Yeah, we quit – Shutting the doors on the Real Leaders Project

As of yesterday, the Real Leaders Project is officially closed. I’d like to share our closing post. Real Leaders

Dear friends,

We’d like to share the news – the Real Leaders Project will be shutting down as of today. After a long heart-to-heart discussion, we decided that it was time to call it quits. We’re big believers in the importance of persistence and building projects for the long run. So, this was a hard decision for us. However, we believe it is for the best. We’d like to share with you the reasons for calling it quits as well as our learnings from the project.

So, why are we shutting down?

1. We screwed up on our culture. Every team has a culture. We would never have believed it if you told us that a team of 3 friends who had worked with each  other before could really screw up on our culture. But, it is true. We made it a habit to avoid discussing and taking action on the hard issues, we hid under “iteration,” we never focused on the end goal, we weren’t values driven and we were consistently tardy. This wasn’t a pleasant mix and these habits stayed. We are reminded of the quote – “If you don’t know where you are going, you will end up somewhere else.” We did end up somewhere else and we didn’t like it. It ended up creating a lot of baggage and negativity. The alarm bells rang when we realized that our behaviour was very different on a new project with a stronger and intentional culture.

2.  What got us here won’t get us there. We did okay on this project but we also realized along the way that we weren’t going to be able to produce a world class product with our current method of operation (Skype calls). We wanted to be world class and quality technology felt beyond us for the near future. When we asked ourselves if we saw ourselves shipping a better in the near future, we heard “no.” This was a great experience over the past 3 years. However, we’d like to spend this time and energy on creating better things.

3. Other areas of focus. We also became very deeply engaged in a new charitable trust – We have limited time and our attention was being dispersed. This was a smaller contributor but a contributor nevertheless. The good news is that we’ve not screwed up things so bad that we don’t want to work with each other. We’re just focusing this attention on a different project.

Aside from the learnings from the process of thinking about shutting down and then reflecting on what contributed to that, we all took away many lessons from our journey on They were –


“1) Know your ‘why’: My personal “why” affects how much I contribute especially to a project. Unless I buy into the project spiritually, I don’t give my 100%. It helps to clarify periodically why I am here.

2) Be comfortable letting go: There are certain things that I’m not excited about and I’ve grown a bit more comfortable being okay about it. The Real Leaders experience was an eye opener about being focused on getting the priorities right.

3) All happy families are alike: Most of our ‘Real Leaders’ were obsessive about what they did, were clear about their whys, had healthy routines, their priorities and defining moments were their family, and most importantly were pleasant people to talk to.

Learning aside, I’m most thankful to Rohan and Dhanya for letting me be a part of the Real Leader journey. Both of them were always there to cover for my mistakes and my inabilities. I will always cherish the 1 hour calls that we had as a team every Saturday. I’ve learnt a great deal from you both and I look forward to working to many other projects.”


1) The world belongs to those who try and reachout – I learnt that I could talk to anyone in the world, anyone at all! The world is out there. With social communication and the internet world – anyone is reachable, anything is doable. You can sit in Singapore and help kids go to school in India. You would’ve never set foot outside Japan, but you can talk to a man in Canada – both of you could be sharing the same opinion on world economics! You have to reach out and ASK!

2) Persistence – Reaching out once is something – reaching out till you get what you want is another. The second is what we went for. Rohan was my role model – I learnt an important lesson in persistence these 2.5 years.

3) Great people are nice first – We’ve met many people – our website is the proof of their variety and experience. And we’ve seen many common trends amongst the opinion they shared. But one thing stayed true – great people are nice people. I remind myself at work every single day about this learning.”


“1) You can reach and have conversations with anyone. Literally anyone. I never imagined I’d be able to have conversations with my favourite authors (Dan Ariely, Dan Pink, Cal Newport, Bill Bernstein, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Roy Baumeister, Jonathan Haidt), meet amazing venture capitalists (Bijan Sabet, Albert Wenger, Brad Feld), and all the other incredible people I had the good fortune to meet. This idea will live on – I hope to continue to do this on my blog.

2) This was a leadership experiment that didn’t work. I experimented with a detached style on We started this at a time when I had doubts about whether my strength of personality was a deterrent to relationships and teams. It may not work across all situations but leading a team without being myself is a recipe for disaster. I’ve grown up a bit since then and learnt to be comfortable in my own skin. The learning came at a price though. Leadership is lonely and the teams you build when you lead mirror your strengths and weaknesses. I think I began building real leaders when I was doubtful and tentative and, in many ways, the team we built moved with a lack of cohesive purpose and intent.

3) Culture matters – be intentional about it. Take a stand on what sort of team you want to build and build that. The worst thing that can happen to you is when you spend years build a team and then realize you don’t feel inspired to work with each other. Luckily, we are still great friends.. but I definitely screwed this up.”

We started this project to spread great ideas, meet great people and learn. It turned out to be a tremendous learning experience and we know we couldn’t have made it happen without all your support and encouragement along the way. We know we will never be able to thank you enough and, in many ways, this post is our thank you. We wanted to end it by sharing what we learnt – hopefully there’s a great idea in our closing act too. :-)

Thank you for your support and wishing you the best!
Dhanya, EB, Rohan – The Real Leaders Team

As some of the long-time regulars here would know, this project was born on this blog and started with an interview of my mom here. It was a tough decision to call it quits. But, that was a learning in itself. Thank you to all of you for having shared your support and encouragement for the project via your comments, likes, and emails. It wouldn’t have possible without your encouragement.