In a previous post, I wrote about the traits that every entrepreneur should have. Many entrepreneurs are also skilled leaders, but this isn’t always the case. In general, entrepreneurs are visionaries who attempt to fill some sort of need that they identify in any industry. Leadership, however, goes further than this due to its social nature. In this post, I will highlight the 4 traits that every successful leader must have.
Communication is one of the most important keys to becoming a successful leader. Most of the work that leaders do involves interacting with people—either in face-to-face meetings or via written communication. Clear communication helps build trust. A leader must be able to stand before a group of employees or customers and explain or outline the direction of the organization. On a personal level, employees want to feel valued by their leader. The leader who knows how to properly speak to subordinates earns their respect and trust. On the other hand, if a leader cannot communicate clearly then the organization is in trouble. The leader that fails to make others understand his/her vision will not last long.
Optimists make better leaders. Optimism is inspiring and infectious. Optimistic leaders see solutions where pessimistic leaders only see hindrances. The most successful leaders have faced setbacks throughout their careers but have never given up. In 1985, for example, Apple fired Steve Jobs. Another example: before Bernard Marcus founded Home Depot, he was fired from Handy Dan, a California home improvement store. Jobs and Marcus were not pessimists, so they did not give up. Instead, they created new businesses and found success. These are just two examples of optimistic leaders, but there are many similar stories. Success often takes years, and optimistic leaders never give up. They believe that the future will be better for themselves and their business.
Successful leaders do not lack confidence. Jobs and Marcus did not give up after facing setbacks because their confidence sustained them and propelled them forward. When an organization faces a setback, everyone looks to the leader. He/she needs to display confidence in order to reassure everyone. Confident leaders are unafraid to take risks. They also accept feedback more easily than people who lack confidence. Ultimately if a leader lacks confidence, he/she won’t be very effective and followers will stop trusting him/her.
Every leader has a vision. True leaders know where the organization should go in the future, and they have an idea of how to get there. A company that lacks a vision for its future is like a tire stuck in the mud: it won’t go anywhere. The best leaders use every skill they have to inspire followers to adopt their vision. Many leaders use storytelling to explain their vision. Stories grab the audience’s attention, and the best stories inspire followers to act. A powerful vision can attract top talent to an organization; it can make people work harder, and it can make employees more engaged with their work.