Leaders are individual human beings, with unique personality traits and abilities. Yet four characteristics tend to be shared by most of the best leaders in business. We call these the critical leadership traits.
1. The ability to see the future
Leaders must have the ability to see the future in a vision for their business. They must be able to see the big picture of what the company will look like when their vision of the future is achieved. They must also be able to see an effective path to the envisioned future, along which their team can follow and participate in building the company of the vision.
The corporate leader has the unique vantage point of seeing the entire business, as well as each of its parts – sales, marketing, accounting, management, etc. From this unique vantage point, leaders look for opportunities or recognize and accept the need for change. From this point, they can build a vision in their minds of what could be.
Corporate leaders can then spend time analyzing the vision to understand all of the components that must be in place for the vision to be achieved and for the company to be successful. Good leaders take the time to elucidate carefully what will be required to build the future in their vision and to map out an appropriate strategy to reach the goal.
Corporate leaders develop a philosophy of the business and the core values that define it. The values of the company are typically grounded in the values and passion of the leader. These leaders must then evangelize their values within the firm until they are understood and embraced by all employees. In addition, leaders must be consistent in embodying those values in every action and decision. When those two things happen (evangelizing the team and living the values), until it becomes clear to employees, customers, suppliers and partners that “this is the way we do it.”
Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, attributes much of his company’s success to the 10 core values he established. They are:
- Deliver WOW through service
- Embrace and drive change
- Create fun and a little weirdness
- Be adventurous, creative, and open-minded
- Pursue growth and learning
- Build open and honest relationships with eommunication
- Build a positive team and family spirit
- Do more with less
- Be passionate and determined
- Be humble.
Each leader (and team) must establish the values s/he believes are critical to building the future s/he has envisioned and making the company sustainable.
Leaders are committed. They are committed to the company, to their vision of the future, and to the corporate values they establish. Achieving many successes requires sacrifice. Building a better business and leading it to success often requires sacrifice, as well as persistence and passionate pursuit. The sole driver to success in the face of challenges and setbacks is often the commitment of the leader.
It is unlikely that anyone in the company will be more committed to the vision than the leader. Further, success will depend upon the leader’s ability to inspire everyone else on the team.
Successful leaders are, and must be, influencers. They must be able to communicate their vision and strategy frequently, regularly, and powerfully. They also must be able to inspire others to share their vision and commit themselves to the strategy for the future. It can be difficult, at times, to sway everyone in the firm. Leaders must understand that their message, vision, and strategy must be tailored to each person to create understanding and win support.
Are you the kind of visionary leader who incorporates these characteristics? Are you able to see a future for your firm? Can you bring to bear the values, the commitment, and the influence to gather the support to achieve the vision?