Author of Copy This! and founder of Kinkos, Paul Orfalea gave the opening keynote at Stanford’s Entrepreneurship eConference.  He shared his story of success and wondered out loud why people were taking notes on what he was saying. 

Between the rather humorous anecdotes on why he attended USC (football players typically don’t “raise the curve”), how Kinko’s got its name (a nickname from his head of hair), and why you should drink beer (more on that later*), Paul perhaps inadvertently revealed key attributes of the successful entrepreneurial leader

  • Leaders notice success around them. 

When you see a line out the door of a small hotdog business, do you think about demand and profit margins or are “you just buying a hotdog”?

  • Leaders see “what isn’t there”. 

Don’t let your education, training, or privileges stand in the way of seeing what is, and isn’t, right in front of you.

  • Leaders make ideas work for them.

Learn to feel comfortable with ambiguity.  Act on ideas and make the tough decisions including saying “No” quickly rather than stringing people along.

  • Leaders cultivate intuition.

Figure out how to manage people and help employees define success for themselves.  If you prefer to manage things, you probably should not be a leader.

  • Leaders know workers are the boss. 

Workers are the ones face-to-face with the customers/beneficiaries and actually doing the work (and probably doing it way better than you could). 

  • Leaders remove obstacles.

Enable your workers to do their job and “leave the store”.  Balance trust and verification – sometimes just the presence of the leader can destroy the confidence of a manager.

  • Leaders understand the importance of being cheerful and uplifting. 

You don’t have share all the bad news and have an “open kimono” all the time.

  • Leaders sleep. 

Sleep gives time for imprinting what you have learned during the day, and besides, no one wants to follow a leader who is tired and haggard.

  • Leaders balance work, love, and play. 

If you do all three, you’ll make better decisions. “All you workaholics, go drink some beer!”*