Six traits of great leaders
By Maina Gachanjah
| Jan 10th 2018 | 4 min read
Starting a business in the current market environment can seem daunting to a first-time entrepreneur.
There many pitfalls waiting, from the aftermath of a long electioneering period and a stifled credit environment to fast-moving tech, stiff competition and taxation laws.
However, there will never be a perfect time to live out your dream. If you’re the faint-hearted kind, you’re likely to throw in the towel when you look at the risks around entrepreneurship.
But it’s important to keep in mind that not everyone is cut out to be their own boss. For the most part, you’ll be lonely in the wilderness of business and if you can’t drag yourself through the start-up stage, chances are you won’t stay committed long enough to witness growth.
And while we may admire Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey and other business leaders on Forbes’ lists of the most successful entrepreneurs, they didn’t make their fortunes overnight.
The following are the skills they, and others like them, mastered in their journey to being what they became.
1. Do more
Most successful people in business know that to stay ahead of the pack, they must be more knowledgeable than ordinary people in matters strategy, marketing, management, economics, finance and customer service management.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos is a well-read thinker who demands excellence from his staff and gets it because he models it himself.
To be a successful business leader, create time every morning to keep tabs on local and international issues surrounding your sector of interest. Remember, you can’t be a good business leader if you’re not a good reader.
Keeping abreast of what’s happening will not only give you an edge over your competition, but also bring people your way who are drawn to your opinions, solutions and direction.
With adequate management, communication and persuasion skills, it becomes easy to rally stakeholders in your business towards a common goal.
Business risks can be unnerving at times, but renowned business owners win the war by holding themselves back from hitting the quit button. They face risks head on.
The former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill once said: “Success is defined as walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”
You can’t afford to sit back and wait for success to come knocking at your door. You have to hunt for it.
If you want to be successful in business, you may need to teach yourself to start enjoying pain, suffering and hunger as you wait for your vision to be realised.
Passion should be your driving force and will come in handy when you’re called upon to adapt to changes in the business environment or when your team needs motivation to stay focussed on your vision and mission.
3. Strong work ethic
Nobody does business with a person who has inconsistent promises, product quality, services, character or values.
To stay in the lead, make an effort to observe a universally accepted code of ethics that governs commerce locally and internationally.
American investor Warren Buffett puts it this way: “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
Cutting corners may make you a quick dollar in the short term, but you’ll certainly lose out in the long term.
4. Ability to embrace failure
Many hopeful entrepreneurs get stuck in the rut known as ‘analysis paralysis’. They analyse the business environment over and over, waiting for the optimal conditions to set up their company. But once they finally take the plunge, they’re quick to quit when hit by an unforeseen hurricane.
Thomas Edison cheekily defended his failed attempts at making a perfect incandescent electric light bulb as follows: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Face the fear of failure, conquer it and acquire the strength to make viable decisions while even in the worst of storms. There’s no shame in going back to your strategy canvas over and over.
5. Constant innovation
This touches on all sorts of things, including the way you develop products or service propositions, write business emails, dress, talk on the phone, serve your existing clients, and deal with your senior and junior management team.
Continually change and restructure your business processes to align your company to changing times and client needs.
Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg advises budding entrepreneurs to move fast and break things.
He goes on to say that unless you’re breaking some social order or some structured way of thinking, then you are not moving fast enough.
Successful businesses constantly improve their products, services and processes to maintain a market lead.
6. Keep learning
Take it from business mogul, investor and philanthropist Richard Branson: “The best way of learning about anything is by doing.”
You won’t always have all the answers when you go into business, and that’s alright. Don’t be afraid of making endless blunders or learning and unlearning new ways of doing things.
Every setback, crisis or business scenario offers you an opportunity to learn new ways of solving problems.
Do not be afraid to ask questions or research on best business practices that you can leverage on for future success.
Stay humble and focused, and have the patience to learn, even from entrepreneurs who have been in the game for fewer years than you have. They may have a vast knowledge base that you could rely on for business prosperity in a fast-changing world.
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