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The Collison Brothers’ Leadership Styles

  1. Introduction

Often when people hear about a business’ success they think about the leaders that must have driven a company into such heights of success. The Collison Brothers, Patrick, and John are the proprietors and founders of the online payment company, Stripe, a choice online payment service provider. What is exceptional about the company, however, is not in the product the business offers but rather the story of how two brothers and evidently, two exceptional leaders, penetrated into a field and industry that seemed impossible to get into given the existent of giant brands like PayPal. Yet, the brothers managed to establish their brand name successfully in about a decade and rise to become one of the leading consumer choice brands for online payment options. Both Collison brothers are preceded by success in the Stripe Company and careers before establishing the online payment organization. Patrick was recognized and rewarded with 41st Young Scientist of the Year award, acknowledging his work with Lisp. On the other hand, John attained the highest marks ever by any student in the Irish Leaving Examinations. In 2010, John and Patrick started Stripe after the latter realized the difficulty of making online payments (Andersen, n.d.) Today, the brother’s names often pop up in conversations regarding outstanding leaders and exceptional organizational managers because of how they led their business from a small start-up into a multi-million-dollar business (Bloomberg, 2017).

  1. Leadership Style

Leadership style matters as it dictates how a leader will inspire and motivate his/her team to implement an organization’s goals, objectives, visions and missions. Different leadership styles are effective for different situation and thus an effective leader would be one who understands when to be autocratic, when to be democratic, when to be hands on and when to delegate (Helft, 2016). However, an effective leader is also one that understands that having a dominant transformational style is paramount for inspiring, motivating and engaging team members to drive for the results they want. Patrick Collison is reportedly a transformational leader who inspires creativity in problem solving and decision making. As a change manager, he presents his teams the opportunity to reason out the best decisions to make and collaborate and come up with optimal decisions (TBS Staff, 2019). Like Patrick, who was able to swiftly react to the online payments market gap he identified in 2010 when he was dealing with side projects and wanted to get an easier way of tackling the payment problems he encountered and came up with an innovative solution, transformational leaders also inspire growth, creativity and innovativeness in their team members. (Andersen, n.d.).

  1. Change Management

In a fast growing and evolving organization, change might feel like it comes and goes too fast. If employees are not adequately trained on how to manage the change, they can often find it unattractive scary or absurd and ambiguous. Consequently, untrained employees may result to resisting the change or making costly errors while trying to implement the change. The Collison brothers have always aimed at being honest with their employees about how fast they need to embrace change given the industry the business operates in. Open, clear and honest communication is seen as a great way to ensure the business’ leaders can always effectively manage change and motivate employees to embrace, accept and drive change for continuous organizational growth,

  1. Motivating Employees and Engagement

How a business motivates its employees and engages them determines how productive the employees will be and how profitable the business will be. Understanding and addressing the motivational needs of one’s employees is crucial to keeping employees motivated, satisfied, committed and even loyal. Motivated employees are more productive and successful than unmotivated employees. At Stripe, the Collison brothers ensure employee motivation in a number of ways. First, the brothers ensure that the pay is competitive and fair. Low pay is demotivating and produces dull employees. However, pay alone is not enough. Other ways the Collison brothers motivates their employees is by giving them autonomy in decision making. Employees that feel entrusted to make decisions often feel recognized and appreciated for their worth and are often more satisfied and motivated to do their job. Lastly, the culture of an organization can either inspire motivation and employee engagement or crush employee spirits and leave them doing the bare minimum. At Stripe, the Collison brothers ensure that the organizational culture is one that is welcoming and warm that fosters friendship, collaboration team work and optimized performance. (Green House, n.d.).

  1. Decision making and problem-solving abilities

What is exceptional with the Collison’s brother leadership strategy is that they are not only effective decision makers and problem solvers but ensure that all their hired leaders and staff are also as skilled and competent in critical thinking, problem solving and decision making. Because of the hands on approach and decisive nature of Patrick Collison, as a start-up company that would have been faced with hiring incompetent employees, he made sure that in the initial stages of Stripe hiring its 10 core employees, potential employees were screened personally by dedicating time to each applicant before a decision could be made about hiring them (Bloomberg, 2017). This process ensured that employees hired were not only skilled and competent enough to fill the positions they applied for but could also solve problems quickly, accurately, effectively, and efficiently. With such expectations, it is no wonder that employees are given a significant of autonomy to make the menial decisions they must to ensure that problems are solved, risks are averted and business delays are avoided.

  1. Kurt Lewin’s theory

Kurt Lewin’s theory stresses the three stages of change as; unfreezing, changing, and refreezing. This theory is aimed at opening up the employees’ minds to the need for operations at the company to change, then the actual measures to be undertaken in achieving the desired behavior and solidifying the new norm, respectively in directing and implementing change successfully (Hartzell, n.d.). According to this theory, change management is a process that can be managed in the three consecutive phases while allowing and equipping employees to understand, embrace and implement change.

  1. Tuckman’s Theory

Tuckman’s theory stresses the five stages of team development. The first stage is forming and is where introductions, interests, and goals are stipulated. Then comes the storming stage, where people know each other better and learn of each other’s traits, strengths and weaknesses. The norming step involves people starting to get used to working together. Forth, there is a performing stage where employees are motivated to work and produce results. Less supervision is required at this stage. Finally, the adjourning stage is the disbandment period after the work is done (Toggl track, n.d.).

  1. Belbin

Belbin, however, stresses the individual importance and role of each individual on the team. Belbin in his theory suggested that whenever anyone joins a team, there is a dominant and vital role they often assume. He stresses the 9 Belbin roles as; the sharpener, an implementer, a completer or a finisher, one who coordinates, someone who is a team player/worker, the resource investigator, the monitor, the evaluator, and the specialist (Boyes, n.d.). According to Belbin, for teams to be as effective as anticipated, great leaders must identify the specific role each team player should play for that team. This way, the theory suggests that the team will be more effective and efficient.

  1. Balance Between Theories and Practice

At Stripe, Kurt Lewin’s theory is in effect in the recruitment process at the company. While recruiting, the Collison brothers have dedicated a lot of time in recruiting their initial employees to whom they set standards of the required competencies of those fit to work at Stripe. By delegating power to them, the entrusted employees like Claire Hughes know the kind of employees precisely to veto. Stripe can best employ Tuckman’s theory through its Spin Up program through which they onboard new employees into the firm. The company vision is shared, and results are tracked compared to the Tuckman theory requirement. The theory works well to manage team work and optimize team performance within the business. Stripe has incorporated Belbin’s theory by recruiting specialists from reputable companies such as Claire Hughes from Google and Ross Boucher from Y Combinator. A coordinator, Patrick Collison, and implementer, John Collison.

  1. Interconnection Between Theories

As discussed above, all three theories stress the importance of achieving success as a business through individual employee efforts, groups and teams. Employees are often required to collaborate and work together to ensure optimized productivity and efficiency. The Collison brothers have incorporated the team work culture in their organization to ensure that working in groups and teams also ensures an abundance of ideas for innovation and allows for delegation of duties to entrusted employees due to the rapport created through working coherently.

  1. Conclusion

In conclusion, Stripe, under Patrick’s leadership, is on track to dominating the online payment sector considering the high ambition by the leadership and their willingness to change accordingly. Initially, Stripe was run as a typical start up where the founders did every task by themselves but as the company grew, this duty was delegated to trusted senior employees.


Andersen, D., n.d. The Collison Brothers and Story Behind The Founding Of Stripe. [Online]
Available at: https://www.startupgrind.com/blog/the-collison-brothers-and-story-behind-the-founding-of-stripe/
[Accessed 28 November 2020].Bloomberg, 2017. How the Collison brothers learned to let go at Stripe. [Online]
Available at: https://www.irishtimes.com/business/technology/how-the-collison-brothers-learned-to-let-go-at-stripe-1.3104512
[Accessed 27 November 2020].Boyes, J., n.d. Teamwork skills. [Online]
Available at: https://www.exeter.ac.uk/media/universityofexeter/careersandemployability/pdfs/resources/Team_building_skills.pdf
[Accessed 27 November 2020].Green House, n.d. How Stripe created a referral culture without monetary Reward. [Online]
Available at: https://www.greenhouse.io/blog/how-stripe-created-a-referral-culture-without-monetary-reward
[Accessed 27 November 2020].Hartzell, S., n.d. Lewin’s 3-Stage Model of Change: Unfreezing, Changing & Refreezing. [Online]
Available at: https://study.com/academy/lesson/lewins-3-stage-model-of-change-unfreezing-changing-refreezing.html
[Accessed 27 November 2020].Helft, M., 2016. How John And Patrick Collison Built Stripe Into The PayPal Of The Mobile Era. [Online]
Available at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/miguelhelft/2016/01/04/cashiers-of-the-internet/?sh=7a282adc74b5
[Accessed 27 November 2020].TBS Staff, 2019. 10 Organizational Leadership Styles — Study Starters. [Online]
Available at: https://thebestschools.org/magazine/organizational-leadership-styles-study-starters/
[Accessed 27 November 2020].Toggl track, n.d. 5 Stages of Team Development. [Online]
Available at: https://toggl.com/track/stages-of-team-development/#:~:text=Each%20stage%20plays%20a%20vital,meets%20until%20the%20project%20ends.
[Accessed 27 November 2020].

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