Many writers have penned essays on the characteristics, behaviors, values and attitudes that spell success for the entrepreneurial leader. My top 10 list goes further, blending the theoretical, practical and the common sense based on 25 years I've spent in the field assessing, coaching and consulting leaders.

  1. The successful leader has a vision: Think things through and know where you want to go and how you want to get there. Work with others to ensure a vision is followed through. Direct the actions and resources toward making it a reality.
  2. The successful leader communicates well: Articulate a vision clearly to others. Encourage two-way communication between managers and non-managers and always be available to others. Strive to be succinct and specific about directions and instructions. Above all, a good leader avoids generalizations and ambiguities that can lead to misunderstanding, conflict and poor performance.
  3. The successful leader supports and guides the employees: Start by helping others clarify and achieve goals by identifying and removing any obstacles. Provide the resources (time, money, people, information and equipment) needed to complete the task. Don't reprimand others who make mistakes when taking a well-calculated risk. Instead, critique and analyze what went wrong and what went right. Next, work with the employee to correct the error. Decide whether another attempt at a previous goal is necessary, and offer encouragement if it is. During the entire process, provide appropriate feedback to ensure positive attitudes and actions. Serve as a model of good attitude and use approaches that others can emulate.
  4. The successful leader believes in his/herself: A good leader possesses a strong sense of confidence, built upon years of learning, experimenting and at times failing--but always growing. Be aware of personal strengths and limitations, and demonstrate those skills and talents without boasting. Assume responsibility for faults and personal errors without hiding them or blaming others, and know that if a mistake occurs, it does not equate inadequacy. A successful leader believes that he or she can turn around a negative situation by re-examining the variables and other circumstances--with input from others, when necessary.
  5. The successful leader creates the atmosphere that encourages others to grow and thrive: Know that no one individual possesses all of the answers. By appreciating the role that motivational techniques can play in improving employee performance, you can work with others to increase organizational productivity and improve individual job satisfaction. Here are some tips on how to create a motivational atmosphere:

    Ask people their opinion rather than telling them yours.

    When people ask you for solutions, have them come up with answers or options rather than telling them the best way to resolve a situation. Discuss the merits of their views and how to make them successful.

    Provide positive feedback when employees voice their opinions. Offer suggestions or try to resolve challenges. Reinforcing behavior on your part will encourage more spontaneity, thinking and innovation on their part.

    Ask questions, even when you don't know the answer. Ask employees challenging questions that encourage them to think, plan and react. Above all, encourage employees to challenge themselves.

    Encourage employees to take appropriate risks. Support them when they do and also when the outcome of risk-taking isn't positive. In those cases, evaluate what went wrong and encourage other, more appropriate risks.
     
  6. The successful leader manages by walking around: By getting out of the office and walking around the department, plant or building to interact with other employees, you get an opportunity to see people on the line doing daily tasks. Create an opportunity to informally chat with employees and learn something more about their work challenges and lives.
  7. The successful leader acts and reacts in an honest manner: Authors and creators of The Leadership Challenge program Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner report that honesty is the No. 1 characteristic of superior leaders. Honest leaders easily build trust and confidence. Their employees are more apt to work harder, ask questions and respect leaders who come across as honest. Employees will also accept critiques, whether positive or negative, from leaders they trust and believe.
  8. The successful leader creates and fosters a learning environment: Recognize that increased knowledge, more job experience and challenging different mind-sets increases worker satisfaction, motivation and productivity. Frequently encourage others to think outside-the-box and see issues from alternate perspectives.
  9. The successful leader perseveres: Don't deflect from achieving goals simply because obstacles exist or no answer is readily available. Continue in your pursuit of excellence despite barriers and criticism, and encourage the same attitude in others.
  10. The successful leader shares successes: Know that positive outcomes are rarely the result of only one person's attempts or input. A self-confident entrepreneur shares the limelight and accolades with others who contributed to the final product or service.