Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. Richard Branson. What do all these people have in common? Aside from the fact, they’re all rolling in cash, they were all grassroots entrepreneurs that went on to become CEOs of major corporations. And how did they do it? The answer is simple, they weren’t just entrepreneurs they were great leaders.
In this article, we’re going to be revealing the 10 essential leadership qualities that an entrepreneur needs to be a great leader and will also be going into detail about how these qualities can benefit your business.
But first, let’s talk about why good leadership is important to entrepreneurial success.
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Why leadership qualities are important for entrepreneurs
The Oxford dictionary definition of an entrepreneur is as follows “a person who sets up a business or businesses, taking on financial risks in the hope of profit.” Entrepreneurs are more than just a manager of a company, they are every part of a business, from the ideation to the bankroll.
In many cases, entrepreneurs work alone especially when you’re first getting the ball rolling with a particular idea. In many ways this is a great thing, it means you can give the business your undivided attention, but at some point, when you begin to scale up, you’ll need to be able to invite others into the mix and inspire them with the unique passions and drive that you have for your business.
When this inevitable step happens, the entrepreneur finds themselves at the head of the whole operation because it’s them that has control of the purse strings. It’s at this point that many people fall short because they need to possess a whole different set of skills, they need to be able to lead people.
To effectively step into this role, there are a number of qualities that an entrepreneur needs to possess. Keep reading to find out what they are and why they’re important.
10 leadership qualities that great leaders should possess
Here’s our list of 10 leadership qualities that will help entrepreneurs to become great leaders. This list is by no means exhaustive, but it contains the most important qualities that every great leader needs.
1. Team building
The first skill that any entrepreneur needs is the ability to put together a team that is committed and capable of getting the job done. Once this team is assembled, you’ll also need to inspire them to have the same drive and passion that you do for the business and make them a true part of the success of the business.
When putting together a team, you first need to highlight your areas of need and create a shortlist of people you think might be right for the job. Then establish a set of values that you think would make a person the right fit for the job. This is a technique used by big companies like Apple and it helps you to distinguish between candidates who all seem exactly the same on paper.
Once they’re hired, it’s important that they’re inaugurated into the business in a way which leaves them invested in the company’s goals. Avoid just sitting them at a desk and telling them to get to work.
The more the new recruits know about the business and how it came to be, the more they will engage with the role and understand how their efforts benefit the company as a whole. This leaves employees feeling like part of a team as opposed to feeling like a dispensable seat filler.
2. Efficient communication
Communication is key to being a good leader and running a team effectively. According to the center for creative leadership, great leaders “Communicate information, thoughts, and ideas clearly — and frequently”. Where possible and appropriate, you should be sharing everything with your team and including in discussions that may involve them further down the line.
It’s important to establish a persona that people find approachable and have as many possible channels of communication open to your team and clients.
In this day and age, communicating efficiently is easier than ever before whether you’re an office-based team or a remote one. Aside from email and phone, you can open up instant messaging channels like Slack to allow employees to contact you easily and quickly whenever they have an issue.
Establishing links like this won’t only make getting in touch with you easier for employees, but it will also make it less daunting and it will break down any unnecessary divide between employee and manager. The more open and friendly the communication between you and your team is, the more efficient you will be as a whole.
This is a quality that many entrepreneurs find it difficult to get to grips with. If you’re used to doing everything yourself, it can be hard to adapt when you do have a skilled team around you that can help to lighten your load. However, it’s essential to learn how to delegate properly if you want to be a good leader.
If you’ve assembled a good team, they should be trusted to work efficiently and autonomously, and it’s essential that you let them do it. Micromanaging employees or doing work that should fall under their job description can come across as patronizing and passive-aggressive and if your employees are worth their salt, it won’t take long before they start to get fed up or offended.
If you do find it hard to delegate tasks in particular areas, set up a weekly meeting where you can discuss that particular topic in a collaborative way, and release the reigns to the relevant employee at all other times. That way you can have your say whilst still passing creative control to your employee.
Great leaders constantly have their finger on the pulse when it comes to motivating their team. If they notice motivation waning in one area or another, they immediately take action to rectify it.
To effectively motivate a group of people you first have to find motivation within yourself. It may sound cheesy, but you have to lead by example. That means no moaning and complaining about your workload to your staff. The passion that you show for your job will rub off on your staff.
In addition to this, you need to keep a close eye out for employees that are lacking in motivation or becoming complacent. This type of behavior is natural and shouldn’t be met with punishment. Instead, set these employees a new challenge for personal or professional growth and talk to them about things that inspire them.
As Inc. 500 Entrepreneur and best-selling author Kevin Daum puts it “Great leaders want their people to be their best and they are willing to help them get there”
5. Planning and foresight
In 2020, “300 companies declared bankruptcy in the U.S. this year and blamed Covid-19 in part for their demise” according to an article published by Bloomberg. Although this figure is in some part due to the unprecedented circumstances, it’s also due to a lack of foresight and planning.
To be a good leader, you need to be able to have the foresight to predict situations that may put your company and your employees at risk. Employees aren’t just numbers on a spreadsheet, they’re people with real lives and a real reliance on the income that the company provides. Great leaders will have contingency plans in place that will help them ride out even the most bizarre situations and retain as many employees as possible.
To run your company effectively, you’ll need to try and account for every eventuality, and ensure that your planning is top-notch so that your employees know what they need to do and what the company is working towards at all times.
6. Sharing success
Most business ideas are the brainchild of the entrepreneur in charge and therefore they often take credit for the success of the business where it isn’t actually due. Yes, you came up with the idea and set the wheels in motion of creating the business, but once you employ a team, it becomes a team effort, and the success becomes a joint triumph for all to enjoy.
As a leader you should be giving credit where credit is due and helping your employees to feel good about the contributions that they’ve made. If you don’t, your best minds may begin to feel undervalued and underappreciated and this leads to employee apathy and lack of motivation.
According to Resurg “Recognizing both individual and team achievement helps build a sense of solidarity and identity for the whole team.”
Holding regular praise events where you shoutout to the different members of the team for their personal achievements is a great way to share success. It can be a weekly team meeting or simply an email thanking the various members of the team for their specific contributions.
7. Listening to your team (and learning from them!)
One mistake many entrepreneurs make is thinking they know everything about everything. But the truth is, if they did, they would have no need for a team at all.
Most business teams are comprised of highly skilled individuals that are excellent at what they do and business owners and managers can learn a lot from them.
Instead of just doling out tasks to your employees, collaborate with them, and learn from them. Your business is much more likely to thrive when you have experts offering their guidance and opinions instead of just following instructions.
8. A clear vision
Employees are only as good as the direction that they are given, and if the vision coming from management is unclear, your team is likely to produce variable or less than adequate results.
As the executive coaches at Endless Possibilities put it “Great leaders are able to see beyond what’s possible today and look toward what is possible in the future.” And it’s important that you’re sharing this vision with your team so that you are all working towards the same overall goals.
Great leaders are personable and empathetic to the needs of their employees. Instead of treating their employees like task-completing robots, they treat them like humans and anticipate their human needs and support them emotionally.
Great leaders go beyond just offering the odd sick day and holiday pay, they make it ok for their employees to ask for help and support in any way they need to when exceptional circumstances arise.
If you want to connect and truly empathize with your staff on a human level, try to incorporate as many ‘non-work’ elements into your business strategy as you can. Companies like UK Fast made headlines for offering a range of employee benefits including dog kennels at work, health facilities, on-site creches for children, and extra days off for people celebrating birthdays and newlyweds.
Although ideas like this may be a little gimmicky, it shows the staff that you are thinking about them as people and that their work-life balance is just as important to you as it is to them.
To be a great leader you should be honest with yourself and others. Just because you have a managerial title, it doesn’t mean that you can’t make mistakes and when you do it’s important to own up to them and be honest.
Being honest with your team will help to form strong bonds quickly and it will make employees more comfortable with the idea of being honest with you. There may be times when employees need to share hard truths with you in regard to decisions that you or they have made. If your relationship is built on honesty and integrity, they will be less likely to conceal things that could be detrimental to the business further down the line.
Making the switch from entrepreneur to CEO of a company is not easy, but armed with the qualities above, you should be able to assemble and manage a happy and productive workforce and lead your business towards success. What do you think are the most important leadership qualities for entrepreneurs? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.