The scale-up rocket risk

12 April 2021
Marie Croes
  • 🚀 Do you know what the scale-up rocket risk is? 🚀

    When we meet up with successful scale-ups, we see some common things:
    👩‍🚀 They grow rapidly
    👩‍🚀 They hire lots new people
    👩‍🚀 They create a new layer of ‘middle’ managers, the bridge between the founders and the operational people

    This last point is often the pitfall for lots of scale-ups. 💣

    🚀 This is what I call the scale-up rocket risk 🚀

    Scale-ups are in their rocket ship flying to the moon. Their success often makes them blind for the leadership challenges this creates.

    Most of these freshly appointed middle managers are relatively young and unexperienced in leadership and people management.

    Their new management role creates a big stretch for them:
    💣 Lack of leadership experience
    💣 combined with high expectations from the top (to achieve the growth ambitions)
    💣 in a volatile and unstable environment (which is inherent to most scale-ups)

    Our advice is simple:
    🌟 Do not burn these people. Do not wait until it’s too late.
    🌟 Give them the leadership support they deserve to become the real leaders you need to bring your scale-up to the next level.
    🌟 Some of our Ambits Mentors have leadership experience in scale-ups.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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