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  • Writer's pictureAlpesh Patel

Easy Rules of Leadership for Entrepreneurs

I want to share some of those leadership traits I, Alpesh Patel learned. I’m going to share some research with you out of Harvard Business School and other academic institutions.

What allows leaders to get their messages across? In addition, what gets their companies to do well or be successful in their careers.

It’s not the usual internet infograms, I’m afraid. Moreover it is more practical, penetrative and useful than that. Which I’m going to share with you.

What are the lessons that I've learned about those who succeed and lessons for leadership

Leadership lessons Alpesh Patel learned about those who succeed

Experiences on Leadership by Alpesh Patel

It’s based on my experiences as a dealmaker for the UK government’s Department for International Trade, where I bring technology companies to the UK and as chairman of City Hindus Network.

Leadership can be about articulating and communicating vision, or it can be about the kind of advice you’re giving others.

All the views expressed here are personal. It’s based on research. It’s based on working with outstanding entrepreneurs as well.

Role as a Government Dealmaker

As a government dealmaker I've seen companies with good leadership go from zero to unicorn status.

Alpesh Patel’s role as a Government Dealmaker has taught him many leadership lessons

To give you a bit of background – what is my role as a government dealmaker? Sadly, it is not signing treaties with people around the world.

I look for unique technologies and entrepreneurs, entrepreneurs who are leading the way in their field.

What are the lessons that I’ve learned about those who succeed and lessons for leadership. I’ve seen companies go from zero to unicorn status.

What were the winners doing right? What were the losers not doing so well? As you can imagine, I’m still learning as well.

As a Government Dealmaker what are the leadership lessons I've learned about those who succeed

Alpesh Patel UK Government Dealmaker Department for International Trade

As I said, my government role is what I’m going to draw on, but the views are personal. I’m also going to draw on my role as chairman of City Hindus Network.

Leadership Traits of Hindus

In case you don’t know what Hindus are, and I’m sure many of you do, well, if the world was just a hundred people, you might be able to see on there how many of those would be Hindu. There’s about out of seven billion on the planet; there’s over a billion of us.

There are certain traits and terms that you’ll have come across, and I’m going to draw upon these, but you will know. I’m sure you’ve heard of things like dharma and karma, even maya as well.

Qualities like dharma and karma and maya are important in leadership

Leadership Lessons learned from Hinduism

Most of us tend to come from India, and many of us live in the UK and the United States. But let’s go back to the issue of leadership. What does it actually look like?

In businesses, trying to level up the global economy what does it look like? Trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, trying to resolve some of the inequalities you can see on that map?

What does it look like for those in business? Trying to level up the global economy, trying to solve some of the world’s biggest problems, trying to resolve some of the inequalities you can see on that map?

According to GDP, if the world were arranged by country size, that’s what the world would look like. You can see there is a lot of skinny areas.

For those, whatever leadership you’re in, whether you’re in politics or entrepreneurship. What are the things that I found through not just the academic research.

But also practically talking to winners in business, winners in politics who have managed to do it? Because there are a lot of you out there who will be very good at what you do. But the message isn’t coming across.

And, so, you’re not able to get the leverage to success that you deserve. So, what are the lessons we can learn from some of those who we often think total empty vessels but doing incredibly well? How the hell did that happen?

In Leadership Messaging Matters

How come their messaging was so good despite their product or offering in politics or business being so poor. I want to cover some of that with you now in this.

I’m going to ask you this question, what do these statements have in common?

Leadership campaigns

One of the names put forward was England football team captain Kevin Keegan

Choosing a leader

In 1981, the British government met to discuss the best business person to front a campaign about what citizens would do in the event of a nuclear attack.

One of the names put forward was England football team captain Kevin Keegan. You might think that odd. It won’t be in a second. Likewise, what does this statement have in common with that?

Face structure

Research suggests that executives with squarer, angular faces fare better than in salary negotiations, than rounder-faced.

Appearance and Leadership

Does face structure matter in leadership?

Also it’s true whether you’re a man or a woman. Yeah, I’ve got a CrossFit session in about three hours to get a more angular face.

Leadership and hand gestures

Appearance and Leadership

Use hand gestures

What do those two statements have in common with this third one? A recent study found that the most-watched TED Talks on topics like leadership are made by presenters who use twice as many hand gestures as those who present in a less animated fashion.

Simple lessons

Basically same subject, same content. In comparison one was getting listened to and getting ahead than another.

We sometimes say, “Oh, well, that’s just the TikTok generation. Yeah, they’re all style over substance.” It’s getting results. What can we do about this?

There are lessons, research, and practical lessons that I have learned from my observations of dealing with entrepreneurs as a dealmaker for the government?

What do we see, which are some of the traits of success?

Hard and soft messengers

Hard and soft messaging in leadership

Hard and Soft Messengers

Well, you’ll come across the term hard and soft messengers.

Hard Messenger Traits

Hard messengers possess status. Okay. Research shows four essential traits that contribute to status-driven messenger success, socioeconomic position, competence, dominance, attractiveness.

All of these factors will suggest status. Status is a hard messenger, and hard messengers tend to succeed.

I’m not saying you’ve got and rent a Lamborghini, stand in front of it, and suddenly you’ll be able to sell your product. To emphasize, people are a bit more attuned to reality and authenticity than that.

Authentic messaging

We’re going to build on what this means in your messaging. Even if you’re an entrepreneur, business, or a politician. People are also less likely their behavior changes less likely to honk at higher status cars.

To summarise hard messengers get certain privileges in life. We know this, and it annoys us. Like I said, those hard messenger traits, we need to bring out more.

How do we do it? What do we do? In short that is what I’m going to build on in this article.

Leadership message by Pierce Brosnan is status driven

Leadership message is status driven

The reason you’ve got Pierce Brosnan there is that he conveys some of that hard status. We hear about Instagram and influencers. They’re looking for some of these hard messengers in an authentic, correct way.

Finding the right messenger

Where do we find them, and how do we bring that out in our own messaging so that all the hard work we’re doing is not lost because our messaging is poor? Hard messengers, as I said, status, they bring those traits, and that’s one example of it.

Even people like Louis, rounder faces get to be brand ambassadors around the world as well. In this case the messaging is important not just, as so many of you are reading, the expertise. The old focus on expertise is just the building block.

Leadership equals Charismatic Messengers

Leadership Lessons

What gets good leaders listened to?

Research from Joseph Marks, who is a Ph.D., on what factors get people listened to? Well, charismatic messengers beat considered ones. And that frustrates us, particularly in politics, but it would be far better to be both considered and charismatic.

An attractive one trumps an accurate one. I said Trump there, didn’t I? I’m not saying you go and have facial reconstruction surgery, but certainly, grooming becomes part of that message.

This whole idea that “I’ll just walk around in shorts and I’d talk, and I’ll look cool.” No, I’m afraid attraction will matter.

Work on your tone and intonation

Dominant voices beat dependent ones, tone, intonation. Again, you might want to consider even elocution, but these factors are important.

Too often, I’ve met entrepreneurs with great technology or business people with great technologies, but the way they came across, the way they looked – we all know this research.

Yeah. You make up your mind in a few seconds. Sadly, they didn’t get far. But not with me; they were fine with me because I knew this with others.

What else does the research show? You’ll be familiar with some of this. When it comes to hard and soft messengers, hard messengers are perceived to possess superior status.

Soft Messengers

Leadership works even with soft messengers

Soft Messengers also make good leaders

As I’ve said, soft messengers are listened to because audiences feel a connectedness with them. So it’s not to say we should all become hard messengers.

The German chancellor, Canadian Prime Minister, and the New Zealand Prime Minister would be in a soft messenger category. There is a role for them.

There is an argument, and some research supports this, that leaders in countries where they have elections tend to go from the hard messenger to soft, soft to hard, and so on.

Leadership reflection in Elections

They tend to alternate in the elections between those because people get fed up or whatever else it might be, but there is a role for soft messengers.

Many of you will be more able to convey that empathy, that connectedness. It is not to say to suppress it.

This is to say that these traits are important, work out which ones are yours, and make sure you are attuned. Part of your message is to use those, utilize those, succeed in politics or entrepreneurship, whatever else that field might be.

Confidence and appearance matter

Leadership test based on photos

Leadership is identified by the most component looking

When people were asked to rank which CEOs they did not know were the most successful, just purely there were given photos, they’re only given CEOs’ images.

Now, many of you watching this are CEOs. You aspire to be CEOs. You aspire to move up in your career. Think about this; the respondents were accurate. They were just given photos.

There was no indication of how successful they were but they were just asked, “Which of these do you think is?” And they were accurate as to who was just by looking at them. That doesn’t seem to make sense.

They based their answers on which faces they said were the most competent looking. Well, that’s worrying.

Perception about Competency

For those of you who are incredibly competent thinking, “I’m ruled by a boss who’s an idiot,” the reason it’s worrying is that you’re thinking, “My God, they got there because based on just how they looked.”

Yeah, I’m afraid so. Wouldn’t it be better if you have got the skills and abilities to combine both and therefore be more of a genuine article? The same thing happened when asked who would win elections.

People were asked, “Who do you think is going to win the election?” They weren’t told what the electoral outcomes were.

So those weren’t national, the more popular, famous election. It was at the local level. And it was the ones that looked successful. Can you believe it?

Leadership Lessons from Alpesh Patel

What defines Success in Leadership?

So, what’s the definition of looks successful? I’m sure most of you have got an idea of what success looks like in an image. Okay. Looking competent may give a halo effect, looking competent.

How many times have you walked into a room and just assumed that the person who looked the most competent was the one who was in charge and found that actually, surprisingly, sometimes they were not?

Halo Effect

That halo effect is something that is a factor in achieving success. Of course, that alone won’t do it. You can’t just have a brand and no substance.

But sadly, I see too many people with lots of substance, not enough of the halo effect, the little icing on the cake, which would help them succeed so much further.

Why it is frustrating

It’s been one of the sad frustrations, the big injustices that I see that excellent people don’t get to where they should be getting to because of the 10% or the 20% of factors, makes a big difference, and the academic research proves it.

Instead, what do you get? You get empty hats getting further ahead instead who’ve mastered the messaging.

We need to level that up. We need to make sure the experts get to where you deserve to be based on some of these.

What makes a good leader?

Leadership qualities

Leadership qualities

Who leads?

So, who leads? Well, there are the dominant types. Like I said, the hard, who thrive on conflict, competition, and uncertainty. It isn’t me.

There are the vulnerable messengers. They also get to lead at the right point, the authentic, the ones who display humanity. As I said, the New Zealand Prime Minister is a strong example of this at this moment. There’s the trustworthiness, the soft.

Now, I know that some of you will innately have these strengths play to them, the competence and integrity part with good moral standards.

Charisma is vital to leadership

People think, “Oh, I’ve got to suppress some of these things because I see idiots getting ahead of me.” No, bring these out. They are the traits of success.

There are charismatic ones that have that surge in energy, the enthusiasm, the positivism in that area. Again, you’ve got people on the internet, and you think, “My God, they’re so charismatic.” But all they’re doing is requoting the Buddha in a more modern context.

And suddenly, they’ve got great followers, all the rest of it, and their businesses are doing well. They’re building business purely out of charisma alone.

Use and develop your traits

Well, if you’ve got some of those traits, you want to use them. If you don’t, then it’s time to develop them. If you want to succeed, I’m assuming you already have a great product, a great offering, a great voice, things that you’ve got something to offer to the world.

So, where does that take as well? In the words of Lincoln, there is that whole attitude issue as well. “We complain because rose bushes have thorns, or rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”

Abraham Lincoln

Enthusiasm among Entrepreneurs

I was asked this morning at a government meeting, “How are the entrepreneurs you’re working with, coming over to the UK from around the world, feeling about COVID? How are they feeling about everything else going on in the world?”

And I said, “You know what, I’ve not seen this level of enthusiasm amongst technology entrepreneurs since, well, 2000, since the whole initial internet boom that happened.” I don’t think they’re unrealistic.

I think they have that sense of rejoicing, or in the words of Patton, “There are three ways men get what they want.” In the world, there is that gender bias, planning, by working, and by praying, it’s the point being there.

George Patton

Take positive action

You’re going to have to take positive action on some of the traits that the research shows help you. Praying alone that somebody hears your voice and the offering and the product you have, they’ll suddenly find you, ain’t going to work. I’m afraid it is that element of shouting out more.

Eisenhower on Leadership

Again, put in Eisenhower’s words, it’s the art of getting someone else to do something you want because you want to get them to do it, right? “The art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it,” getting them infused.

Dwight D Eisenhower

Those elements of charisma are those soft and hard messaging, which often get neglected for the substance.

There is that element of hard messaging. If you can’t get them to do it any other way, then make them feel the heat. So there is an element for that as well. I’m going to come back to John Quincy Adams.

John Quincy Adams

Research on Leadership from Harvard shows

So, what does research from Harvard Business School show? There’s a chap called Atonakis. He’s Greek, as you can guess from the name. He researched the leadership qualities and did academic research.

It wasn’t the modern-day infograms and the superficial analysis that we often see in the little quote on Twitter. We’re talking about proper academic research that Harvard Business Review has published.

Presently many others had done when I was at a university, and we were reading politics; what’s the difference between the different types of leadership? I mean, there’s a lot of academic research done on it.

In Leadership Perception is Key

Above all he found it critical that the people who were perceived – remember, the perception was crucial because just having a great offering wasn’t enough. The messenger and the perception were critically important.

The ones who took time to use metaphors and analogies tended to get ahead. Those who use stories and anecdotes contrast tended to get ahead.

Secret Behind Obama’s Success

It’s often said that Barack Obama became president when he gave his speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2008, I think it was. That’s when he became president because of the anecdotes, the metaphors.

You wouldn’t get a political speech nowadays, a major one, without them saying, “Julie from the council flat in…” Oh, they’re overdoing it, so you’ve got to be aware of that.

Perception of good leaders

But these were perceived as being leaders in the nature in which they talked about, whether it’s the tech entrepreneurs or the politician, the 3-part lists, the moral conviction of what they were doing, the belief that what they’re doing is good beyond the product they’re offering.

I deal with many entrepreneurs, and what they’re now telling me about, and what I want them to do is tell me about how they’re solving the world’s biggest problems.

Stand out Entrepreneurs


I’ve got companies like Citispotter I’ve worked with, who are helping remove fake news using algorithms.

For instance, CreditEnable helps people to get the loans they should in their businesses because they’re helping banks find credit risk, which is good and bad.

So they’re just helping banks become more efficient. The money gets to where it should do.

Otherwise, you could have just said, “Yeah, it was a FinTech company.” No, it wasn’t a FinTech company.

Citispotter isn’t an AI company. They are solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

They’re showcasing their moral conviction, the bigger purpose of what they’re doing so they get better quality of stock. They get more people behind them. And the product deserves that.

Hippo Cabs

For example Hippo Cabs by Samit, another technology company out of India, brought to the UK. It’s like Uber for ambulances. “Oh, it’s like Uber. Is it car transportation?”

No, what it does is it makes sure that hospitals don’t have to rely on ambulances to take people back after, say, dialysis, non-urgent cases of returning people home, but they can use medically-equipped cabs and train people to do it. It saves a fortune potentially for the NHS.

Convert what you’re doing into a bigger story

So it was converting what you’re doing into that bigger story and making that message come across in your daily work. Are all the speeches you are giving all the webinars and using metaphors, analogies, anecdotes, and all of these techniques?

Atonokis found through his research at Harvard Business School that this got people ahead. Can you believe it? It got people ahead. Okay. So, it is important. It is incredibly important.

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Charisma and confidence

Talk about charisma; people think, “Oh, we can learn that?” Don’t forget, well, from the Greek word charisma comes charm.

If you don’t know what charisma is – it’s that charm, politeness, body gestures, facial expressions, and vibrant voice tone.

How often will a Ph.D. tell us something which might revolutionize the world. But we’d switch off because they don’t have the messaging abilities?

Believe in yourself

If you believe what you’re doing and your technology, it can be an entrepreneur, business, or in your career, is that important. If you are that good, then set that expectation of yourself.

That you will have and learn what charisma traits, including confidence, are, I’m afraid.

It includes a degree of self-belief and also speaking abilities, the animated tone, and the body gestures, I’m afraid. Things you might think of superficial.

Avoid overconfidence

Of course, be aware of overconfidence, mainly speaking to the men out there. Cockiness won’t get you very far. Being full of it as it were won’t get you very far either. I’m still learning.

So many of you might think, “Well, you’re talking about this stuff, but I don’t see you deploying it.” We’re all still learning. I used to be a visiting fellow at Corpus Christi College, Oxford, where I would lecture and research behavioral finance.

What makes successful leaders?

I used to be a visiting fellow at Corpus Christi College Oxford where I would lecture and research behavioral finance. Let me tell you one of the most important things I found about the most successful people in the world at what they do.

These were traders, massive hedge fund managers who were very successful at what they did. What it was is that they didn’t have attribution bias.

They were leaders in their field. We’re talking about people like the global head of trading at Salomon Brothers, Bill Lipschutz, hedge fund managers leading two billion-dollar companies, $10 billion funds, and the like. They didn’t have attribution bias.

Attribution Bias

What is attribution bias? That’s when you attribute success to yourself. It’s a bias that can lead to arrogance. Those didn’t succeed. None of these people said, “Oh, I’m just amazing.”

I don’t mean they were just paying lip service to it. “It wasn’t really me. It was my team, but I’ll take the award.” They didn’t have the God complex.

Authenticity as a leader

So yes, you’ve heard, “You got to be authentic.” What does that mean? Well, there was this lack of attribution. There was space for luck. Jim Simons, probably the most successful fund manager in the world’s history, put it this way.

They asked him, “How come you’re so successful? How come you’re so good at what you do? And he said, “Well, a lot had a lot to do with it.”

I don’t think he was faking it. I think he was just genuine. For that, you got a lot more credit for it. Anyway, the successful leaders didn’t fall foul of attribution bias.

Tranquility in a crisis

Put another way, and I said, I’m chairman of City Hindus Network, and I’ll revert to the Hindu side of things. “One who was control over his mind is tranquil in heat and cold, in pleasure and pain, honor and dishonor, and is ever steadfast with the Supreme Self.”

We know we need that at this time. We talk about mental illness. People often turn to faith and religion, whether it’s Christianity, Islam, Sikhism, Jainism, whatever else it might be.

In effect, for me or others, the leader is the one who has that tranquility. When we look at the speeches that our political leaders give, we’re looking to see, are they calm? Or parents in crisis, are they calm?

Well, it’s the same thing to get ahead. The traits that the leaders exhibited time and again. That tranquility, that ability to say, even if it felt like they were going into battle, say, “This too shall pass,” to provide perspective and calm.

That was a critical factor, of course. We know it is.

Practicing, getting that across in the business environment, particularly during COVID, particularly during everything going on in the world at the moment.

Leadership – Believing in your own power

It might seem like a big ask, but actually, it’s important to remember that’s what gets us ahead for selfish reasons if nothing else. Leadership is getting people also to believe in their own power.

Partly what I’ve already said, but that’s what the research again showed, that ability to empower others. Put another way; leadership was giving people purpose and autonomy.

Secret behind successful companies

There’s a fantastic book called Drive, where they research what some of the most successful technology companies had in common. How did Google invent Gmail? Why was it them? It wasn’t just that they had loads of money.

How come everybody come obsessed with iPhones. When it’s just a bunch of glass, metal, and plastic, and yet we’re so obsessed with it.

It’s not merely because, “Oh, it helps us communicate and stay in touch with people.”

How come Steve Jobs could get people to work 24 hours a day, 36 hours a day? Law firms would love to know the secret to this.

Payment doesn’t always equal results

In addition, payment tended to remove people’s competence levels. So the more you paid them, the less competent they were doing the work.

This was an experiment done on monkeys, children, and adults. They were given simple tasks that are enjoyable.

I guess for monkey; it was the tasks where they press the button, they got a banana. A kid was playing with carpet through building blocks. With adults, it was the joy of building an aircraft, a little toy aircraft. Anyway, things that they knew they enjoyed.

As soon as they started paying them and saying – “Right, You’re going to get rewarded.” Their abilities to get that same job done dropped it.

It wasn’t that they’re bored. Nor was it because they’d done the same tasks before. They allowed for all of that.

A bigger purpose

When given a bigger purpose, you’re not just making a phone, you’re making people’s lives better. They were granted autonomy, and it was an activity that required skill; those people excel. That’s what the research found.

Again, the leaders were the ones who were able to do those things. You can’t do that with everybody in your staff and on your team. But who are given the bigger purpose.

How often leaders spend that time talking about the bigger purpose of what they’re doing. They were given some autonomy, and it was a skilled task. They got ahead.

Of course, I mean, poo-pooed infograms and all the rest of it. I’m sure many of you have seen these, but it’s a good reminder and a good summary of some of the things I’ve said. Yes, there are good ones out there as well.

Difference between a Manager and a Leader

Manager vs Leader

What’s the difference between the manager and the leader? I’m sure you look at these, as I do, remember them for five minutes and then keep forgetting and going into bad habits time and time again, but it is the ones who were consistently able to do that who got ahead.

Again, the manager on the left, the leader on the right of the screen. The manager on the left follows the map, the leader carving those new roads. The manager assigns the duties, the leader fostering the ideas.

I had an excellent government talk this morning with the Global Entrepreneur Programme’s head, and he ticked all the boxes on the right-hand side.

He said, “Look, guys, what are the new innovative ideas? What are the new great ways? How do we keep doing and excelling and bringing these global entrepreneurs from around the world to the United Kingdom?”

Good leadership fosters bigger ideas

It was about fostering ideas. It wasn’t just, “You do this. You’re going to do that. You’re going to do this. Here are some rules; follow them.” It was, “How do we motivate people to know how fantastic it is to set up a global technology company here in the UK with the skills basis?

How do we make sure they got the resources that they can carve that new path for themselves, find the funding sources, find the networks, find the skills basis, and the people that they need?”

Manager vs Leader

Again, the manager, on the left, relies on control. The one on the right is inspiring trust. You know what the great thing is, once you start becoming more of that leader.

Life becomes a hell of a lot easier. Both in your work and elsewhere as a result, and the results come thick and fast as well.

Truth to power

So, there is one other element I’d mentioned. Yes, there is that truth to power. In my own industry, the fund management, the asset management industry.

It’s not the easiest thing to say, “Yeah, bankers are overpaid.” It’s one thing for the public to say, but when you’re actually in finance and saying, “No, they’re overpaid.”

Bigger purpose to Leadership

Fund managers, the ones that I’ve met, consistently incompetent at what they do and not up to the job, and they’re disserving the clients that they serve.

When you say it on that, well, yeah, you’re not going to be necessarily very popular, I’m afraid, as a result.

But if you’ve got the conviction, you have to lead with your voice and require you to do that.

I will leave you not so much with this quote.

If you can’t find the bigger purpose, then here’s one for you, but find that bigger purpose in your leadership. It will help and sustain you through it.

Purpose over passion

People talk about passion. Well, purpose, I think, will help even more. That’s one of my favorite quotes in terms of purpose. But a bit more secular, let’s put it that way.

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, and do more and become more, you are a leader.” I think Adams was definitely a leader for me.

So, I hope you found this useful. Like I say, it’s a shortened version of a talk that I give each year at Oxford University to business leaders. It’s a lot shorter.

I’ve removed a lot of it because I know the audience isn’t just purely Hindu. I joined the details from the faith and how they help in profession and leadership and succeed.


In conclusion I hope it’s also been insightful, particularly some of the research on leadership.

Have a look at It’s the technology companies I’ve been working with solving some of the world’s biggest problems.

How we, in the Global Entrepreneur Programme because that part of the Department for International Trade has been showcasing some of those companies.

What those entrepreneurs are doing and so right as leaders in their own right. In getting that product out there to solve some of these critical crisis technology solutions that they have.

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