Do you have to be a d*ck to succeed in business?

TRC 025: Do you have to be a d*ck to succeed in business?

founder experience leadership management Dec 21, 2023

Read time: 5 mins

‘Do you have to be a bit of d*ck to succeed in business?’

This was the direct question I was asked at a startup event recently by an aspiring founder.

I get asked this kind of thing a lot by founders (if not quite in this way).

And it’s understandable.

We are surrounded by indicators that to ‘make it’ in the world of business, you have to be cut-throat, aggressive.

Programmes like Dragons Den, Shark Tank and The Apprentice perpetuate the notion that to get ahead, you have to step on others or be prepared to treat people with something less than respect.

Stories of leaders who are, let’s say, ‘forthright’ in their views, such as Steve Jobs, are written into business folklore.

So, is the internal struggle of embracing a tougher, less empathetic persona for success in the startup world a necessary one?

In reality, personal integrity and the values you hold dear are not only compatible with startup success but are essential ingredients.

Here’s why…….


The Essence of Your Leadership

Your leadership style is a reflection of your character.

While the startup journey will challenge you to make hard decisions, these should not come at the cost of your true self.

Yes, you will face tough decisions, such as deciding to let go of a well-liked but underperforming employee, or pivoting away from a product you passionately believe in because it doesn't resonate with the market.

These decisions are challenging, but they don't require you to lose your sense of empathy or fairness.


Building a Culture of Integrity

The culture of your startup stems from your actions and decisions (as Ben Horowtiz suggests - who you are is what you do).

A leader who is consistent in their values fosters a culture of trust and respect.

Employees and customers alike are drawn to authenticity.

Your genuine approach in dealing with people and problems sets a powerful example and is more likely to build a strong, loyal team.

Nobody is drawn to inconsistency.


Diverse Styles of Successful Entrepreneurs

It's crucial to recognize that successful entrepreneurs come in all styles and personalities.

Some may be more analytical and data-driven, while others lead with heart and intuition.

The beauty of entrepreneurship is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach.

What matters most is finding a balance that resonates with you and enables you to be effective in your unique context.


Growth Through Adversity

Every tough decision, every pivot, and every setback is a chance to learn and become a better leader.

The most remarkable founders are those who stay true to their core values while navigating the complexities of business.

You will face constant challenges to your values and integrity.

Staying true to who you are in these moments is the essence of great leadership.


As you start on your journey, remember that the key to enduring success is authenticity.

People follow leaders who are genuine, who lead with purpose and passion.

Your unique blend of personality, values, and vision is what will differentiate you.

It might not appeal to everyone and that’s OK.

Your success does not hinge on becoming someone you're not.

It lies in embracing who you are, understanding your strengths and weaknesses, and leading with a clear vision and compassion.

Kindness comes from strength, not weakness.

The path of entrepreneurship is as much about personal discovery as it is about business success.

Stay true to your values, be kind to yourself, and push forward with optimism and resilience.

Your authenticity is your greatest asset.

And being anything other than your true self is just too tiring in the end.

 Whenever you're ready...

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