Business leaders often share similar traits. Some contribute directly to their success. Some just go along with the personality, background and choices of successful leaders. How many do you have?
Successful business leaders are able to set a course toward meaningful goals and clear future outcomes.
This is a commonly occurring trait that can be a mixed blessing. Too much focus on pursuing a vision can lead to disaster if you’re inflexible and overly demanding, but it also helps these leaders to stand out from the crowd and achieve remarkable success. Visionary leaders often have, or make an effort to learn, the art of negotiating in order to move toward their goals.
Steve Jobs and Hayao Miyazaki are examples of leaders who were absolutely devoted to pursuing their vision – but were also acknowledged to be challenging to work with and for. Their careers had clear ups and downs, but their ultimate success in their respective business ventures is also universally acknowledged.
Risk-taking often goes along with vision. To achieve something worthwhile, even remarkable, a leader has to be willing to take some calculated risks and go beyond the safe and familiar paths.
Of course, risk-taking also has the potential to be disastrous. Leaders who are too comfortable taking risks can overextend themselves, their teams and their resources. Ruined businesses, failed start-ups and shuttered storefronts are often the result.
Business leaders who achieve success sometimes have a partner or trusted team member who brings balance to their risk-taking ways. If you tend toward risky decision-making, then seek out those people who ask good questions and try to understand the potential benefits and challenges of a decision to help you manage your risk-taking and improve your outcomes.
There are many paradoxes in business (and life). It’s important to niche down and have deep focus on one thing in order to avoid distraction and waste. It’s also important to diversify so that a downturn or crisis in one area doesn’t destroy everything.
Successful leaders guide their businesses in focusing when they need to, but they also incorporate strategic diversification for the good of the whole business.
Evangelos Marinakis and Elon Musk are examples of success with this strategy. Marinakis’s ventures span shipping and transport, professional sports and media. Elon Musk’s ventures range from electric vehicles to solar energy and space travel.
Deep focus leads to quality and efficiency. Diversification leads to stability and insulates against risks. The right balance between the two is key to business success.
Successful business leaders are lifelong learners.
This doesn’t mean that they collect degrees, certifications and academic credentials like trading cards. Learning takes many forms. Some leaders are always reading about business principles, case studies and biographies, and sector-specific knowledge. Others listen to podcasts, seek out mentorship, or engage in research and industry development groups.
Leaders need self-confidence and know when it’s time to stop studying and start acting, but successful leaders know that listening to the wisdom and knowledge of others helps them on the road to success.
Learning can be a distraction from what you need to do, or the catalyst for the next step in your business’s growth. Consider what challenges you will face in the immediate and longer-term future, and look for accessible ways to prepare. You can always improve, and listening can help expose opportunities that you otherwise would have missed, so if you want a successful business, then be intentional about it.
Successful business leaders recognise that they are part of a larger world.
Your business does not exist in a vacuum. You are surrounded by other people in the form of suppliers, customers, colleagues and competitors. The movements of cultures and societies can affect you, and the natural world and its resources can have a real bearing on the opportunities and challenges that your business faces.
A generous posture toward the world around you can lead to more success, and a more holistic definition of success. Benefits range from mental health to public relations, and tax breaks to alliances.
Examples of successful leaders who are known for their generosity to charities include J.K. Rowling and Bill and Melinda Gates. In other cases, a giving attitude is integrated right into the nature of the business. The founders of Lush Cosmetics emphasise products that are friendly to people and the planet, as well as sponsoring and promoting additional charitable causes. Giving is a key part of their vision.
It takes many traits and competencies to be successful in business, and every leader has a different mix in their make-up, but these are some of the key commonalities that business leaders can identify and develop to contribute to their own success.