As an entrepreneur, you might have a solid idea for a new product or service, and a strong business plan to back it up, but if you want your startup to have a chance at long-term success, you need to have the leadership qualities necessary to take your vision from dream to reality. Leaders serve multiple roles. They motivate, act as role models, and serve as figureheads for their companies.
Literally, you don’t have to have employees to be a leader. Leadership qualities are essential in how you deal with your contractors, customers, clients and the general marketplace.
In this article I will discuss the essential qualities of business leaders. Most qualities of a leader are qualitative, difficult to measure them, capture, or review in a concrete way. Rather we can merely look to anecdotal examples or psychological studies to see which qualities good leaders possess.
A successful leader will always have one eye toward the future. He thinks several steps ahead on every problem and is always looking for new opportunities for growth.
Good leaders possess self-confidence. People who appear confident attract others and make them feel secure. Confidence will help you win clients, customers, joint ventures, and even investors, because you’ll have an easier time convincing people you’re worth doing business.
Communication is the most important skill any leader must possess. It has the power to enhance all your other skills. Communication skills make sales, rally the team, resolve issues, negotiate deals, recover from PR disasters, and make pitches to media or investors.
Entrepreneur’s self-care. The best entrepreneurs understand that the health of their bodies and minds are crucial to success, and they’re willing to spend a few extra hours each day getting enough sleep, eating the right foods, getting exercise, and reading new materials. For instance, if you develop insomnia and make unhealthy eating choices, your productivity is going to suffer, and you won’t be able to lead as effectively.
As a leader, adaptability is essential. No matter how much you research your business idea, unforeseen developments and market changes can compromise your chances of success. You need to be able to adapt and make changes on the fly. If you cling too much to old ideas, you may not be able to survive.
Successful leaders take risks—as long as they’ve calculated the odds of success and are comfortable moving forward. Starting a business is a risk, so naturally, there is a level of risk-taking inherent in entrepreneurs. That can be a good thing, if controlled, because it can allow you to do things other entrepreneurs who play it safe won’t do, and therefore set you apart.
Leaders embrace education and continual learning. Like it or not, many of the greatest leaders throughout history, and in business, have been formally educated. Learning equip you with the skills and knowledge you need to make better decisions. However, learning isn’t just done on college campuses. Leaders are also readers, for the purpose of keeping up on trends and staying relevant.
As a leader, one of your biggest responsibilities is decision-making. You won’t always make the “right” decisions. But you’ll be the one who needs to make decisions—and you’ll experience the results and be held accountable for them. If you procrastinate on decision-making, you won’t perform well in stressful situations that demand your immediate attention—and action.
The real takeaway here shouldn’t be an evaluation of whether or not you’re currently fit for leadership, instead, you should use this information as a guide to sort out your own key characteristics, decide what’s important to you as a leader, and move forward from there.
The author is a Business Coach.