Leadership lessons for the unicorns
Monday, August 29, 2016 5:47:53 PM

Since the late 1980s, Stephen Covey’s ‘The Habits of Highly Effective People’ has served as the bible of the business community. However, when it comes to unicorn or startup leaders, the book holds very little significance. Why? Unicorn leaders work on bringing a dream to reality. The task to bring a new concept from the air to actualization and then, market it requires some unique business traits apart from the regular ones.

The following are some leadership lessons for unicorn leaders.

Three Ds: Determination, Dedication, and Devotion

Treading a new path is not simple and requires lots of adjustments. Therefore, three Ds are essential for startup leaders—determination, dedication, and devotion. Leaders equipped with these three Ds can motivate themselves better, walk through setbacks, and take all odds in their stride. According to Jessica Livingston, the author of Founders at Work: Stories of Startups' Early Days, “…determination is the most important quality in a founder, open-mindedness and willingness to change your idea are key and all startups face rejection at first.”

Full Transparency to Earn Trust

At the early days of a startup, earning employees’ trust matters a lot. Remember, honesty and full transparency are the key to success. Unicorn leaders who share all types of news—be it good, bad, or anything—with their teams can easily get their teams’ support at the time of turbulence. It ultimately helps working on a common mission during the startup years.

Persuasive by nature

To sell their visions to investors, customers, and employees, leaders need to be passionate and persuasive. At times, they have to pitch their ideas that are not fully matured. Unless and until they are persuasive by nature, it will be difficult for them to bring their ideas to reality. 

Peter Nguyen of Literati Institute, therefore, aptly said, “Great start-up leaders are always selling. They are selling their employees to work for them, selling investors to invest in them, selling partners to partner with them, selling customers to buy their product. The greatest leaders all know how to sell and network.”

A positive mindset amidst uncertainties

The journey of a startup is riddled with lots of ups and downs. Therefore, a positive mindset is essential to move ahead. You being the captain of your new ship should remain positive—no matter what the circumstance is. Then only you will be able to run the show for long.

Michael Hsu, Founder and CEO of DeepSky, said, "A great leader sees not only the potential success of their company but also the tremendous risk of failure that comes with it. It takes someone with true courage to understand that risk and continue down the path day after day, even if this path to success is difficult, not always obvious, and full of temptations to quit."

A sense of ownership and inquisitive mind

Yes. It is a very essential trait for startup leaders. Since you have just started running the show, you need to go beyond your comfort zone and work on the areas that fall outside your purview. An inquisitive mind and a can-do attitude are always essential to stay ahead.

John Meyer of Lemonly said, "As a startup leader, you can never stop asking the question. 'Why?' Curiosity should run through your veins, as you believe there is always a better way to do something. We get into this business to create change, but don't ever stop being curious."

Realistic expectation

Rome wasn't built in a day. Similarly, you cannot expect great results within a few months. Your initial success or failure cannot build the faith of your company. Studies show that although many startups started great, they could not sustain in the long run. And most of the time, leaders’ ego is held responsible for this. 

So, set realistic expectations, keep your ego aside, give heed to your employees, advisers and investors, and take sound decisions. Go slow but steady and give your dream a solid ground to grow and prosper.