“Only 17% of startups have a female founder,” according to a report by Crunchbase. While this statistic might initially seem to highlight the challenges women face in the startup world, it also indirectly shines a light on the struggles of male founders. 

Yes, you read that right — men, who make up the majority of startup founders, face their own unique set of challenges. Today’s most privileged gender in business, politics, and power is struggling with the societal expectations of masculinity, the lack of emotional intelligence, and a competitive mindset that often hinders collaboration.

Let’s explore that a bit.

The Burden of Masculinity

Firstly, let’s talk about John (not his real name, but definitely a real man I have worked with), a tech-savvy entrepreneur who founded a SaaS company. John was always told that “men don’t cry,” and that he should be the “tough guy” in every situation. This societal expectation of masculinity became a burden for him. He struggled to express his vulnerabilities, even to his co-founders and team. This lack of emotional openness led to internal conflicts within the company, affecting its overall morale. The lesson here? 

The traditional notions of masculinity can be a double-edged sword, often stifling men’s emotional expression, which is crucial for effective leadership.

Emotional Intelligence: The Missing Link

Next, meet Alex (another guy I’ve worked with), a founder of an e-commerce startup. Alex was brilliant when it came to numbers and strategies but lacked emotional intelligence. He couldn’t read the room during investor meetings or understand the unspoken needs of his employees. His inability to connect on an emotional level led to missed opportunities and high employee turnover. Emotional intelligence is not just a “women’s trait” but a human trait essential for anyone in a leadership role. 

Unfortunately, it’s often undervalued in men, leading to a gap that impacts their effectiveness as leaders.

The Lone Wolf Syndrome

Lastly, consider the case of Mike, who started a health tech venture. Mike believed in the “lone wolf” ideology, thinking he could do it all by himself. This competitive mindset made it difficult for him to collaborate with others, be it his team or potential partners. 

The result? His startup remained a ‘one-man show’ and eventually failed to scale. 

The competitive, go-it-alone mindset, often glorified in male culture, can be a losing mindset. Startups need a collaborative essence that traditional approaches to alpha dominance just don’t allow for.

Time for a Change

So, where do we go from here? 

It’s time to redefine what it means to be a male founder in today’s world. Men must break free from the societal moulds that have long defined them. Emotional intelligence should not be a ‘soft skill’ but a ‘core skill’ for leadership. Collaboration should be embraced over competition.

If you’re a male founder, take a moment to self-reflect. Are you carrying the burden of outdated masculine norms? Are you neglecting emotional intelligence? Are you too focused on competing rather than collaborating?

It’s never too late to change. Start by opening up, being emotionally present, and embracing collaboration. The startup world doesn’t just need more founders; it needs more emotionally intelligent and collaborative leaders, irrespective of gender.

Let’s change the narrative, one founder at a time.

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