"You cannot be a leader, and ask other people to follow you, unless you know how to follow, too." - Sam Rayburn

Rules, restrictions, recommendations, measures, advice. Words we’ve been hearing on repeat from government officials since Covid-19 hurtled into our lives at the beginning of the year. 


While the measures used to combat the spread of the virus vary in severity from one country to to the next, one obvious expectation remains the same. Those setting the rules should also be following them.

Public compliance has never been more important than it is at present. In order to keep infection and death rates low, administrations need their communities to properly adhere to the regulations and advice they’ve set out. 

It’s difficult however, for members of the public to respect their government's recommendations and advice, when a member of it’s executive blatantly disregards them.

Dominic Cummings, Dara Calleary and David Clarke are government officials from the UK, Ireland and New Zealand respectively, who’ve been embroiled in controversy following accusations that they infringed Covid guidelines. Calleary and Clarke handed in their resignations in July and August, while Cummings has remained in Westminster. 

In one sense, it seems rather harsh that two ministers had to resign over their missteps, when many members of the public have toyed with Covid restrictions without public condemnation and harsh punishment. On the other hand, however, many would argue that government officials have a responsibility to lead by example when it comes to following Covid protocol and failing to do so should rightfully see them openly criticised and appropriately punished. It’s quite difficult to take instruction from, support or respect, individuals who break their own rules which they expect others to follow.

Woman working on laptop while sitting on couch. lead by example, leadership, responsibilities of a startup founder, what makes a good startup founder, leading a startup, running a startupThe debates in the media and among the public regarding the treatment of these ministers got me thinking about the responsibilities of a startup founder. What makes a good startup founder? How does a founder go about instilling confidence in their employees? How can they ensure that they use their position of leadership to empower their colleagues? 

Start by thinking about your attitude. Is it positive? Does it encourage others to think and act in a positive way? Try and make small changes to ensure that you handle work interactions in a calm and optimistic manner that you’d also like your employees to portray day to day.  

Next, think of your tone of voice. How do you sound during meetings? Stressed, worried, anxious? Do you subconsciously complain a lot? There's no doubt that leading a startup can be quite stressful at times. However, whether you realise it or not, a founders negative emotions can be picked up and mimicked by others very easily. For example, I’d consider myself to be a pretty positive person. However, I’ve been in work settings where colleagues have complained non stop about every single thing whether it be an email, an upcoming work event or even the canteen coffee. After a while I found myself doing the same thing. It’s so easy to pick up a bad attitude. 

In order to help your team develop a can-do, confident and content mindset, you need to emanate these traits as their leader.

While Slack and email are invaluable tools, it can be difficult to express tone of voice through these channels, even if you’re someone who always assumes positive intent when reading correspondence. Try to put a little more effort into ensuring that your tone of voice is a positive one in messages and emails (using emojis can help). Furthermore, make an effort to jump on a video call every so often to chat with individuals face to face in a relaxed, calm and encouraging manner. 

The pandemic has forced many teams to work remotely and utilise communication tools such as Zoom, Slack and email to stay connected. Although they do a great job at facilitating communication, founders and managers are having to find innovative ways to motivate and energise their team without face to face interaction. Good leaders find opportunity in times of adversity. You may find that a change in framework is required to gee-up your team. Research how KPIs and OKRs could transform your company dynamic, introduce a project management tool to chart mini-milestones and chat about results, wins and areas of improvement at Zoom meetings to show progress. 


Being in a position of leadership means encouraging others to do their best. The most effective way to do this? Lead by example with a great attitude and positive actions.  

We’ve all seen the impact that poor leadership can have throughout the pandemic. Support is easily lost for leaders who fail to set a positive example for their constituents.

Leading by example is one of the most important responsibilities of a startup founder. Therefore, if you're leading a startup remember that an optimistic attitude and tone of voice go a long way in creating productive, happy teams. 

We all know that one person who emanates an infectious sense of calm and confidence when they interact with others. Your team needs that to be you.


Liked this piece? Running a startup? Check out our articles Why Founders Need to Build a Support Network and How to Find a Co-Founder.