In 2015, Yale sophomore Henry Elkus started his non-profit Helena, an organization of global influencers, half under 25 years old, and each from a different field. 

Ten months later, Helena counts some of the world's most prolific innovators and achievers as members, including human rights activist Yeonmi Park, founder of StartX Med Divya Nag, and Tim Doner. 

Drawing on their diverse experiences, influence, and ideas, the group works to create positive global change by addressing challenging issues and using their influence to meet the needs of concerns globally.

But bringing them together was no simple task; it meant building powerful relationships with world leaders, bridging age gaps, and making every mistake in the book.

I sat down with Elkus to get tips on how to build and sustain powerful relationships, and what entrepreneurs can learn from these skills to become stronger leaders.

Be wrong.

If you seek the company of incredible people, they will have powerful and controversial ideas that challenge yours. Make the process of discovering where they have you beat immediate and painless -- then apply what you learned to your own venture.

In a world where young founders are raising millions of dollars, we tend to feel that we are "off" if we fail in our startup. However, dropping our ego is one of the first steps to success. 

Keep your network large and your circle small.

Evolutionary biologist Robin Dunbar famously placed the number of relationships the average person can sustain at 150.

I say take a different approach. Cast a wide net; take meetings, go to interesting events, and create a broad network of relationships with people you respect.

Take note of those who challenge and trust you, and form a small core circle around them. A mentor of mine breaks it down into binary terms: to 1's and 0's. He always challenged me to fight to be a "1," creating a culture of mutual benefit, but a healthy level of pressure.

Give favors before asking for one.

People are terrified of meeting with more "successful" individuals because they feel that they can't offer anything.

That's not the correct mentality. Anyone can give a favor to anyone else. For younger entrepreneurs, you give incredible value to older businesspeople by providing a case study of the most important consumer demographic on the planet.

Understand that the best favors come from relationships, not from money.

Gain by listening.

You already know your own project -- begin by learning about theirs.

The first thing I try to discover in a new meeting is that person's vision and goals, and how they might intersect.

Helena came about by noticing that the seemingly divergent concepts of each member had real intersections, and those intersections could create immense change. From these conversations, we found some radical connections.

Virtual reality and linguistics collide to form technology for language immersion.

Stop the meeting when it's over.

Early in the process of building Helena, I realized quickly that the most impactful people I met gave me some of the shortest, and not surprisingly, the most impactful meetings.

Coming from the very different Ivy League system of lectures, panels, and small talk, this was a jarring, yet superior model. Time is the most valuable and scarce commodity you have, and ending a meeting when the task at hand is complete shows your network that you have respect for their day.

Published on: Apr 18, 2016