What Makes A Great Startup Leader?

What Makes A Great Startup Leader?

By Saemoon Yoon Community Lead, Technology Pioneers, World Economic Forum

What comes to mind when you think of a true leader? Is it a person with charisma or a high degree of intellect? Or a person possessing incredible warmth and compassion?

Although the perception or understanding of what makes a “leader” differs across societies and cultures, one common consensus is that any organization, even one as big as a country, can rise and fall solely on a leader’s capability. Past history and current events both provide an ample number of examples.

The world of startups is no exception. The leadership of a chief executive officer plays a crucial role in its destiny. As uncertainty prevails in nearly every aspect of business, it is like navigating through a dark jungle where there are an infinite number of unknowns and predators. To survive, startups need to find the right product-market fit, receive enough investments to sustain their organization, and gain an advantage over incumbents and competitors – to only mention a few. All these factors are a function of multiplication. If even one goes wrong, it is unlikely that the startup will survive.

Distribution of leadership traits that chief executive officers mentioned


We asked more than 30 chief executive officers of innovative startups in the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneers community what their number one leadership trait while leading a hypergrowth startup is. We also asked their thoughts on that specific trait, and key practices and habits they have put in place to foster the trait for each.

1. Vision

Most Technology Pioneers see vision as the number one leadership trait. In a world abounding with uncertainties, a leader’s vision is an organization’s guiding star and focuses team members on the same goal. Having a strong vision that resonates with the team is crucial and acts as a go to place when confronting challenges. Some words that describe “vision” include “focal point” or the “first step towards any transformation”.

Sean Hinton (Founder and Chief Executive Officer, SkyHive)

“Vision is the focal point of any company solving a complex problem by proposing a new way of doing things. A leader with a clear and consistent vision is able to perpetuate perseverance in the face of resistance and to keep their company grounded as well as tied to the overarching purpose.”

Robin Grosset (Chief Technology Officer, MindBridge Analytics)

“Vision is the starting point of conceptualizing an idea. It provides continued direction and an objective for everyone to work towards.”

Jacqueline Heard (Founder and Chief Executive Officer, Enko Chem)

“The vision needs to be realistic and consider the context or system you are hoping to transform. A vision needs to be shared and moulded if it aims to become real. Having open mindedness and good communication practices will allow the organization to share the vision, rally around it, and build towards it as a team.”…[Read more at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/worldeconomicforum/2022/02/04/what-makes-a-great-startup-leader/?sh=76631557422a]