May 20, 2024

As the startup ecosystem comes under turmoil, corrective actions towards leadership can help to improve the situation. As per the survey of CB Insights, one of the major reasons of why most of the startups fail is poor leadership, which is  attributed to lack of passion, bad networking, disharmony with team or investors, losing focus, unawareness about the market demand or outcompeted. These are some of the characteristics, which ruins your profile as a leader.

From a follower’s perspective or an employee’s point of view, it is equally distressing and difficult to work in organizations with poor leadership structure.

If you believe your organization’s leadership structure is getting diluted, what changes would you like to do? Or, if you are an employee and given the power to make the change, what would you like to change? Well, I believe the best thing to do is to know what you are looking for in an ideal leader.

Here is a five-point list of qualities which you can look for in a leader –

Leaders Eat Last

Being selfless and putting the organization or company’s goal before personal goals and achievements. A smart leader will always know that the only way to succeed personally is to ensure the success of your organization and success of people around you. A leader always serves the best possible treatment to its people and treats itself in last. This neither downgrades a leader’s respect or position, rather it elevates the unity of your organization and binds your people during time of change.

Note: The point is inspired from New York Times Best Seller book “Leaders Eat Last” by Author Simon Sinek.


Colleagues, not Subordinates!!

Your employees are not your subordinates, as the traditional boss-employee culture is not applicable to the competitive market and to the evolving startup ecosystem. You need to treat your employees as your colleagues, where you don’t depend on position or title to get things done. You need to support and collaborate with your employees where you need to participate in light hangouts, personal counselling sessions and focused project meetings. Everything with an ultimate aim to ensure that your colleagues have faith on you as their growth partner and then only they will invest their time, knowledge & experience rightfully.

Be at the Dance Floor and the Balcony as well

Dance floor is where things happen and Balcony is where the view is. Suppose you are dancing on the floor and when someone asks you what you observed while dancing – you will say the dance was good, with coordination between you and your partner, with good group at the back and the music was possibly little loud. Now, let’s think from the point of view of the person who is watching from the balcony. There could be lot more errs which are ignored and can be pointed out when the dance is seen from the balcony.

As a leader, you need to be at both places – the dance floor and the balcony. You need to slip into the shoes of a dictator and also observe the implementation.

Bonus advice: Don’t get tempted to solve problems by yourself. You need to teach your colleagues on how to solve the problems, instead of doing it by yourself. As a leader, your task is to ensure that your team performs by challenging them to do the unthinkable and you only show them right directions.

Being smart is good, but keep it to yourself

A leader always listen to the views and thoughts of others, before making a decision. It is completely okay to disagree with someone’s opinion, but only when you listen and analyze the opinion properly. At times, due to excitement or in order to ensure their worth in the company, leaders try to be the smartest person in the room. Sometimes the actions do seem heroically cool at the on-going situation, but on a broader picture this actually demotivates your colleagues to put across their views honestly.

When you are along with your team, be a person who adds directions into views, even though they can be contradictory as well. Adding directions and negating possibilities sometimes look just the same. So you need to ensure what you are doing when you are getting inputs from your colleagues.

Be a mentor, not a friend

Every organization always has an unproductive bench, which consists of constantly under-performing or below-average performing employees. Most leaders are dedicated towards their team’s success, which is a good sign. But as a good leader – you need to assess your employee’s performance and analyze the impact of under-performing employees on others. As a mentor, your role is to allow the space for improvement to such employees, provide enough support to get back on track. But if this does not yield expected results, as a leader you have to let them go. You are working towards a greater goal, which needs dedicated efforts and contribution from everyone.

Good leaders are honest about the expectations and should clearly communicate the same to their colleagues. They should keep a heart to cut the bait, when required.

Everyone yearns for a great leader among themselves and it will seem like an easy task if you start observing on how leaders behave and how they observe and integrate themselves to the people around them. The above points are among a few characteristics of what great leadership can be, while there are a lot which are not covered here. On top of that, not every leader possesses these qualities and neither is it required to. But continuous effort to improve yourself will build more trust among your followers and influence them.

While drafting this article, we came across many such posts through simple Google search for “what great leadership looks like”. The post which we liked the most is from William Arruda on (How To Look Like A Leader When You’re Not) and the reason to like this is because of plain practical advice of how you can be a good leader, if you are trying to be.

Other References:

CB Insights Survey (

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