It took me a pretty messy first startup experience to understand that my word, as the leader of the organization, is gospel.
Every time you open your mouth and say something your team will listen carefully, try to interpret what it means for them, what your mood is. There is no such thing as a throw-away comment, a quick thought, a witty joke which only you understand… Your words are powerful.
In my first startup I would regularly rock up for our team meetings and spew out a bunch of ideas I literally had on the way to work. And then I would wonder why people started acting upon them. They were just a few throw-away comments. Not instructions. And yet — as these words came from the founder, my team understood them as directions.
The same happened when I showed nerves — one day I was off the phone with our investors and pretty much lost my marbles. The team thought that we are about to file for bankruptcy. Not that they would have told or asked me — they just tried to figure out why I would yell at our investor and concluded that the most likely explanation is that we are running out of money.
This is not to say that you need to guard every word and every emotion — people want you to be real. Just make sure you provide context and framing before you get into the situation.
Remember: You’re the founder. People look to you for direction. And they take this both from your words as well as from your actions and emotions.