This CEO learned these 3 lessons from his employees, and it changed his entire approach to business

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Being successful as an entrepreneur is about surrounding yourself with people who are better than you in their particular domain or skill. Entrepreneurship is also about constantly learning new things relevant to your business and putting that knowledge to work.

In my journey as an entrepreneur, I’ve learned a lot from various mentors, advisors, and even customers. But one of the most valuable sources of knowledge has actually been my fellow teammates -– the people I work with on a daily basis.

Here are three pieces of knowledge that made a fundamental impact on how I approach our business today.

1. Your mission is the most powerful asset

Building a successful startup is about attracting the top talents in the field. When you see companies like Google providing all their cool benefits, like sleeping pods and rock climbing wall, you’re likely to acquire a very materialistic view when it comes to competing for talent. At the end of the day, Google is who you’re going against in the war for talent.

Perks are important, but no amount of perks will convince top talents to leave a great job to join a startup they may never have heard of. Top performers look for more in life and career, they want to make an impact in the world and be part of something bigger. You can’t beat Google in perks, but if you have an ambitious mission, it might be your most powerful asset in attracting the top talent out there.

2. Leadership is not the same as management

“Lead by example” is one of those management buzz phrases that everyone has heard before. But in the reality of a startup, it’s an incredibly important lesson. A leader gets his or her hands dirty. And in a startup, you must be willing to get your hands dirty the most. How else do you expect others to take a risk and give their best to a company with an uncertain future?

Leading by example is extremely powerful. Napoleon always fought on the front line, and that made his soldiers win battles against armies that far outnumbered them. Your actions shape the entire company culture. In other words, you get back what you give. That’s because your attitude and behaviour affect your environment and your environment ultimately affects you and your company.

3. Give trust and create an ownership mentality

There’s no point in having a team of highly talented people if you don’t let them use their skills to the fullest. For a person to deliver their best work, they need to have complete freedom to do it. And they won’t achieve that kind of freedom unless they feel trusted, valued, and an impactful part of the company. That’s what ownership mentality is about.

It means that everyone is a CEO of their job title. That requires trusting your employees and giving them the authority to make certain decisions. When you do that you show your employees they’re an integral part of the company and as a result, they’ll naturally rise to the occasion and emerge as leaders.

Mark McDonald is the co-founder and co-CEO of Appster, a leading mobile app and product development company with offices in Melbourne and San Francisco.