Mentorship for start-up leaders

February 19, 2015

Mentorship for start-up leaders: three reasons to success

Start-ups need leaders to build and grow the business into a sustainable organization. They require leadership to nurture people to carry out its vision. Great words, but what does that mean in real life? It signifies that a business needs a fair, honest and passionate person at the helm of the organization.

A leader needs to be flexible to pivot early and fast. A leader wants to make decisions quick and sharp. A leader has the vision and the grit to make that vision come alive. A leader seeks advice and learns by doing. A leader is self-aware and listens. A humbly leader serves the customers and the employees.

That’s a lot of pressure on the founder. If you are that founder and you want to truly lead, consider finding a mentor – whether that is through a formal mentorship program or informally by seeking a trusted peer in your industry.

Mentorship is simply a relationship where the more experienced or knowledgeable peer helps a less experienced individual. Where traditional mentoring supports first-year students find their way, provides career advancement and job satisfaction at the workplace or helps immigrants find suitable employment, start-up mentoring focuses a lot (but not solely) on leadership growth.

Three reasons to have a mentor as a start-up leader

A start-up is by default a new beginning, an innovation of the status quo. As such, the founder is new to leading this particular business to success. Each industry has its own quirks to conquer.

  1. Been there, done that

The more experienced mentor shares his or her knowledge without judgment and without giving answers. Through informal story telling the mentee picks up on learning points and identifies where he or she needs support. Mentorship fits entrepreneurs’ learning styles over coaching and training. Besides, start-up must learn fast and mentoring give leaders the ability to quickly apply what they learned.

  1. Breaking barriers

We all have inner or outer barriers. We may not even realize what barriers are holding us back.

Mentoring provides a safe space without judgment. Thoughts and emotions are part of learning, as much as technological and industry knowledge and skills are. Barriers are made up of all these elements and with proper reflection, motivation and accountability, founders are able to break through barriers and achieve results that establish their start-up’s leadership role.

  1. Hidden brilliance

As mentioned earlier, a start-up is in essence an innovation of the existing industry. Though the founder may have the vision, he or she may not be aware of what truly makes them unique and sets them apart as a leader. A mentor with in-depth knowledge of the industry and with life experiences, self-awareness and emotional intelligence, will do exactly that.

Back in 2013, I explained my plans for Kaleidoscope to one of my mentors. After ten minutes she stopped me and said simply this: “Don’t make it too complex. Your gift is to cut through fluff and get down to the essence. You provide clarity in a short timeframe that saves people spending time on plans and unnecessary work.”

Within an hour we had set out a new direction for Kaleidoscope that focused on giving me the tools to support my clients in the best possible way. Through consultancy and mentorship I simply provide clarity.

And once leaders have become successful with their start-up, they can return the favour and develop new leadership skills as a mentor themselves.

Image credit: by Macroscopic Solutions, via


Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.