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Tim Millett
Published by Tim Millett
08 October 2013

Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, Richard Branson; the list of great business leaders of our time goes on. There are many qualities that are common to successful business leaders and attributes that make them influential and see them not only inspire but also add outstanding value to the organisations they lead.

So, what makes a great business leader? Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Cosmetics, summarised many of the most important attributes of great leaders when she said, “We need leaders who work for the benefit of others and not just for their own personal gain. Leaders who inspire and motivate, not intimidate and manipulate; who live with people to know their problems in order to solve them and who follow a moral compass that points in the right directions regardless of trends.”

Here are 10 qualities common to great business leaders:

1: Courage

Winston Churchill described courage as the human quality that ‘…guarantees all others’. Great business leaders definitely need to be courageous — to face fears, to do the right thing, to face competition and manage business failures and challenges. A number of great business leaders have shown tremendous courage in turning obstacles into opportunities.

2: Self control

In so many contexts, control over one’s emotions is pivotal to success; unsurprisingly, many great business leaders are effective in exercising control over themselves, their responses, attitudes and their dealings with others.

3: An excellent sense of judgement

Great business leaders are able to ascertain right from wrong. Leaders confront dilemmas and situations where instinct and a sound sense of judgement are required; for example, business leaders will quite often have to respond situations that involve staff conflict, poor performance of staff members or customer complaints. An excellent sense of judgement when making decisions in difficult or stressful situations is imperative to being a great business leader.

4: Certainty when making decisions

One of the primary responsibilities of a business leader is accepting ownership of their decisions and the outcomes – regardless of whether the consequences are positive or negative. The support of an effective business team is of course important, but ultimately a team provides input and the leader makes the final judgment. Outstanding business leaders consider and evaluate information carefully but quickly and are firm and definite when making decisions.

5: Astute planning

Commonly, excellent business leaders are strategic planners. To be effective in this way, great business leaders know how to plan objectively and strategically whilst comprehending the details provided by their teams so that they have a solid foundation from which to make decisions and implement actions.

6: Understanding and appreciation

Outstanding leaders are able to appreciate the potential of their people in relation to the climate and industry in which their business operates. Great business leaders show appreciation and look for opportunities to develop their staff through quality training, such as sales training, customer service training or development of future leaders, or alternative forms of positive recognition that empower the team.

7: Responsibility

Accountability and responsibility are keys to being a great leader. Great business leaders know that they hold responsibility for the actions of their teams and the ability to take responsibility differentiates a leader from a follower.

8: Team work

Although a business leader carries ultimate responsibility and is charged with making important decisions, they never work alone. Instead, they ensure that effective and highly skilled people are in place to support them, enabling particular duties to be delegated. With excellent people around them, great business leaders know they will receive high-quality advice and guidance.

9: Character

Good business leaders exemplify character traits such as charisma, self-confidence, integrity, honesty and the ability to interact with a range of people. Outstanding leaders are respected for their honesty, clear thinking, intellect and ability to engage others.

10: Risk taking

The most successful business leaders have an entrepreneurial spirit and are confident in taking calculated risks when they see an opportunity for their business to advance and their profitability to increase. Great business leaders are able to recognise when a risk is worth taking for the good of the business.

Great business leaders share many attributes that inspire the confidence of others and lead to successful outcomes for their organisations.

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