A Business Guide to Good Leadership
Here we look at what makes at good leader and how to make leadership work in practice for your small business
Whether you own a company or are simply a manager in one, good leadership skills are crucial. An excellent leader does not just ensure his team are running efficiently, but can shape an organisation as a whole and take it to new heights. Often, entrepreneurs will start a business with a great idea and impeccable business plan, and are thrust into the role of leader when that business takes off and starts taking on staff. Not everyone is born with these leadership skills, but they can be learnt.
You might think that ‘leadership’ is a business buzzword covering innate qualities that are difficult to quantify or pin down. Whilst this is true to an extent, all of us can become better leaders by understanding the common traits great leaders share and trying to emulate them in our own actions.
This article will help you to do this – covering what makes a good leader, how you can apply leadership skills in practice and where to get inspiration for your overall vision.
What makes a good leader?
There is no one right answer to this question, and thousands of people throughout history have attempted to define good leadership in innumerable different ways. Having said this, in a business context, good leaders will generally share a number of common traits. These might include:
- Having a vision: Good leaders will see where a business needs to go, and will know how they are going to get there. They will be especially good at managing resources, including how best to utilise people’s skills.
- Authority: A good leader will have the trust of their team, and the skills and knowledge to back it up.
- Confidence: This doesn’t necessarily mean arrogance. If you are to be truly effective as a leader, you need to be confident in your own abilities and communicate this confidence to those working under you. A leader who is unsure of themselves risks spreading this attitude throughout their organisation.
- Motivation: All good leaders are good motivators. An effective leader will help people to see the worth and purpose of what they are doing to make it worthwhile. By setting a good example in this way, leaders will also inspire others towards leadership.
- Innovative: Part of constantly moving forward as a leader is having the creative nous to constantly spot new opportunities and take risks. A lack of innovation will lead to complacency.
- Conviction: A good leader will have the conviction to see an idea or project through, regardless of the obstacles they face.
Where do I get my ideas as a leader?
To have a vision as a leader, you must have original ideas. The trouble is that you will be hard-pressed to find original thinking in the confines of an office environment; to truly drive a business forward you must look externally for inspiration.
Of course, we can’t prescribe exactly where to get your ideas from as a leader – a degree of critical and original thinking is always required. However, some general approaches you could try include:
- Talking to other business leaders. If you personally know someone who inspires you as a leader, you would be foolish not to utilise this resource. Talk to them about where they got their ideas and how they ensure continued success.
- Running ideas past friends. If you have had a ‘eureka’ moment but aren’t sure whether the idea is viable, try explaining it to a friend who could give you critical feedback.
- Social media and networking. Your online peers and contacts could provide a source of inspiration.
- Blogs and web streams. The internet offers countless blogs and websites examining leadership and what makes a good leader.
- Autobiographies and biographies of successful people. This shouldn’t be necessarily limited to just those people who have achieved greatness in business, such as Richard Branson. Ideas inspired by the stories of great generals, politicians, activists or football managers are just as valid.
- Displacement activities. Activities such as walking or cycling are also good for coming up with ideas. By focusing your body on a mindless, routine activity, you leave your mind free to wander and come up with original ideas.