All great business leaders should have these five character traits. Learn what they are and why they’re important.
Whether you are the CEO of a large corporation, a small-business owner, or running a non-profit organization, if you are in charge then you must inspire others to follow your lead. So what, then, are the character traits of a great business leader?
From my thirty years of experience, which included leading a large corporation and coaching others to lead theirs, I’ve narrowed it down. Here are my top five:
Focus: Know what you want. This is foundational for a good business. Once you formulate your personal and strategic visions clearly, you will be able to share them with others and lay out the groundwork for both small and large successes.
Passion: You need to love what you do, and inspire others with a sense of urgency. The rest of the pack will follow your energy and enthusiasm. If it’s unauthentic, there will be fakeness in the commitment of your followers, impacting results.
Vulnerability: Make good on your promises, and own up to your mistakes when you make them. Transparency builds trust. If you, the leader, are willing to become vulnerable and risk exposure (e.g., disclose strengths, weaknesses and potential blind spots), you will be more approachable, opening up venues for communication, heightened trust and risk-taking.
Courage: No one said it was going to be easy. In order to lead, you also have to learn not to take things personally as you continue to be fearless. Some will disagree with your decisions, and some decisions will be difficult ones to make. When you can’t see the top of the staircase, you must still have the faith to take that next step.
Loyalty: Do your best for your clan. When I built, led and ran a coffee-growing business in Papua New Guinea, 2400 tribal members looked to me to provide them with a living. Let your employees see that you have their best interest at heart.
As with all things in life, challenges will come your way in your business and with your employees. As a leader, it’s your job to be a calm and grounded presence, a compass in the storms. Let your character stand out. David Brooks, who recently authored The Road to Character, said it best, first quoting Immanuel Kant: “Out of the crooked timber of humanity, no straight thing was ever made.” Brooks concludes that people in this “crooked school of humanity have an acute awareness of their own flaws and believe character is built in the struggle against their own weaknesses.”
These are traits the clan will follow. It pays to be self-aware. How do you lead your followers?