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What Is a Business Leader?
A business leader is someone who motivates a group of people in order to achieve a common goal in a company. This can be someone in a position of power, like a vice president or chief executive officer of a major company, or the editor-in-chief or a newspaper. It can also be someone lower on the ladder, like a team leader or a sales associate. In other words, you don’t have to be a billionaire to be a leader: Anyone with the right skills, regardless of their position in a company or organization, can be a business leader.
The 5 Qualities Every Good Business Leader Demonstrates
Whether you’re the co-founder of a giant, successful business like Salesforce, General Motors, Netflix, or Nike, or are simply trying to get your own company off the ground, a good business leader possesses a number of key qualities that allow them to succeed in a leadership role:
- Curiosity: Great leaders remain curious at all stages of their career. They are always seeking out new ideas and innovative tactics in hopes of continuously improving their business. This curiosity and willingness to try new things can have a trickle-down effect on company culture, as the best leaders encourage their team members to be ever-inquiring and inventive as well.
- Self-assessment: Successful business leaders occasionally pause to survey their own strengths and (more importantly) weaknesses. A good leader will examine their vulnerabilities and shortcomings. Doing so makes the team stronger, allowing them to delegate tasks to team members with the abilities they lack. Successful leaders will also identify their weaknesses so that they can improve upon those areas in the future.
- Communication: Successful leadership requires open communication with the rest of your team. That means not only clearly articulating business goals and expectations for your team, but also being responsive to the group’s needs. Clear communication is especially important with a decentralized workforce—these days, it’s not uncommon for leaders to be responsible for team members scattered everywhere from New York to Los Angeles to Omaha. Great leadership occasionally involves laying down the law, but it more often requires the emotional intelligence to detect the subtle wants and needs of a diverse and dispersed team. Strong teams are forged through clear, effective communication from the top-down.
- Goal setting: An essential aspect of good leadership is setting clear business goals for your company, your team, and yourself. Successful entrepreneurs and business leaders are more likely to motivate their team to do the hard work necessary to achieve big picture goals when they are able to clearly articulate their step-by-step vision for how to produce the desired results.
- Risk taking: The business world is full of challenges, and effective business leadership entails knowing when to take risks in order to solve problems. A true leader is willing to try unconventional or risky strategies in order to boost performance or achieve goals. Risk taking is not the same as recklessness, however, and anyone in a leadership role should be collecting data and running scenarios to inform their decision-making, even when it’s risky.
How to Become a Successful Business Leader
Many great business leaders seem to have an innate knack for leadership. However, business leadership is something that can be learned, taught, and practiced. Let’s take a look at some strategies that can help you become a better business leader:
- Cultivate your own leadership style. Great leaders often possess a combination of various leadership qualities, such as creativity, motivation, vision, and empathy. However, the most successful leaders are able to adapt to the needs of different situations, employing their diverse set of leadership skills in order to achieve their goals. Different leadership styles produce different results, and certain personalities are suited to different styles of leadership. Once you understand what type of leader you are, you will have a better sense of your strengths, weaknesses, and the type of communication that will make you a better leader and motivate your team to go all in.
- Figure it out as you go. You don’t need to go to business school to achieve business success. Don’t wait until you’ve figured out the full trajectory of your future business before getting started on your big idea. Everybody is constantly learning as they go. If you look at someone and think, “They’ve got this whole business thing down pat,” look again, and imagine yourself in that person’s shoes. What kinds of thoughts and insecurities might you have in their position? Everyone is human, and everyone has doubts, even some of the most influential business leaders. Combat self-doubt by practicing personal affirmations, maintaining a positive attitude, and educating yourself about the field you’re attempting to break into, and you’ll feel prepared for anything.
- Develop a clear mission statement. Business leadership requires vision. You need to stay focused on something that will keep pushing you forward. Why are you doing this? Why is it important? Turn the answers to these questions into your business’s mission statement. A mission statement is a distillation of your business’ core values which serve as the guiding principles that inform company culture, common goals for product development, and the overall work environment. This is as much for you as it is for the people who will be working for you and with you—no matter what sort of business you’re trying to start, it’s crucial to align yourself and your team on the why behind the what.
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