Nice Guys Can Lead Startups, Too

Formerly published in Techvibes. 

Here you are, straight out of grad school on a pervious entrepreneurial endeavour. You have been warned about the trials and tribulation of managing your own business, leading a team, and branding your ideas against a thousand other brilliant ideas.

The ecosystem is more competitive than ever and nobody has to tell you this again. Still, you believe in yourself, your team and the company culture—but do you have the guts to say “no” when it really counts and still be compassionate?



With the advances of technology came the decline of alpha male CEOs; startups can no longer function as a dictatorship. The majority of communication today is done through text, emails and social media: there isn’t the same opportunity to be bold and ruthless with big decisions.

Leaders are merely members of the troop and even though certain responsibilities fall upon their shoulder, they should not forget that the company comes first. Albeit the original concept may have been their brainchild, it took a team effort to bring it to life—even though it might still be in its infancy.

It’s easy to be blindsided as you company expands, especially when investors show interest and competitors take notice. You consider all that to be good. Somewhere along the lines you have shaken the right hands and smiled the right way. The reason for such success may be your company’s appeal, but it’s probably your passion.

Communicating your company’s vision with enthusiasm is the best way to be likeable. But then you listen to others responses and they throw in their two cents and start making criticisms. You reevaluate your objectives and here is where good leaders stand up with their company’s conviction.

Be adaptive, but also assertive. The worst thing a leader can do is to lose focus of the company’s ultimate goal. Good leaders will take opinions into consideration, but they will not be easily swayed or led astray.



Humbled by the fact that you need your team as much as they need you, you check your ego at the door every day and work hard to grow and scale your business. You play by the rules, offer a slice of pie to everyone on the team and wait for the $3 billion offer from Facebook or Google or whoever is willing to drop some crumbs down to you.

Sounds a little pathetic, huh? But believe it or not, we are all after the same crumbs—there is nothing glamourous about this area of business.

Gratitude is an important value not just as a leader, but also as a human being. Your company’s journey will hopefully be a long one and that means your employees, like all people will get complacent. Acknowledging achievable milestones and creating incentives when they are reach is a way of showing your team how much you appreciate their efforts in an authoritative manner.

You might be after the crumbs—but you can offer some, too.



In journalism it’s often known as the scoop; it’s intelligence that few know. As the leader, you are often rewarded with key information that you can choose to share or keep to yourself. Quality leaders need to know how to stymie gossip and inform others.

But not everything should be communicated. Leaders should be able to recognize certain discouraging data that may ultimately stress the staff. Turbulent times will test you leadership qualities best. If bad news surfaces within the collective, do address it by holding a meeting or through email, connecting in some way will allow you to refocus the group on the company’s goal and finding a solution to the problem.

People want to talk. But when the talking ends, you must make a clear decisive decision. If it fails, the collective fails—if it succeeds, the collective succeeds. You made the decision, but it’s not about you.

It’s best to leave the group out of the daily mundane worrisome junk that every business has to deal with. Don’t forget that you are captaining the ship and it’s important to keep moving forward. As a leader it’s your duty to take some of the pain during though times. You may feel like a push over and that you don’t deserve the emotional beating, but remember pressure is a privilege. Take ownership and rise above it.



If you don’t succeed, you might use this old saying as some comfort. “At least I’m nice,” you’d say to yourself.

Nonsense. Ignorance finishes last, miscommunication finishes last, belittling other’s ideas finishes last—nice guys and nice leaders are reasons the startup industry is so appealing. It’s what makes entrepreneurs who have failed try again.

So: nice guys out there who have paid their dues and still haven’t reap the rewards, I advise not to change your attitude, because nice guys will always get second chances, while the bad guys might just have to go for broke.

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