This post was inspired by Ben Horowitz's "Good Product Manager/Bad Product Manager"


Working with startups for over a decade has left an impression on me. I'm grateful to have worked with some incredible people in finance, real estate, big data, fitness-tech, live entertainment, digital media, and consumer transportation. 

Startups vs. established, large companies. Totally different beasts for obvious reasons I won't mention. But, personally, I believe the most impactful difference is the fact that in a startup you work directly with the company founders daily. 

I learned something from each and every founder I worked with, some things good, some bad.

Now, to be clear about the format of this writing, "good vs. bad" is being used to loosely describe qualities of "strong vs. weak" leaders. I don't mean them literally. I'm using "good vs. bad" simply as a binary solution for sharing examples of what I've observed from the founders I've worked with the past decade.


This is a short list of what I've gathered from ground-zero, in the trenches experience, working directly with founders:

Good founders remind you of the company's vision. Bad founders keep you in the dark for months at a time. 

Good founders pay you attention with little distraction. Bad founders text, type, and move about during one on one conversations.

Good founders empower their teams with responsibilities. Bad founders micro-manage.

Good founders don't interrupt workflow. Bad founders keep their team from working.

Good founders keep their egos in check. Bad founders let ego cloud their judgement. 

Good founders openly give actionable, sincere, feedback. Bad founders give orders. 

Good founders act like a leader 100% of the time. Bad founders act like just another employee sometimes.

Good founders work harder than anyone in the company. Bad founders punt tasks that only they should be doing.

Good founders take responsibility for the entire company. Bad founders blame everyone but themselves.

Good founders hold their team to high standards. Bad founders allow C players to remain unnoticed too long. 

Good founders attract other good founders. Bad founders start companies with people they barely know.

Good founders don't talk behind employee's backs. Bad founders talk behind their team's back. 

Good founders help make systems. Bad founders don't help and than wonder why they're failing.

Good founders enjoy their team's company and help enhance culture. Bad founders leave culture to their employees.

Good founders are honest 100% of the time. Bad founders manipulate their team.  

Good founders are passionate about their mission. Bad founders are in it for the money.

Good founders earn trust. Bad founders are consistent liars.

Good founders have integrity. Bad founders steal.

Good founders build patiently. Bad founders give their company to VCs too quickly.

Good founders recruit A+ players. Bad founders are afraid of knowing less than their employees and recruit B players. 

Bad founders have a fixed mindset. Good founders have a growth mindset.

Good founders are the first one in, last one out. Bad founders are sometimes in and always first one out.