You Don’t Have to Be a Jerk

I don’t care what they say, you don’t have to be a jerk to be a successful startup founder or even a successful leader in corporate. Being a jerk, disrespectful to the very people who work day-to-day to help you be successful as a leader, should not be normalized or even considered okay.

I’ve quite often heard that startup founders are the worst. I’ve heard that they have a cut-throat mentality, total disregard of others, and are willing to do anything to win. I’ve also heard that that’s what investors seek and even prefer when considering investing in a company. I have to be honest, I’ve seen these types of founders. Moreover, I’ve met these type of advisors and investors. I’m not sure where the arrogance comes from, but I assure you that it didn’t start once they got involved in the startup world. The startup world just helps perpetuate it because there’s really no checks and balances in place. None.

I am a startup founder and I am not anything like what stereotypical startup founders are described as. In fact, as a woman who successfully navigated a corporate career in the engineering field, a predominantly male industry, I know that it doesn’t take all of that to get people to respect you and your leadership. If it does, you have a bigger problem that should be addressed before jumping into the driver’s seat in the startup world.

Luckily, good leadership skills can be learned. I’ve always said that true leaders learn to influence others, other than from the base of power or the base of authority. In fact, leadership is all about having influence on others.

As Dwight Einsenhower put it: “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because THEY WANT TO DO IT.” If you’re a jerk, that’s hard to do for the long term. People may follow your lead in the short term, but it’s not sustainable and employee retention will be challenging.

Bottom Line: You don’t have to be a jerk to be a successful leader.