5 Essential Traits Of Startup Leaders

You not only have to be an innovator but also a leader if you want to succeed in the startup ecosystem. For a startup to exist, you should have a disruptive idea, the right investor, and unique positioning. But more than that, you need to be an exceptional leader to lead the startup and make it stay in the market for long.

Startup leadership is a unique art that not everyone possesses. You can be an entrepreneur, but being a startup leader takes some extraordinary effort. 

Hence, only a fraction of entrepreneurs can convert themselves into good startup leaders.

When you start a startup, you become the steering wheel of your company. You decide the direction and the path your startup chooses. Hence, its vital for you to have good decision-making, management, and leadership skills.

But that’s not all it requires to be a startup leader. Here’s a list of five essential characteristics startup leaders possess.

Focused on Future Goals

Growth in startups is the result of goal setting and implementation. Setting the correct goals, recognising and applying the best course of action are the two most challenging things in startups.

Visionary leaders plan and define their future strategies well in advance.

One such leader is Elon Musk, who always thinks about the future. When many space agencies are still thinking about sending their astronauts to Moon, his mission is to send people to Mars in the next five years.  

Once the goals are set, leaders constantly think about new and innovative ideas to achieve them. They try to find minds that can assist them in reaching these goals. Every day and with every step, they try to get closer to their goals. This way, they reach the goals well before the deadline.

Good startup leaders are ready to make sacrifices in the short-term to attain long-term success. They always find long-term fixes to the issues that arise in the journey of their startup. Shortcuts are never an option in their journey of achieving future goals.

Ability to Take Calculated Risks

There is a fine line between reckless decision-making and calculated risks. A good startup leader always evaluates and measures his decision before implementing them. But at the same time, they are always ready to experiment and come up with new ideas. They are never afraid of failure while taking risks.

Michael Stelzner, CEO and founder of a US-based media company, Social Media Examiner, once wrote that the preparedness to experiment with innovative ideas is vital to business growth. According to him, if you never try out, you’ll never gain. He also talks about how taking risks and failures are stepping stones to success.

Still, while taking risks, their consequences and dangers are evaluated. Great leaders judge whether the rewards from the risks are worth it or not before taking them. They never do something just because their competitors are doing it. They assess whether it is beneficial for their startup or not.

Continuous Learner

Great leaders always have a lifelong thirst for learning. Research of Harvard Business Review shows that leaders in continuous learning mode build stronger leadership skills than their peers. They keep on expanding their knowledge to innovate and become better every day. 

In 2017, the CEO of Zomato, Deepinder Goyal, told Economics times that his mentor and founder of Info Edge, Sanjeev Bikchandani, has given him the hunger to learn from his mistakes. He also expressed that no one can be 100% right all the time, and therefore everyone has to learn constantly from their mistakes.

Reading books & magazines, hearing podcasts, studying new market strategies, and reviewing new technologies are habits of leaders that make them constant learners. These habits help leaders to think innovative ideas and stay ahead of others.

Adaptable to Changing Environment

The startup is always a disruptive idea providing a solution that is new for society. Thus, the business environment is more volatile for startups compared to a regular business. Especially in new technology-based startups, advances and changes are quick and common. Therefore, leaders are vigilant to predict these advances and changes well before they take place. 

Mark Zuckerberg has an interesting way of producing ideas and innovation to deal with changing scenarios in the field of social media. He stages “hack-a-thons”, in which programmers, developers, and hackers try to create and suggest innovative ideas for Facebook.

A smart startup leader always has a visionary and open mind. They are open to accepting all types of ideas and thoughts to adjust quickly to the changing environment.


Generally, successful startup leaders are those who are always selfless. Before thinking about themselves, these leaders think about their vision, company, employees and customers. Selfless leaders share their knowledge, skill, and experience with other team members and focus on the startup’s overall development and growth. These leaders exhibit the quality of enabling and helping others in the organisation. 

Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, once quoted, 

“if we win the hearts and minds of employees, we are going to have better business success.”

Successful leaders like Mary Barra understand and share the feeling of both team members and customers. Concentrating on the growth of others is the trademark of such leaders. They allow others to take the front seat and shine.


The golden rule of startup leadership is never to copy leaders of other startups. You have your way of doing things. Focus on honing your skills and find a path you can venture to.

However, never turn your back on what other people are doing to lead their startups, as you may find new ideas in doing so.

Finally, no one can exhibit all the characteristics of a good leader. But trying to imbibe as many traits as possible will only help to become a better leader.

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10 Common Traits of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs

Many people dream of being an entrepreneur. They envision their business as majorly successful; allowing them to make enormous wealth, be the boss, have the freedom to come and go as they please and work how and when they want. If only this were the reality, everyone would be an entrepreneur! Unfortunately, this is not the experience for most. Being an entrepreneur can be tremendously rewarding, but it is hard work.

On average, entrepreneurs work harder and put in longer hours than their employees, while taking on much more risk.

The failure rate of new businesses is estimated to be between 30 percent and 70 percent within the first two years.

Despite the odds, thousands of people launch new businesses every year. Some will be wildly successful, some will muddle along to sustainability and others will fail. While luck cannot be overlooked, success for a new business is mostly the result of the vision, effort and ability of the founding entrepreneur.

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So what does it take to effectively launch a business?

Keep in mind the 10 common traits of successful entrepreneurs:

  1. Vision

Successful entrepreneurs have a clear vision of what their business will be and can concisely articulate its purpose, goals and market position. They have identified (and can succinctly describe) the who, what, where, when and why of their business.

  1. Passion

A successful entrepreneur is passionate about their business. It is hard work, and putting in long hours will be tough if you don’t love what you are doing. People with passion know what it is that drives them to keep working to achieve their vision.

  1. Tenacity

Entrepreneurs remain tough when the going gets rough. They don’t give up easily. They can accept rejection and are willing to learn from their mistakes. They are willing and able to adapt and modify their plan in order to be successful the next time around.

  1. Willingness to work hard

Being an entrepreneur is harder than being an employee. To be successful, the entrepreneur must be willing to put in the time and effort required, often for little or no pay at the beginning. Successful entrepreneurs recognize the risk and necessary work that achieving their goals will entail.

  1. Confidence

Successful entrepreneurs have confidence in themselves and in their business. They must believe in their ability and in their idea. Every entrepreneur will face rejection along the way and successful entrepreneurs are those with the confidence to keep going and bounce back after a setback.

Related: 6 Leadership Traits for Becoming a Successful Entrepreneur

  1. Flexibility

Things do not always go as planned. A successful entrepreneur is flexible. They learn from their mistakes and are willing to adapt and change as they go along. They take advice from others and are open to trying new approaches

  1. Can sell

An entrepreneur must be comfortable selling. Even with a sales team, the leader must be an expert at networking and be able to promote themselves and their business to bankers, customers, suppliers and staff.

  1. Prudent with money

Successful entrepreneurs are good money managers. They prudently invest in overhead and always keep track of the money and manage their cash flow.

  1. Willing to ask for and accept help

An entrepreneur needs to be a jack of all trades but the most successful entrepreneurs know their limitations, realize they can’t do everything and are willing to delegate to others. They are willing to ask for help. They seek out and pay for expert advice when needed.

  1. Resilience

No matter how successful your business, there will be bumps along the road. A successful entrepreneur is resilient and can bounce back from a setback. They use setbacks as an opportunity to learn and grow. They understand that failure is part of the game.

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Running your own business can be tremendously rewarding, but not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. Before taking the leap into entrepreneurship, ask yourself if you have what it takes to be successful. If you do, enjoy the journey.

The post 10 Common Traits of the Most Successful Entrepreneurs appeared first on StartupNation.


10 Traits Demonstrate Entrepreneur Character Strength

shark-tank-cellhelmet-pitchAs I was watching the investor show, Shark Tank, on TV the other night, I was struck by how quickly and how extensively the sharks focused on the background and character of the entrepreneurs, compared to time spent evaluating their products. I realized it was consistent with my own view as a former angel investor, that investors invest in you, more than your solution.

For example, if you as an entrepreneur come across as arrogant or too casual, many people you need to deal with in business, including investors, suppliers, and customers, will run the other way. The attributes you need to demonstrate in every meeting, and live on a daily basis, are ones illustrating your “strength of character.” These can be honed over time, and can’t be easily faked.

Based on my own years of experience in big business, startups, and the investor community, here are the key habits and traits that each of us needs to continually improve to be perceived by peers and others as leaders and innovators in business here and consistently around the world:

  1. Be aggressive in aspirations but prudent in execution. I want to see entrepreneurs who have a focus on the future, but the strength and perseverance to build realistic and well-laid plans, for follow through daily. This means you set goals, milestones, and metrics, and are able to provide financial projections to support funding requirements.
  1. Demonstrate social intelligence and concern. Today’s world of business is highly driven by social issues and environmental concerns. Entrepreneurs with a strength in social intelligence are better able to use these to their advantage, in selecting the right solutions, the right market segments, and implementing effective marketing strategies.
  1. Listens well, and seeks out critical feedback from others. If you are an entrepreneur with this trait, I believe you will seek and positively respond to feedback from three critical groups: peers, customers, and experts. I find that self-focused entrepreneurs, on the other hand, are more likely to resort to denial when faced with negative feedback.
  1. Always proclaim and deliver a positive attitude. The reality of my business experience is that people who are consistently more negative and pessimistic tend to make their views limit their results. If you demonstrate a positive attitude, I’m more easily convinced that you can make your business commitments, and your solution a success.
  1. Conversant with a variety of perspectives and concepts. This trait, sometimes called mental complexity, will convince others that you likely understand the relevant issues, are willing to challenge your own ideas, and will be quicker to adapt them to encompass new information, experiences, and meaning. Change is the only constant in business today.
  1. Takes ownership of personal strengths and weaknesses. Investors look for entrepreneurs with a high level of self-determination, who continually seek more competence in their chosen domain. We all have weaknesses, but we can all learn and improve our effectiveness. Denial and over-confidence are not good traits to exhibit.
  1. Not afraid to share personal life experiences. Everyone has a story. You can make it inspirational and supportive, or you can hide behind a veil of anonymity. Other people in business judge your character by how major events and influences have shaped your personal development, and will likely impact your response to new situations.
  1. Recognize natural leaders and seeks help from them. Great entrepreneurs have sought help from natural helpers since childhood, including parents, teachers, and business influencers. I believe this will make you feel more accepted, respected, and affirmed, and allow you to pass that feeling on to key players in your business career.
  1. Shares views and learns from a personal mentor. Entrepreneur leaders recognize and seek three types of mentoring – career mentoring for the longer term, peer mentoring for tactical guidance, and life mentoring for quality of life balancing. Even successful entrepreneurs, included Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, learn from each other as mentors.
  1. Visibly demonstrate the highest integrity. Integrity is generally defined as the act of behaving honorably, even when no one is watching. People with high integrity follow moral and ethical principles in all aspects of their business life, including decision making, and working with others. Investors ask about you, not your product, to test your integrity.

Whether you are an entrepreneur, or any other business professional, the strength of your character, as perceived by others, is of major importance to your growth and success. Don’t let the desire to find shortcuts, or egotistical tendencies, keep you from continuously improving and developing your character. Your return for showing good character in business is well worth it.

Marty Zwilling

*** First published on Inc.com on 05/06/2020 ***
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