Small-business Advice: Traits of Great Leaders

What makes a great business leader, in your opinion? The ability to inspire passion and excitement among colleagues and employees? Amazing insights into what customers want and need? An uncanny ability to discard background noise and identify important trends in the marketplace?

Adam Toren at polled his readers for their ideas on what makes a great leader and culled a top 10 list of leadership characteristics. His favorite was the one that a defined a leader as a person who “empowers his people to do their best by believing in them, guiding them and being an example.”

Other readers said an exceptional entrepreneur should lead, earn the respect of his [or her] team members, demonstrate flexibility and not be afraid to take risks.

Looking for some other ideas on leadership? Business Pundit has 12 quotes from Hall of Fame basketball player and coach John Wooden. A leader is “someone who can give correction without causing resentment,” [he says] and [adds,] “Failure is not fatal, but failure to change might be.”

Several business blogs, including Small Business Trends, are also buzzing over Susan Scott’s Fierce Leadership book. From the reviews, it sounds like Scott makes the case that leaders need to employ radical levels of honesty and transparency in dealing with their employees. In a brief interview on Amazon’s website, Scott notes, “If you want to become a great leader, you must gain the capacity to connect with your colleagues and customers at a deep level.”

Finally, in her Power Speaker blog, Suzanne Bates talks about leaders can use storytelling to share leadership lessons. Bates says that stories can be a great way to communicate such lessons—as long as leaders avoid telling stories that meander, are too vague or go on too long. The goal is to keep stories brief, clear and to the point. If you’re having trouble developing the story, Bates suggests telling the story outline to a friend or partner who can ask questions and help you clarify the most powerful leadership lessons.

What do you think are the essential characteristics of a great business leader? What are some other leadership skills you admire in others or try to cultivate in your own leadership role? What are some of your favorite business quotes? Have you used stories as a leadership tool or been in the audience when a speaker delivered a great leadership story?

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