The Art and Craft of Great Leadership Past winners of our annual Entrepreneur contest share their leadership secrets.

By Kara Ohngren Prior

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Steering a team through the ups-and-downs of growing a business can be one of the greatest challenges entrepreneurs face. But, the skills and talents necessary can be rather straightforward, and anyone with the determination can develop them.

Here are four tips from successful business owners recognized as top leaders by Entrepreneur magazine's annual awards, which spotlight entrepreneurs making a positive impact.

1. Assemble a dedicated team. "I'm really happy when we all just get along and we have a team of people who continues to put value where I do," says Entrepreneur of 2011 Lee Rhodes, founder of Glassybaby, a Seattle-based company that makes hand-blown glass votive candleholders. "We're in a really great place."

2. Empower your employees. "I have [employees] that are ahead of me in every area," says Entrepreneur of 2010 Daniel Lubetzky, founder of KIND Healthy Snacks, a New York-based maker of all-natural snack bars. "First create an environment that's fun and mission-driven. You then empower people." Tell them what the challenges are and allow them to tackle them, he says.

3. Foster a culture of innovation. When you're brainstorming phase, don't censor yourself, Lubetzky says. Just let everything out with your team, and don't try to stop the creativity, let it flow and come up with crazy ideas," he says. "Only later, after you have all your ideas, should you start filtering through the right parameters."

4. Dole out credit. Rick Alden, founder of Skullcandy, a Park City, Utah, company that makes headphones and earbuds in bright colors and stylish patterns, says he can't do without his team. "Getting the right crew is the secret to our success," says Alden, Entrepreneur of 2009.

Are you a leader making a difference to your industry, employees and community? Consider applying for Entrepreneur magazine's Entrepreneur of 2012 awards. Deadline is June 15.

Who do you think deserves a shot at Entrepreneur of 2012? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Kara Ohngren is a freelance writer and part-time editor at YoungEntrepreneur. Her work has appeared in publications including Entrepreneur Magazine, The New York Times, MSNBC, The Huffington Post and Business Insider.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

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