What is your leadership style?

You’ve registered your company to “create a dent in the (fill in the blanks) universe”. Now how will you lead your team and who should you have on board?

Venture capitalists and business leaders Anthony K. Tjan, Richard J. Harrington and Tsun-Yan Hsieh may have the answer. Their book, Heart, Smarts, Guts, and Luck (HSGL), blends psychology, entrepreneurship, and strategy into a compelling new look at leadership.


Heart-driven leaders are “big picture” idea generators and cultural icons. They have a strong sense of purpose and passion, are self-sacrificial, and can nuance their actions to achieve perfection. Unfortunately, such individuals are occasionally blindsided by their obsessions and need to complement their passion with the right capabilities and market acceptance to succeed.


Smart-driven individuals lead with expertise and they come in four flavours:

  • Book smarts: your geeks from Silicon Valley
  • Street smarts: the guy who rose to success through “experience, tenacity and a few skinned knees”
  • People smarts: folks with an intuitive ability to understand and work with people
  • Creative smarts: geniuses who can predict and forecast trends

At its core, Smarts is about recognising patterns and grasping macro and micro trends earlier and faster than ordinary humans.


Guts-driven folks have the courage to make things happen at three critical junctures:

  1. Initiation: taking a leap of faith into the unknown;
  2. Endurance: persisting and persevering despite difficulties; and
  3. Evolution: having the self-awareness and readiness to pivot, evolve or reset a business.

Restless and relentless, the Guts-dominant folks are undaunted by trials and tribulations.


Luck-dominant folks have a “Lucky Attitude” characterised by humility, intellectual curiosity, and optimism. Their relationships are marked by vulnerability, authenticity, and generosity.
While certain luck (like where you are born or who your parents are) cannot be controlled, you can cultivate open networks and adopt a positive disposition to improve the likelihood of “surprise” positive encounters while downplaying the effects of bad luck.

Bringing it Together

Consider the stages of your enterprise. At each inflexion point of its growth, different proportions of HSGL are needed. During the founding stages, Heart and Guts may be more important while the scaling stages of continuous growth may require more Smarts. If you’re truly gifted, you may even be an iconoclast like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and our very own former Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew!

Article by Walter Lim

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