6 Undeniable Characteristics of Successful Business Leaders and What They Actually Entail

Visionary. Articulate. Reachable. These are some of the traits we see over and over again in those who have reached iconic status.
6 Undeniable Characteristics of Successful Business Leaders and What They Actually Entail

Bill Gates

Image credit: Michael Gottschalk | Getty Images
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Leadership? Basically, it's the ability to get across an idea to a group of people. Over the years, I have studied the lives of a number of individuals I consider to be outstanding business leaders, and it is clear to me how certain qualities always stand out. These people seem to have several characteristics in common which distinguish them, irrespective of the field they are in.

Related: 22 Qualities That Make a Great Leader

These traits can be complex, so it is little wonder that they are not easily understood or applied.

Following is a breakdown of these traits and how they can serve your company.

1. Visionary

To be a visionary business leader means that you've created your business out of a vision (or at least adopted one) and have devoted your every effort to its achievement. Business leaders should find a way to figure out how to make a profit from the fulfillment of a clear vision, and not the other way round.

The power of a clear and concise vision is exemplified in Bill Gates's powerful visionary statement in 1980, “A computer on every desk and in every home.” Fast-forward 37 years: Gates is one of the richest business leaders in the world, having done exactly what he said he would.

2. Articulate

To be articulate means to be clear about objectives. Business leaders must try their best to be clear about their business vision, objectives and daily directives. While acticulateness alone will prompt adherence from partners and employees, the results will rarely be exceptional unless the leader is also clear about the “why” behind those instructions, decisions and directives.

To be this kind of leader, learn to give instructions your employees will actually follow. If they can see exactly what you see, chances are they will go over and above what you say.

3. Resilient

Resilience means the ability to recover from setbacks, adapt well to change and keep going in the face of adversity. It’s the ability of a business leader to maintain an optimistic and positive mindset despite whatever might go wrong.

Related: 3 Leadership Qualities You Need When Facing a Big Challenge

It also means consistency in pattern and behavior, or what might be called integral daily practices (IDP). The key to resilience in this form is to study your style of leadership and build a routine that works best for you. Speaking of IDP, Sven Hansen of the Resilience Institute has said, “If one thing protects and builds resilience, it is integral daily practice. Here, we transform ideas into actions that create the freedom of resilience. IDP is the fuel of growth. Discovering the right IDP and shaping it into one’s life is the making of resilience.”

As leader, you can run a disciplined team that doesn’t give excuses only if you are resilient and in some form predictable. This kind of resilience involves flexibility as the business goes.

4. Reachable

To be reachable demands that you be raccessible to your team, both mentally and emotionally. It requires that you listen and make sure you hear; and sometimes this may involve repeating what you understand, for confirmation, and setting aside your pre-conceptions and ideas.

Christine Riordan, a leadership coach and \president of Adelphi University, has explained how to listen to employees, saying, “Leaders… don’t make assumptions. They drill down into the content of the conversation and verify what they’ve heard. They typically ask questions like, 'Here’s what I thought you said; is that correct?'”

As leader, you may think that there is no room for emotions in the workplace, but the truth is that there is emotion; it's just mostly likely negative.

5. Empathetic

To be empathetic simply means to make tangible efforts to understand the problem and articulate the reason for your response as properly as possible, whether it is the response the parties to that problem were hoping for or not.

In a popular Harvard Business Review article titled "What Makes a Leader?" Daniel Goleman isolated three reasons why empathy is so important: the increasing use of teams, the rapid pace of globalization and the growing need to retain talent. "Leaders with empathy," Goleman wrote, "do more than sympathize with people around them: they use their knowledge to improve their companies in subtle, but important ways."

6. Flexible

Every business leader must be flexible enough to know when to modify a plan or a system and when to totally overhaul it. Leaders must know when their leadership methods need to be tweaked or totally changed.

Books have been written on business success and have helped many businesses, but the books written 20 years ago are hardly still relevant today. So, keep your vision before you, but feel free to change your methods once that's required.

Related: 5 Unforgettable Leadership Qualities for Successful Entrepreneurs

Summing all this up is a quote from Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric, who said: “When you were made a leader, you weren’t given a crown; you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” That is what matters most in the end.

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