Behind most great startups, there is a great leader or two. The trickle-down effect of leadership can have a positive impact on a business, or possibly lead to the demise of the startup depending on the founder’s knowledge, ethics, integrity, attitude, and behaviors. So, what makes an effective startup leader? Are ambition and drive enough to succeed as a startup founder? Here are some characteristics of a successful startup founder that may go unnoticed:

A Clear Vision

The startup failure rate varies depending on the source, but a Failory study shows that 90 percent of all startups fail with bad business models being one of the major reasons for the flop. An effective startup founder has a clear and detailed vision that will translate into a profit-producing business model. Lexico defines a business model as “a plan for the successful operation of a business, identifying sources of revenue, the intended customer base, products, and details of financing.” As a startup founder including all the aspects and details of a business model should go into clarifying your vision.

Adaptability and Flexibility

Trends come and go, what was hot yesterday could be considered old news in the following 24 hours. Being open to adapt your original startup idea is a quality that an effective entrepreneur or startup founder might want to add to their repertoire. For example, when Oprah retired “The Oprah Winfrey Show” in 2011, her departing words were, “I won’t say goodbye, I’ll just say until we meet again.” Oprah’s brand was not folding altogether, but rather adapting and evolving into something new.

Knowing When to Seek Experts

A humble startup founder is an effective startup founder. Sure, it’s your idea, and you don’t just entrust it to anyone. However, there comes a time when you must seek the advice and expertise of others who might be more knowledgable than you about a certain topic. Former United States President, Barack Obama, spoke at the X4 Experience Management Summit and stressed that it takes confidence to surround yourself with people who are more intelligent than you. He also explained  why it is important to have people around that might disagree with you.


As a startup founder being transparent with your co-founders, investors, and employees will pay off in the long haul. According to a TINYpulse study, transparency was the number one factor that determined employee happiness. When others know the full story of the happenings in your business, they feel included and more willing to help instead of outsiders hoping to get a glimpse at the inner circle.

Separate Your Personal Brand

All publicity is not good publicity, especially if your personal brand is overshadowing your startup. An effective founder will know the difference between being a spokesperson and founder/CEO of their startup. In an Entrepreneur interview, Tristian Walker — founder and CEO of Walker & Co. — explained how he navigates separating his brand from his company’s brand. He even hires social media managers to divert attention towards the brand and away from him.