow within their role instead of focusing on minute details. After all, they can’t spend four hours a day checking email.

Prioritization is important, but what happens when your leaders prioritize tasks and still don’t have enough time?

Startup founders and leaders often put in long hours and dedicate themselves fully to the business. The problem is that every leader has limits to their time. Free your leadership up to prioritize and focus on growth initiatives by addressing capacity problems.

Outsourcing is a great solution to increase leader capacity. Whether for the short or long term, outsource tedious tasks away from your leaders so they can focus on what matters. Consider outsourcing through freelancers, new employees, or even automated tools.

2. Hone your managerial skills

Leadership is a fluid skill. Leaders have to hone their managerial skills while their early stage company is still small.

Over time, your skills will have to adjust to manage larger teams with more complex workflows. This means your leaders have to not only learn to lead, but to scale their leadership as the company grows.

While some people are born leaders, most of us have to work at being better leaders. If you’re experiencing a leadership plateau, the good news is that your leaders can still improve and learn.

The best way to learn is through feedback.

Get a mentor or a coach to grow your early stage company’s leadership capabilities. Embrace feedback from peers, direct reports, and supervisors, too. The goal is to help leaders identify their weaknesses so they can continue to grow.

However, leaders have to approach this with an open mind. You can’t take an online course to magically overcome leadership plateaus. Give leaders a structured plan for growth that’s consistent, measurable and feedback-heavy.

3. Align to a mission

It’s easier for leaders to lead if they know where they’re supposed to go. Things change quickly in early stage companies. That’s why you need a purposeful and defined mission that helps leaders maintain their focus.

Although most early stage company leaders have an “all-in” mentality, it helps to grow leadership around a core mission.

Work is more purposeful when it’s aligned to an overall mission. The mission needs to be more than “grow the company,” too. Your mission should give leaders, employees, and customers an intrinsic sense of purpose and duty.

Once you tie your mission with actionable directives and goals, it’s much easier for leaders to embrace growth. Now their growth isn’t just for the sake of growing, but furthering the mission.

Your business’s mission will likely change over time, and that’s okay. The point to a mission-driven business is to motivate and inspire leaders to pursue growth.

4. Acknowledge limitations

No leader is perfect. However, the best leaders are able to recognize their imperfections and weaknesses—and address them before they cause problems.

Build a diverse team with a variety of skills. Make sure they complement not only your own skills as a leader but those of the other leaders in your company.

Once you know your leaders’ weaknesses, it can also be helpful to pair leaders with complementary skills. For example, if your CMO is great at messaging but bad with data, partner them with your data-oriented CFO.

Remember to clarify roles so each leader knows their lane. This will preserve everyone’s time by avoiding rework and confusion. Although it sounds counterintuitive, narrow roles give leaders more capacity to creatively pursue growth.

The Bottom Line

Even if you have the right product-market fit and funding, there’s no guarantee your early stage company will succeed.

Strong leaders make startups great. Follow these tips to keep your leadership constantly growing and overcome leadership plateaus.

Need more than this checklist? The Hollines Group specializes in growing early stage companies. Shoot us a quick email at or give us a call at 720.936.9595 to position your company to overcome leadership plateaus and start growing again.