Startups, especially technology startups, are all about leadership. It’s why there are more good ideas than there are good founders – because good leaders are rare to find. 

Why is leadership important now?

Being a great founder is no longer just about knowing how to do business or knowing how to build the tech. With the world of business already in transition and with the high concentration of technology in all spheres of life, the COVID crisis may even serve as a tipping point for the inevitable: every business is going to become a technology business. For perspective, while twenty years ago there was only one tech company on the S&P 500 index, now there are very few that aren’t tech.

In a world like this, only good leaders will be able to convert chaos into order and recast the waves of change into industry-wide business opportunities. For instance, when Ford transformed the car industry by switching to serial production, it was a leadership decision. That was one industry. The transformation right now is across sectors and across verticals, beyond geographical boundaries. This is the perfect time for business leaders to emerge and create new sources of opportunity; leadership is what will separate the great from the standard.

Since we work with and strongly believe in emerging market founders, we know that many have the ambition to be great founders, to build great startups and enterprises that create great wealth. This may be a forward-looking approach but we’re certain that being a great founder also requires taking a step back and becoming a great leader first.

 

What makes a great leader?

 

Integrity

Great founders have a strong sense of personal integrity – integrity is linked to trust. Since startups are laden with risk and unpredictability, everyone from teams to investors look for leaders with a moral code that inspires trust.

Self-awareness

It’s important to know who you are. It’s even more important to look at yourself objectively, understand how you perceive yourself, and how others perceive you. Self-awareness will keep you on your toes – it’ll also put you in a state of constant learning and growth.

Intelligent grit

This is the trait that usually makes great founders stand out. Grit alone isn’t enough; it has to be intelligent and it has to manifest itself in the form of resourcefulness. Be smart about where you direct your efforts and how you direct them.

Flexibility/adaptability

A startup by its nature is always changing, evolving to the needs of its market and customer. Quickly adapting to these changes and remaining flexible is both a skill and a mindset, often found in great leaders who become great founders.

Passion & resilience

Think of it as source fuel; passion and resilience are linked to “purpose”, an overarching goal that drives everything you do. Great leaders are passionate and committed to their goals more so than anyone around them.

We also think being a good leader is oftentimes linked to being a good human being and maybe that can be a good starting point for founders.  

 

 

Closing note:

The case for good leadership is often made when talking about early stage founders and we believe a good, personalized style of leadership is required at least up to the Series A level. Once you’re there, the leadership style will automatically become more process oriented to manage scale. 

To get there, though, emerging market founders have to rethink what it means to be a “great founder” and be able to truly know how to lead.   

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