Three characteristics of good leaders

Over the last couple of days I’ve been watching Ben Horrowitz’s 2 hour fire-side chat with Sarah Lacy. I don’t usually watch long videos like this but they are a great way of making my physio more tolerable, but I’m thinking I might change my ways going forward as I’m getting a lot out of them. This interview with Ben is perhaps the video I’ve enjoyed the most. He’s smart and hugely experienced in running and investing in technology companies and critically he’s thought through what works and what doesn’t across a broad range of startup issues. And on top of that he’s a funny guy. What’s not to like?

I took away a lot from the video, but the one thing I wanted to share and to capture for my own records was his description of what characteristics he looks for when entrepreneurs come to pitch him that came at around 1:57:48.

Ben said that he looks for them to be leaders, and good leaders have three qualities:

  • They are able to articulate a compelling vision with enough passion to get others to follow them
  • They are the sort of person people will want to work for, the sort of person who really cares that their people succeed and employees believe will think of their team before themselves
  • They are competent enough to execute on the vision

He also looks for courage, and to test that he gets Marc Andreessen to ask you lots of tough questions to ‘see if you change their mind, or back of, or start kissing his butt, and if you do that then I know you’re probaby a punk’. Priceless.

  • I really like these PandoMonthly chats with Sarah Lacy. The way to actually take them in without wasting time is to listen to them on Youtube on the phone – no need to watch – while doing errands around the house or doing tedious admin work. Highly recommended are the interviews with Brian Chesky, Drew Houston, Reid Hoffman and Chris Sacca for some amazing behind-the-scenes look into Silicon Valley.

  • neil_lewis

    Hey Nic – thanks – great summary of leadership – I love the line ‘a leader with no followers is just taking a walk’ – the big difference between a business that scales and one that doesn’t (with an equally good idea and great market opportunity) is the ability to scale – and that comes down to whether people will or want to follow the leader….

    …which is what your second point is about – if leaders want to develop their influence then they need to add value to other people – that really does mean putting others first…

    Lastly, competency is just a given, right?


  • I wish competency were a given…

  • Thanks Michal. I will take a look at those.

  • neil_lewis

    🙂 Ah yes! I ‘meant’ competency is a given in that we expect startup leaders to have it….. not that they always do… or not that we are always good at spotting it or the lack of it… 🙂