Skills in a startup: How to be a Founder?

Am I qualified to be CEO or start a business? 
What does it take to be a good Founder? 

These questions may be what most of the people considering to found a company may have asked. It may be needless to say, but to be a “good” founder, leadership is essential. Founders of companies need to be able to lead the company and their employees even when the companies grow larger rapidly. 

In huge companies, the structures and limitations of the work make it very strict. Thus, it is very difficult to change them, and employees have to follow those rules. When you found a company, however, you are the leader and you are the one who decides those structures. Thus, having a leadership to take actions proactively and to have enthusiasm to try many things is significant.

But what is leadership exactly? 
According to Ben Horowitz, a successful businessman from the United States, there are three “key traits” for a great leadership:

1. Ability to articulate the vision 
2. The right kind of ambition
3. The ability to achieve the vision 
– Horowitz, Techcrunch 

First of all, leaders need to be able to see a clear vision of the company. He suggests that even when the company is in crisis, leaders need to be able to see the vision of the company in the future, which attracts and retains employees. 

Second, leaders need to have a “right kind of ambition.” This means that they should not have ambitions for themselves, but only for the company. Leaders are responsible for employees working for them. Thus, ambitions should not be for their own sakes, but for the future of the company, employees, and their products. 

The third one is exactly what it says. Leaders need to take the hands of their employees and take them to their goals. Even when something unexpected happens, they still need to be able to think flexibly, and find a way to achieve the goals of the company. This is definitely what employees require in their leaders. 

Now, you may want to ask, “Will I be able to develop all those skills?”

Horowitz suggests in his talk for Techcrunch that it is possible to gain those skills. Although he says some people may be better than others in those three traits, he says those traits can be learned for sure. Thus, it is not impossible to gain those important traits for a leader. 

However, those three traits are not only the skills that leaders are required to have. You also need to be good at finance, hiring, and presentations. 

The presentation skill is important, especially for CEOs of Startup companies, since they need to give presentations at many events to show the value of their companies, make audiences understand the vision and product offering, and finally persuade the audience to finance the company. Receiving financial aid is one of the most important steps for starting a new company. Then, properly using the money they gained, leaders need to be able to develop their companies sufficiently with their teams. Thus, leaders need skills to decide where and how much money to use, and to hire appropriate employees and position them in the right places. By placing people in where they fit the most, teams will be able to carry the work very efficiently. 

Above are the main skills that are required to be a “good” leader in a startup company. It is clearly not easy to be a good leader from the very beginning and no one has all those skills when they just started. The most important thing may be to keep having a passion for your job until you gain the necessary skills and confidence as a leader, and to be patient with overcoming many experiences and failures.

by Mao Kameyama (Feel free to connect on LinkedIn)

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