Are leadership and entrepreneurship related? What traits must a leader have and which ones are shared by entrepreneurs? The common denominator is an ability to influence others, with or without authority.
According to the dictionary, a leader is someone with commanding authority or influence. However, that definition falls short. The leadership expert Peter DeLisle is more specific: “Leadership is the ability to influence other people, with or without authority.” It is very easy to get others to obey your orders when you are their superior in the chain of command; the key lies with those who, even without pulling rank, can get others to share their vision and follow them. Think of a soccer or basketball player who, despite not being captain, is able to rally his teammates and make them follow his lead.
The ability to influence has three elements. The first is awareness, i.e., understanding that every action has an impact. The second is ability, in terms of communication, conflict resolution, and decision-making. Finally, the third is a commitment to your ideas, which means making decisions that may not always please everyone and dealing with the consequences.
Vision, personality, honesty, persistence, hard work… So many qualities are attributed to leaders it can sometimes be difficult to identify with them all. However, the ability to influence others is clearly a leadership skill.
The problem is that education has always been based on very rigid structures, making it seem like everyone fits neatly into a specific slot of the organization chart, taking it for granted that there are leaders and followers. All of this sets the bar for leaders so high that very few people see themselves as fitting the profile. However, any professional can develop this ability, provided they have the right training, are passionate about their work, and surround themselves with a good support group. We need to think of ourselves as leaders.