Every successful business, in every industry, has one particular thing in common: high-quality leadership. Without a great leader, any business, no matter how incredible the product or service is, is basically dead on arrival.
The leader is the business’ captain, standing at the helm and guiding it towards the destination. Leaders provide focus, vision, guidance, and direction, helping to ensure that the business is moving forward.
Whether you are a business leader, are looking to become one, or are hiring a leader, you’ll want to understand what the most essential leadership qualities are. Any business that has a leader with the necessary traits should be able to set sail and head straight towards its goal.
Top business leaders help to build a great work environment and a productive and loyal team. These leaders make sure their business is consistently progressing. While you can find lists that include things like “5 leadership traits,” “8 qualities of a good leader,” or even “21 characteristics of a leader,” we’ve done all the research for you to compile a concise list you can reference. As you think about what characteristics of a leader are important, consider these 10 traits of successful leaders to ensure that you have the most successful results.
1. Successful Leaders Are Passionate
Great leaders have a fire burning within them. They’re passionate about what they’re doing, and this passion propels them forward. With this passion and purpose, they see beyond where they are currently, to the place where they want to be.
Without a passionate leader, businesses tend to either stand still or not get going at all. To get a business up and running, and to ensure it grows, you need a leader who is passionate about the direction they are going.
And remember, being passionate doesn’t mean that you need to be red-hot and always pounding your fists. As Forbes notes, some of the best, passionate leaders are quiet, calm, and thoughtful.
2. Successful Leaders are Vision-Oriented
Successful leaders have a full vision. They can see the place they’re headed, and they keep it at the forefront of their mind as they create plans, take each step, and make decisions.
These leaders are not simply working a job, following orders, and walking down the path set before them. Instead, with their vision in sight, they craft the path that leads to the destination. They write the orders for their team to follow, orders that will help to get them there.
Top leaders are always visionaries. They’re not content with what they see in front of them. With passion and purpose (two of the other leadership qualities examples we highlighted), they decide on a vision and design the unique steps needed to make that vision come to fruition.
3. Successful Leaders Develop Others
The most successful leaders see the power of teamwork. These leaders benefit from the situational leadership theory which highlights how great leaders adapt and work with their team. These leaders are focused on successful delegation, coaching, and mentoring.
Leaders that focus on this often:
- Recruit and develop a team that brings different skills and backgrounds to the table,
- Showcase empathy and strength to team members,
- Build confidence through delegating difficult tasks that team members can accomplish,
- And they make training a top priority.
4. Successful Leaders Know the Facts
While passion and vision are some of the most important qualities in a leader, it’s also necessary that a great leader knows their stuff. It doesn’t matter what industry a business is in, leaders need to make sure they know the facts about their product or service, and the various aspects that are related to it.
Businesses with leaders that aren’t knowledgeable about their industry tend to suffer a disconnect. Their leaders may be vision-oriented and perfectly capable of successfully running a business, but if they don’t know much about their industry, products, or services, they’re going to reach a point where there’s not much more they can do.
Taking the time regularly to read relevant books, watch informative videos, or simply ask questions, is also a great trait. It shows a willingness to learn and grow, which is something that every leader should have. Great leaders know that they don’t know everything. They have a foundation of knowledge about their industry, product, or service, and they are happy and willing to learn more.
5. Successful Leaders are Strong Communicators
When you look at the top leadership qualities examples, you’ll often find effective communication listed. That’s because the best leaders are aware of when they should talk, and when they should listen. When communication is one of the top characteristics of a leader, these leaders can articulately explain everything from their organization’s goals to specific tasks they want an employee to complete.
The most successful leaders follow these strategies when it comes to communication, as outlined in U.S. News:
- They think about what outcome of their communication,
- They build a reputation for strong communication encounters,
- They never use their power as a communication tool,
- They consider the timing of their communication,
- And they have mastered the art of listening.
What makes these leaders stand out is that they are effective communicators at all levels. That means that they can effectively communicate one-on-one with team members, an entire department, or the entire organization and they are strong communicators no matter the channel (i.e., phone, email, and social media).
6. Successful Leaders Keep Their Word
Trust is essential in any sort of relationship. When it comes to a leader in business, trust is key for ensuring a strong, loyal team that works hard while moving towards the goal. One of the best ways for a leader to gain the trust of their team is to always keep their word.
Being accountable as a leader means:
- That you understand the importance of supporting and encouraging everyone’s strengths,
- That you understand the balance of employee development and following the workplace’s rules and policies (and structure),
- And that you always consider different viewpoints before acting.
These leaders must be full of integrity, always doing as they said they would. They need to show their team that they can be trusted. Leaders must keep their word, whether through upping a price, offering a new item, giving certain days off to an employee, or something else. They must create trust between themselves and their team.
7. Successful Leaders are Self-Aware
A great leader is always going to be aware of who is around and what they can do. They’re quick to assign tasks, ask certain people to have certain responsibilities, and recognize when their employees are ready to move up.
When it comes to people, top leaders leave nothing up to chance. They develop a keen awareness that knows what their people are capable of, and they accurately assign tasks depending on each person’s capabilities.
To improve your self-awareness, follow these steps outlined by Northeastern University:
- Set (and prioritize) goals and take responsibility for achieving them. If you don’t achieve a goal, take responsibility for your shortcoming.
- Set boundaries between your personal and professional life.
- Focus on the big picture while trying to avoid distractions and smaller, tactical details.
- Conduct self-assessments and seek feedback to remain aware of your strengths and weaknesses.
Top leaders are constantly aware of their business needs. They recognize when something must be done, and they can assign the right person for the job. They craft each task around their team, properly assigning tasks to use the skill sets of each employee.
8. Successful Leaders are Strategic
One of the traits you’ll often find on lists like “top 5 leadership traits,” or “8 qualities of a good leader” is the ability to think strategically. Harvard Business Publishing cites the importance of this by noting that the most successful leaders always need to be prepared to adjust their strategies by being flexible.
Some ways leaders can develop their strategic mindset are:
- By being invested in learning everything about your organization and industry,
- By trying multiple new approaches to complete a task (rather than the same way the task has always been done),
- By looking at the future and what you want to accomplish,
- By making well-informed decisions based on the information you have,
- And by focusing on a positive outlook.
The best leaders consider both internal and external factors to pave their organization’s path forward.
9. Successful Leaders are Inclusive
The fundamental principle of leadership is that successful leaders are successful because of the people around them. That means that a focus on team building, and inclusivity, is critical to your success. With a focus on inclusivity, you’ll be able to foster creativity and innovation, be a more effective communicator (which we already highlighted) and will be able to achieve your company’s goals.
To be an inclusive leader, try some of these strategies:
- Encourage your team to spend 15% of their time brainstorming and testing out new ideas,
- Create opportunities for your team bonding,
- And allow team members to work together to get a new, diverse perspective.
When team members feel like they are valued and belong, they will produce their best work. And these valued employees will help you be successful.
10. Successful Leaders are Planners
A great leader is like an old map maker. They can take a certain destination and create the path for getting there. These leaders can foresee potential twists and turns, they’re aware of certain potholes and detours, and they know a great deal of the hazards, as well as the shortcuts.
Top leaders study and research, understanding their market and effective strategies to reach people. By learning about their target market, how other businesses are reaching them, and what predicted market trends are, they can craft a seamless plan to get their business to its destination.
Leaders know that these plans must be based on the market, as it is in understanding the market that the most effective plans can be crafted and implemented. Once the plan is made, the team will be able to see and appreciate the vision, as well as the steps they must take to get there.
The leader of an organization is one of the most important parts of any business, which is why finding a successful leader, or becoming a top leader yourself, is a lofty goal. Leaders hire, train, inspire, teach, and more. By looking for leaders who are passionate, honest, planners, and who have all 10 traits of successful leaders that we outlined, you are ensuring that you’ll have a high-quality leader to help reach overall business success.