Improving Leadership at a Small Startup

As much as I have been enjoying my internship this summer, I have picked up on some shortcomings in the organization’s leadership that can be solved using the skills that I have learned in my education as a Jepson student. Working for such a small company with so much creative freedom is both rewarding and challenging. Since my supervisors are so often out of the office, I sometimes struggle with coming up with new goals and assignments later in the day, since no one is around to tell me what to do. While this kind of independence fosters motivation and creativity, this hands-off leadership approach may not be the most effective setup for a company like this. The product that we are effectively selling is completely new, so I sometimes struggle with figuring out what comes next after I finish my work for the day. While I understand that there is a learning curve with any internship, working in an unfamiliar field with a new idea can make it difficult for an intern with not a lot of hands on guidance. 

Because of this situation that I have found myself in, I think that Boxcar warrants a more hands on approach in its leadership style, especially with new interns. There is an underuse of leadership from the people at the top of the company, and in order to achieve greater success within all levels of leadership of the organization, the people at the top need to spend more time in the office to offer guidance to new employees, especially. As much as I appreciate how personable and fun my supervisors are, I think more structure from them would make a huge difference in both the company’s performance and the overall work ethic amongst employees. 

While there is definitive hierarchy between the interns and the company’s leadership, there is also a bit of a power dynamic amongst the interns. For myself and three other interns, it’s our first summer working here. There is one other intern, however, who has been working for the company for three years. He definitely has more responsibilities and agency than the rest of us. However, he mostly keeps his work to himself, and the other interns are missing out on learning opportunities because the senior intern does not choose to take on a larger leadership role amongst the rest of the interns. 

One thought on “Improving Leadership at a Small Startup

  • July 11, 2019 at 10:12 am

    Does sound problematic as you describe it. It seems there might be some mechanisms (Slack, Google Drive, etc.) that could be employed to lay-out next steps/projects that need to be addressed once others are finished. Some kind of project management tool would allow for the leaders to lay out what comes next for everyone to see so that work can continue in their absence. But it does sound as though perhaps the leaders need to a) spend more time in the office or b) encourage (or request) the returning intern to be a leader in their absence. Do you think you would feel comfortable at some point suggesting that there may be some ways to increase productivity, reduce ambiguity (for new employees and/or interns), etc.?

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