In my role as a business coach, I am often asked what qualities I look for in a leader. Here are just a few of the key traits I believe every business owner requires if they are to succeed in business. By the way, these are learned behaviours – anybody can learn them, although some are more difficult than others.
A leader leads with courage. They have the courage to run their business their way, take risks when required and pick themselves up if and when they fail or meet challenges. Failure does not necessarily mean the end of the business. It could simply be a marketing campaign did not work or the recruitment of an employee turned into a disaster etc. Whatever the situation, they learn from it and ensure systems, procedures or training follow to reduce the risk of re-occurrence.
The only people who never fail are the ones who lack the courage to try in the first place. This is, in itself failure. Some of the richest and most successful people we know have failed many times. Richard Branson is a classic example. He has launched countless businesses and only a few remain. However, every year numerous new ventures will be tested with his team.
A good leader is approachable. They are not stand-offish, so full of themselves that they believe they are above others. One of the most endearing qualities is that of empathy. However, this does not mean they are a pushover because they will of course make decisions that are unpopular at times and are for the greater good of the business.
They listen to their market, the industry, people in the business, providing critical information. By actively listening, a leader can understand the needs and wants of the market and therefore create products and/or services to fulfil these needs. As the saying goes, “listen, learn, act.”
4) Good Time Management
Good leaders value their time. After all, it’s the one resource that we cannot get more of. However, there are ways of using time wisely. It’s rare for a good leader to watch a lot of television. This is considered wasteful. They invest their time where they will achieve the greatest return. They are disciplined with their diary.
Good leaders tend to be good delegators. They wish to dedicate time to tasks that only they can do in the business. The rest, can be delegated to others with the caveat that they will manage the person undertaking the task, or manage the manager.
Start-up business owners do not have the luxury of delegating until the business reaches a level in sales where the owner cannot continue to fulfil all the tasks in the business. At this stage, investing in staff or outsourcing are the only options and both have to be carefully managed.
Good leaders still make themselves available and are frequently out in the evenings being seen at the right places for the right reasons. Meeting people and being gracious with your time can lead to “opportunistic” meetings with individuals who could be good for the business. It’s a small world and you don’t know who else is in the room who knows somebody of importance. So, make time for people!
5) Willing To Learn
Good leaders are lifelong learners. At some stage in their career, they recognise the power of knowledge and the role that this plays in both their personal and professional development. By dedicating some of their precious time to continuous learning, leaders often generate more ideas for the business, solve more problems and create more breakthroughs. Of course, it’s likely they will be reading business or management related books written by highly successful entrepreneurs. Success leaves clues. By following and acting on specific advice and behavioural habits of successful people, the business owner will in turn become more successful.
They understand the process of giving and receiving. Successful people like win-win scenarios. Whilst business may be seen as cut-throat at times, those who seek to be winners at all costs will eventually be losers. It’s a small world and people remember when they were badly treated or were given the bad end of a deal.
This concept isn’t new and has been around since the early days in the Bible. Let’s adapt the “sowing and reaping” phrase, expanding on it to relate it to business:
If the soil is fertile (there is a market for the goods/services on offer) and you have good seed (your products/services are high quality), then the more you sow (market your services), the better the crop.
Of course, using this metaphor, some seed with fall on bad soil, some on stony ground and the birds will eat some (your competition). However, as long as you continue to sow the seed and tend the ground (customer service), you will reap a good crop.
Zig Ziglar said it best. “If you help enough people get what they want, then you can have all that you want.” Isn’t this so true? Good leaders understand this and that’s why they spend so much time sowing seeds.
7) Demonstrate Leadership
Good leaders demonstrate leadership. They get on with the job, ensuring they behave in a fitting manner, have time for people, listen well and they are patient; they persevere. I recall the saying, “when you go the extra mile, you won’t find much traffic.” Going the extra mile is done by the few, for the many. This is what sets people apart from others.
If you only answer the easy questions, then you will have a hard life. If you answer the hard questions, then you will have an easy life. Most people want an easy life but are not prepared to take the necessary actions to achieve it. They may work hard, but are they working smart?
To conclude this article, there are other traits that spring to mind which I’ll quickly sum up. It’s fine to follow other guru’s or leaders as part of your development. However, be yourself rather than a clone. A leader respects, challenges, values, adopts and adapts, but rarely copies.
A leader is unique. You could say they’re similar to your favourite super-hero in many ways. They have strengths and weaknesses, gritty determination to overcome challenges, wisdom to seek information, help and advice where required, think on their feet, adapt to changes in a situation, have a strong understanding of who they are and what they stand for and never, ever, ever give up!7 Habits Of Highly Effective Business Owners - how many do you possess? Click To Tweet