A question that is often raised is to know whether anybody can become a leader or leaders were born to be leaders, the same way lions were born to hunt whereas gazelles were born to be hunted.

I personally don’t think that anybody comes into the world with special faculties. Leadership is all about mindset, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship.

Let me give you some tips about how you, as an entrepreneur, should behave to become a leader
Definition : “[Leadership is] the process of influencing others to understand and agree about what needs to be done and how it can be done effectively, and the process of facilitating individual and collective efforts to accomplish a shared objective.”

Don’t focus only on the idea: work on originality
Originality is what is going to make people agree with your project. Even if you had the best idea, you should know how to put it forward by thinking “out of the box”. How can you be sure someone at the other side of the world has not been struck by the same idea?

A good training is to choose an existing idea and try to find creative ways to promote it and convince anybody that, indeed, you have the best project and you’re the most qualified to complete it successfully.

Know your people and listen to them
A good leader entrepreneur should never be some figure that nobody knows, dictating his laws from above. He must before all know his people, listen to them and spot their strong and weak points in order to get the best out of them.

Be a good example
Would you want to work intensely in a company where the CEO is constantly twiddling his thumbs basking in the sun next to his swimming pool? I caricature a little bit but you get the meaning, right?
A leader should show he is constantly able to put more efforts into work, be honest, promote and truly believe in the company’s values. It is very probable that people will catch up with your efforts if you show determination, if they respect you and your accomplishments within the company.

Do not hesitate to delegate
Perhaps the most important quality of a good leader entrepreneur. The most common error made by young entrepreneurs is try doing everything by themselves. Whether it is because they think they can do better than anyone or because they don’t trust enough the work done by other, it is never the right thing to do.
Besides, the more the company grows, the more it is going to be hard handling everything. That is why it is better to learn how to delegate at an early stage.
I can see where you’re going, that doesn’t mean delegating every single task! Only, for example, tasks out of your wheelhouse, that you hate to do and those concerning a very changing field. Oh, and keep in mind that assigning someone to a particular task is a good opportunity to have him learn about it.

Keep an eye on the environment dynamism and adapt your leadership technic.
Environment dynamism depends on employees’ and market’s dynamism as well as on technological instabilities.
According to the Journal of Business Venturing, two types of leadership must be distinguished: transactional, which relies on rewards and punishments, and transformational, which is more about trying to get employees to reach for a common goal by adopting the company’s values. The former implies monitoring many different success targets that could be used later on for coordination or as performance estimators. It is to be considered particularly for an early stage start-up.

“[Transactional leaders] approach followers with an eye to exchanging one thing for another” – James MacGregor Burns
“[With transformational leadership,] Leaders and followers raise one another to higher level of motivation and morality” – James MacGregor Burns

In the the Journal of Business Venturing are exposed the results of an inquiry conducted on many firms. The conclusion is that transformational leadership is more effective when the environment dynamism is high, as opposed to transactional which is more effective when it isn’t.
A thoughtful and successful leader is thus able to adapt his way of leading regarding the company’s context.

Bonus : Use self-leadership
This notion seemed odd to me at the first sight. I thought a leader was a person capable of extracting himself from a crowd to guide it. How then can we talk about “self-leadership” if leadership is a group oriented notion? After some time and reading, it appeared to me as an evidence: a leader must be able to lead himself before leading others!
Here is how he can manage to do it:

  1. Be an “opportunity thinker”, not an “obstacle thinker”
    It refers respectively to an optimistic and pessimistic way of thinking.
    An “opportunity thinker” will always try to see the bright side of everything that happens to him. He will see a failure as an opportunity to change the way he approaches an issue to avoid future disappointments. It is more probable that an obstacle thinker will focus on the negative aspects, take it personally and, if the worst comes to the worst, give up. Journal of Managerial Psychology’s article states that the first type of thinkers are more able to lead their company to success. You just have to look at Alibaba’s founder Jack Ma. How has he overcome multiple failures at university entrance exams, 10 rejections from Harvard and being the only one rejected out of 24 for a job at KFC? One word, optimism.

  2. Use mental imagery
    Don’t worry, this has nothing to do with magic.
    It involves imagination and putting positive images into your brain. The trick is to imagine yourself accomplishing something with great manner before it actually happens. The goal is to take a step back and pressure off, to be more in control and to increase your chances of success. For instance, in sports, players using mental imagery were observed to be more successful (see article from Journal of Managerial Psychology). An entrepreneur can apply this tip before meeting investors for the first round of funding of his start-up.

Now I have a question to you: Do you consider yourself as opportunity thinker or obstacle thinker? And share with us your tips how to become a successful opportunistic leader!