What’s on your business card? Managing Director? Owner? CEO? Yes, by definition and title you are the leader of your organisation. However, the ability to empower your teams and steer the business toward success (while not doing everything yourself) is a skill that is not automatic to all business owners. More often than not; good leadership skills must be learned.
What attitude should a great leader have?
While individual skills can be learned and practiced (explained later in this article), there is an overall attitude that must be embraced by leaders when they start their business. That is, a managerial perspective. An example of poor managerial perspective is if a business is not working, a poor leader simply hires more employees. Throwing extra bodies at the problem only aggravates the situation because it fails to address the underlying root cause. Growing larger only generates a much bigger company with problems that are expanded, magnified, and much more expensive to remedy. For more on this topic, read our eBook on achieving synergy in business.
While (quite naturally) individual leaders have many unique traits, ALL leaders do share a kindred spirit, a certain type of constitution, and a special drive and willingness. And they CAN be learned!
12 characteristics common to ALL successful leaders
1. Confidence – Confidence is a hallmark of all good leaders. Not all of us are born with confidence, but that does not mean we are not capable of it. Many confident people gain their sense of self-esteem and faith in their ability to greet challenges by acting – even when they lack the confidence – and then gaining strength and belief in themselves by seeing the results and gaining the praise and respect of others.
2. A Sense of Ownership – Taking responsibility for getting things done – and doing them with care and attention – means to act like an owner. Rather than viewing a problem as someone else’s, the good leader sees it as their own and takes pride in finding a solution, leaving things in better shape than they were before. While a sense of ownership makes for a stellar employee, the good leader knows that the goal is not to be owned by the enslavement of too much responsibility. Rather than controlling situations in an attempt to possess them, the good leader teaches other people how to take charge. In that way the clever leader uses individual accountability in the ultimate pursuit of profitability, teamwork, and overall success.
3. Ability to Communicate – Excellent leaders recognize that the most important part of any business is the human element. And communication is the key to successful relationships with people. A good leader works to hone communication skills, whether those are written, spoken, or non-verbal messages conveyed through body language. And to support communication, they may even take on foreign language or public speaking classes, computer and telecom technology, search engine optimization, or specialized writing such as that needed for grants, business proposals, mission statements, or policy manuals. Above all, a good leader develops a keen ability to listen and hear what others are trying to say, because the best communicators got that way by first being the best listeners.
4. Passion for Learning – Good leaders are often “autodidactic” learners, which means that much of what they know they learned not in a formal classroom setting but instead on their own by seeking out information, asking questions, and doing personal reading and research. They also are quick to learn from their own mistakes, which means they are less prone to keep repeating them due to arrogance, ego, or a blindness to one’s own faults, shortcomings, or errors in judgement. They entertain the views of others and perspectives that may be unlike their own, for instance, in order to be better students of human nature. In this way they continue to enrich themselves with knowledge while also making a concerted effort to grow that knowledge by sharing it with others who are also front row students of life’s valuable and unlimited lessons.
5. Team Player – Those who go into business for themselves but do not utilize teamwork wind up without the team but still have all the work to get done. They shoulder the whole burden for themselves, and wind up just trading their old job for a new and more demanding one – in an attempt to be self-employed. But the new venture carries greater personal and financial risks. On the other hand, team players know how to succeed by employing the physics of interpersonal synergy and dynamic relationships. Successful leaders leverage teamwork to get the heavy lifting done without breaking stride.
6. System-Oriented – Like mathematical formulas, good systems allow us to reproduce great results every time – with less and less exertion of energy or resources. Great leaders rely upon systems before they rely upon people, and they look for system-based solutions before searching for human resource solutions. If the person gets the job done but falls sick or leaves, the job is threatened. But if a system is created to get the job done, anyone can step in and follow the blueprint to get the desired result. Similarly, when troubleshooting and problem solving, a good leader will first examine and study the system – because a flaw in the system will produce a flawed outcome each and every time. Designing, implementing, and perfecting systems is one of the most useful and rewarding skills of a leader.
7. Dedicated – Good leaders dedicate themselves to the fulfilment of their plans, visions, and dreams, and that tenacity of purpose generates electricity throughout the whole organization. One of the biggest reasons that companies fail is because they lose focus. Target a goal, clarify the objective, refine the brand, and narrow the margin of error. Regardless of what the effort might involve, a true leader brings a single-minded dedication to the task by being committed to a positive outcome and ready and willing to do the needful. No matter what that might mean in terms of rising to meet a challenge or acting above and beyond the call of duty, the leader shows steadfast dedication.
8. Grateful – Being grateful for what we have opens us up to receive more, and one reason that is true is because those who are grateful appreciate what they are given. They respect it and nurture it. They do their best to make it grow instead of allowing it to dwindle away due to neglect. True leaders learn to take nothing for granted in this world. That gives them the agility and flexibility to adapt to changes and demands, while it also invests in them a thankfulness that reminds them that riches and wealth are not about “stuff”, but are about fulfilment, satisfaction, and the pleasure that comes from one’s accomplishments and contributions.
9. Optimistic – A positive outlook is essential for good leaders, who learns to see setbacks as bargain priced tuition for the valuable business lessons gained through first-hand experience. Past shortcomings, failures, or disappointments are relegated to the past so that they cannot continue to haunt the present or obstruct the future. And when things go right and business prospers, this further fuels the optimism and positive mind-set of a leader, helping to give impetus and momentum for greater accomplishments and increased hopefulness.
10. Gregarious – Because business is all about people, great leaders tend to be socially outgoing. They get excited about sharing ideas, products, and services, and that excitement is contagious to their employees, clients, friends, and other contacts both within and beyond the business sphere. But women and men who work hard as leaders also relish the unique opportunity to have fun doing something that they love as their primary vocation. Human resource experts, career counsellors, and business psychologists all agree that those who do jobs they enjoy and are good at have higher rates of success and broader measures of satisfaction.
11. Leads by Example – Great leaders not only lead themselves through self-motivation as self-starters who jump into tasks with enthusiasm, but they are also skilled at leading others. They know the importance of teamwork, and they understand the need to appreciate others, support them, and reward them accordingly. As renowned business consultant and retired United States Air Force Major General Perry M. Smith once wrote, “Leaders who share their power and their time can accomplish extraordinary things. The best leaders understand that leadership is the liberation of talent; hence they gain power not only by constantly giving it away, but also by not grabbing it back.”
12. Not Afraid of Risk or Success – Many people could be successful if they only took chances. And many people who do take chances and become somewhat successful find the realization of their dreams an overwhelming possibility, so they sabotage their continued success by retreating back into a comfort zone of smallness. Good leaders prioritize their approach to life so that the fear of failure, frustration, boredom, drudgery, and dissatisfaction far outweighs the lingering fear of success.
Adopting these traits of the successful leader can give us a wonderfully inspiring boost of confidence, foresight, and determination when we realize that we, too, share that winning attitude. Use the above as a checklist to build good leadership skills and become a better leader for your business.
For one-on-one leadership skills coaching that can help you and your business go from good to great, contact ActionCoach here or download a copy of this eBook called “Run your business like a well-oiled machine” here.