Sreemati exudes intelligence, passion and enthusiasm. The vibes are strong, even through the zoom screen, as she tells me about the incredible accomplishments of the BlueCall team. Sreemati Lalgudi Nivstrand is currently the Chief Product Officer (CPO) at BlueCall based in Stockholm. BlueCall is a digital solution for employee mental wellbeing and helps increase wellbeing by mentally equipping employees and leaders for everyday challenges at work. Sree has extensive experience as a leader from several other StartUps as well. This week, she generously shared her reflections on leadership with me.
Balance and Hierarchy
Leaders at startups are constantly perfecting the balance between leading and engaging. This is driven by the need to both lead and be a part of the team when needed. There are very little authority-based decisions; a team leader does both the strategic work and is a team member when needed. Everyone in the team is talented, skilled and passionate and can move mountains.
Startups are on a journey and in the best of cases will transition to being a ScaleUp. At a Startup, it is common for everyone to be involved in the decision-making, especially when there are only a few employees, a majority of whom may be founders. As the organization grows, responsibilities are separated and new ways of communicating need to develop. This is especially poignant in ScaleUps as they move away from a culture of everyone being involved in all decisions.
The pace of life at a startup is faster in all aspects than in a more established organization and this does not suit all leaders. The team leader needs to find a way to adapt themselves to a constantly changing situation and to bring the team along with him/her. Sree connects this to that a true belief in the mission and inner motivation are key elements to thriving as a leader in such an environment. Finding meaning and purpose in the essence of what the startup is doing is vital.
Sree emphasises the necessity of a culture of innovation and failing fast, especially in an arena where there are no existing solutions. Sree introduced the idea of hypothesis-driven development. Everyone needs to be comfortable with failure and making mistakes – they need to learn from them and move on. It is also important to make the mistakes early on in the design cycle, when they are cheaper.
As a StartUp grows into a ScaleUp, it can be a challenge to transition to a new style of leadership. In Sree’s experience the most successful transitions take place when the leadership team creates a high degree of leadership self-awareness, an ability to delegate tactical priorities and focus on strategic thinking to create a pathway for future goals and direction!
Thank you to Sreemati for sharing her valuable experience with me!
What is your experience of leadership at StartUps or ScaleUps? What is unique about leading in this space?
More about BlueCall: https://www.bluecallapp.com/
More about MindKatalysts: https://mindkatalysts.com/