Romeen Sheth thinks he knows what goes into running a startup, and has the credentials to prove it. The ex-McKinsey investor says he invests in over 25 startups a year and interviews on the order of 50 plus founders a year. He's currently president of Metasys Technologies, an executive search and talent management firm based in Atlanta.
There are few people in the industry that can claim the kind of access to founders and executives that Sheth has, so it’s no wonder his tweet thread on the qualities of great leaders caught a lot of interest. Here, we boil down the best of his advice:
Sheth’s first tips center on leadership. According to him, there are three types of trust: intent, competence, and judgement. While intent means trusting your heart as a leader, competence is trusting your head. Judgement, he says, is the right combination of both. Then there’s accountability, which is Sheth’s most vital metric to judge leaders by.
“Everybody wants authority, less want responsibility, few want accountability,” he wrote. “Authority puts you in a position to fulfill your responsibility. Accountability is owning the outcome of your responsibility.”
To put accountability into practice, Sheth says to “adopt an ‘it’s my fault attitude.’” One benefit from doing this is to solve problems faster instead of finding someone to blame. This lesson ties in with Sheth’s thoughts on ego, which he says is the enemy of progress.
“Differences of opinion can quickly escalate from healthy debate and searching for truth to battles of pride and proving ‘who is right,’” he wrote. “The former builds camaraderie, the latter builds resentment.”
Being a good leader inevitably leads to feeling overwhelmed at times, so don’t shy away from it, Sheth says. “Being overwhelmed is good,” he wrote. “It means you’re stretching your capabilities.” If you’re feeling a little too overwhelmed, Sheth offers four solutions: work faster, hire someone who can help, train an existing employee, or simply streamline your operations.
When faced with too much, it might be easier to just do nothing, which Sheth says is not the answer. “You don’t always have to have the right answer as a leader,” Sheth wrote. “But you do need to know what questions to ask. Otherwise what stands in the way becomes the way.”
Sheth also had advice on staying organized. While email and to do lists are helpful, he finds that the real key to staying organized is maintaining a color-coded calendar that he updates every quarter. And chances are he spends plenty of time in meetings. According to the Harvard Business Review, executives spend an average of 23 hours per week in meetings, more than double what they spent in the 1960s. Sheth wrote, “I ask: Does this need to be a meeting? If so, does the length make sense? Does the frequency make sense? Does the time of week make sense?”
Then there’s hiring, which founders and CEOs consistently cite as one of the most important decisions leaders make. Sheth’s advice? Don’t hire execs from big companies. According to him, “An exec in a $50M company is very different from an Exec in a $1B+ company. The right exec for this stage is comfortable doing the job & managing the job. Many BigCo folks say they want to ‘be entrepreneurial’; in reality, they don't.”
Sheth’s other lesson on hiring involves some sports metaphors: hire Rogers and Tigers. The two athletes in question, tennis superstar Roger Federer and golfing legend Tiger Woods, offer a complimentary set of skills. “Tiger Woods was an uber specialist (golfing since age 2),” Sheth wrote. “Roger Federer was the consummate generalist (didn’t start playing tennis until 11). Early in your journey hire smart, hungry generalists. As you grow, hire sharp specialists.”
Sheth concluded by stressing the importance of culture in a company, both for employees and customers. According to him, culture is built in moments of continuity and tested in moments of adversity, and investing in it daily pays off. For customers, culture isn’t important, unless it impacts employees’ ability to do their jobs. If company culture is strong, employees will do the work that pleases customers and keeps them coming back.
Sheth added one more word of advice on success: keep shooting your shot. “The dirty little secret of success is, most of the gains come from a handful of the attempts,” he wrote.