Two years ago I founded Opportunity Network, a company that now totals nearly 50 employees and over 20 different nationalities, with offices in London, New York, Barcelona, San Francisco, Paris, Frankfurt and Zurich. My venture has definitely had its fair share of challenges, but having grown from my experience, I learned a lot about what it means to be a leader and take risks. Here are some of my most eye-opening lessons:
Look Beyond Yourself as an Individual
I realized that my persona had little to do with my success and that of our company. The people who surround us count for much more than any of us do as individuals. Skills are commodities nowadays, and it's unlikely that you will be the absolute best at something. If you can surround yourself with good people, however, you can go anywhere -- and go further -- together. Leadership is a necessary component to create a solid, strong group of people that can combine their individual talents to add value to the world. Leadership is not the art of getting people to do what you want -- in fact it's quite the opposite. Leadership is the art of making sure that people you work with are pleased that it's you who's there to look after them. A leader makes the lives of the people he or she leads better by being themselves, and by being there for them. Otherwise, you're just a run-of-the-mill "boss."
Strive for a Collective Purpose
What is it that motivates our generation to follow a particular leader? A sense of belonging and a collective mission will add value, not only to the group itself but to the entire community. When you want to change something, think of how it will affect everyone else. If you create symbiosis and act with integrity, people will follow you because they believe you will make their lives better. Team members are more likely to stay with you and your company if you treat them like people instead of nameless employees. To create the right incentives, you need to put yourself in someone else's shoes. It is not only important to be able to do their job, but to also understand it.
Take Risks to Seize Opportunities
Today's world rewards not only successes, but also grand failures. This means you're better off trying, and failing, than not trying at all. If my company were to fail tomorrow, and I was forced to return as an employee somewhere, my career would still have progressed further than had I stayed where I was. Make choices that will open as many opportunities as possible. This maximizes the value of the risk you're taking.
Commit Yourself to a Project That Will Change the World for the Better
In order too make great progress, you need to embrace change with courage. Give yourself an objective, put your heart into making it a success, and, at the same time, keep yourself creative so that you can pivot in different ways needed to make it happen. Surround yourself with people who are united with your cause, who you trust, and who you think are better than yourself. This will lay the groundwork for building your network, and ultimately your success as an entrepreneur.