When you set out to become a product founder, you unwittingly also become a leader. How comfortable you feel with the leadership hat depends on what kind of person you are, but if you recognise yourself in these traits, know you are on the right path.
The day you decide to turn your app idea into a real product you become more than an app entrepreneur. Between working on your business strategy and defining the core features of your app, you also come to the realisation that you’re in charge of this project. Between talking to industry insiders and raising the capital you need to get started, you start feeling not only as a founder – but as a leader.
Industry members are looking at you and expecting to see you gather a team around you and facilitate their work. In turn, your team will look at you for guidance. First, to decide if you are worth their time as an employer. And if they agree to bet their livelihoods on the success of your product, they will turn towards you for every tough decision they’ll have to make.
It depends on the type of person you are if you feel comfortable with the hat of a leader. But we know there are chances you’ll feel unsure of yourself and of what you’re supposed to do, so we want to help you out with a map to give you general directions. The thing about great leaders is that being one is not a great secret passed on through the centuries through secret societies. With all the research put into leadership and teamwork, we have a pretty clear understanding of what makes a great leader.
With all the research put into leadership and teamwork, we have a pretty clear understanding of what makes a great leader.
We’ve tried to summarise the main points that describe the traits of great leaders. If you resonate with most of it, know that you’re on the path to become a great leader. If you resonate only with some parts of the list, know you have a little more work and introspection to do, but you’re definitely capable of becoming a great leader.
Now let’s discover together what makes a great leader.
1. You dream big
If you have the makings of a great leader, you have a vision bigger than yourself. You dream of your company as being a vector of change in the industry you’re interested in. And more than dreaming, you plan your steps and make decisions that take you closer to seeing your vision become a reality.
2. You know how to balance long-term planning with thinking on your feet
You can see the world in terms of a board where you, your competitors and your partners all have their designated spots and pathways. You know that trends are like tectonic shifts that change the board and that one move of yours affects how the other players move. You plan for the long game, but at the same time, you know that the best-laid plans can be overthrown in a second. In such moments of crisis, instead of crying over spilled milk, you strategize on the go and think up your next moves in the nick of time.
3. You’re empathic
You’ve seen enough of the world and met enough people to understand that while people are different and are motivated by different things, we all have our humanity in common. Those who are different from you have stopped making you uncomfortable and instead have become opportunities for learning and widening your perspectives. You’ve come to relish differences and approach them with humility because you know that such points of intersection are where innovation happens.
When it comes to team members, you’ve become aware of the leadership style they need to thrive on a regular basis, and what moments require you to be understanding or authoritative to get the best results. Sometimes, the way you read a room comes to you naturally, other times you realise it’s something you’ve acquired through experience. And while you know you won’t always get it right, you also know that listening hard will get you through any kind of situation.
4. You’re self-aware
You know the world relates to you according to what you say and what your body language says and how you react in all kinds of situations. You know yourself well enough to recognise your reactions – some even before they set in full force. This type of self-awareness helps you go through difficult situations and hard conversations with your team members from an empathic, yet firm position.
Most importantly, you know that being self-aware is an ongoing process where you reflect on yourself and your actions every day. You do this because you know that your authority as a leader gives you both great power, but also great chances of becoming power blind.
5. You know no decisions are worse than bad decisions
You understand that your main role is to facilitate your team towards better results and you make a point to not become a bottleneck.
You’d rather push your team to make a decision with half the information you need and re-assess at a later point than leave them stuck in endless discussions and lose valuable resources by staying in an indecision limbo.
6. You show integrity
You believe integrity is the foundation of a great leader. You know that without consistency of actions, values, methods, measures, principles and expectations, you do not build the long-term trust with your partners and team members that’s needed to achieve great outcomes.
You understand that showing integrity makes you predictable for the people around you in a positive way and sets the standards of how they should behave. You also know that integrity is not something you can turn off or on according to your whims, but it’s something you should fall back on especially during hard times.
7. You remain grounded
You know that just because you are a founder or have a team to lead doesn’t make you superior to others. You’re the type of person who shows gratitude towards those who help you and gives credit where credit is due wholeheartedly.
No matter how many successes you accrue, you stay grounded and know your streak can be broken anytime and there are no shortcuts to doing great work.
8. You take ownership
While you know you can’t control your market segment, your customers, or any new trends that turn up, you do know you have agency over how you build your product, your team and your path forward. You don’t wait around for someone to solve your problems or have the hard conversations for you, but take ownership of them and strive to solve them and move forward.
At the end of the day, a great leader isn’t somebody who is perfect. A great leader isn’t someone who never goes through hard times, or avoids all conflicts. A great leader is someone who strives for something bigger than themselves and who knows that getting there means asking the hard questions, listening to sometimes harder answers, and still showing up do to the best work you can in that moment. If you too feel like you want to show up every day to make your startup successful, you already have the foundations of being a great leader.