Visionary leaders are the powerhouse behind all successful businesses. They are the catalyst for innovation, the steward who steers the ship through change and the motivator who rallies their team to embrace a new future.
They have the ability to foresee what may be ahead, to respond accordingly and to find and nurture the talent required in their employees.
While there’s often a perception that great leaders are simply born with these abilities, experts actually argue they can indeed be learned.
So, what are the top 10 traits of the most successful business leaders?
In order to manage others, the most effective leaders have an innate ability to manage themselves, effectively concentrating their time on the most important tasks. They set goals and know the steps required to achieve them, while regulating their emotions and acknowledging their strengths and weaknesses.
Every good leader is inevitably a good communicator. They have the ability to create a vision for the future and relay it to their team, their investors and their clientele.
They understand their vision and their mission and know the right way to communicate this to the people around them.
Great communication skills also make them successful networkers, who understand the power of the spoken and written word, and the importance of a clear, concise brand.
The most successful leaders are strategic in the way they develop a business, implement new products and service, harness new technologies and build a team.
They understand challenge equals opportunity and that the fast pace of the of today’s digitally driven corporate world requires them to be resilient, nimble and proactive.
A Harvard Business Publishing whitepaper entitled ‘Leading Now: Critical Capabilities for a Complex World’ notes: “While older practices focused on long-term strategy development, today’s world requires a more continuous process: Leaders must always be prepared to adjust their strategies to capture emerging opportunities or tackle unexpected challenges”.
Accountable and responsible
Leadership comes with both accountability and responsibility, and successful leaders understand how to take this in their stride.
Things may not always go as planned, and mistakes will be made, but an effective leader has the resilience to identify how and where the error occurred and use it as an opportunity for improvement.
Few leaders rise to the top of the pile without the ability to set and achieve goals. They appreciate that goals offer clarity to both their business and the team behind it, allowing people to comprehend where a business is looking to go, and the steps that need to happen to get there.
Over the life of a business, these goals will consistently be reassessed, and redefined. Importantly, the goals will not just be contained to the business, but will also often extend to the people within it who may be encouraged to set their own personal goals and milestones.
A true leader has the ability to look into the future and clearly envisage where they want a company to go, who they intend it to serve, and the staff they will require to get them there.
At the same time, they manage to balance the future with the present, as Forbes explains:
“Being a visionary is about managing change while striking a balance between stability and growth. You must incorporate new approaches without getting distracted from the main goals.
“Being a visionary means understanding that continuous change is occurring all around you, so what worked in the past may not always work now. Practice being adaptable and agile as you implement new strategies and allow your business model to evolve over time.”
As Harvard Business Publishing notes: “Leaders who know how to manage complexity are skilled at solving problems and making decisions under fast-changing conditions.
“A talent for systems thinking—viewing organisations and environments as complex, interdependent systems—is critical, as is the ability to continuously scan the environment in search of subtle trends and indicators of disruptive change.
“These leaders also establish practices that allow their organisations to respond swiftly to changes in their environments.”
Innovators and creators
Innovation plays a key role in any business looking to remain at the cutting edge in a fast-paced global environment. The best leaders know how to nurture and foster an innovative culture throughout a business, which allows them to identify and capitalise on new and emerging opportunities.
A truly talented leader understands the power of the team around them, and they seek to build a nurturing environment. They know their own limitations, and harness the talents of others to overcome them while at the same time fostering an environment of creativity and engagement.
Harvard Business Publishing explains: “Leaders who excel at inspiring engagement know how to foster a culture that creates meaningful connections between employees’ aspirations and values and those of the organisation. Workers and managers who feel engaged are more creative and productive on the job.”
Their ability to network and foster meaningful connections means that true leaders are relationship builders.
And this skill extends to all arenas of business. Leaders build relationships with peers through networking, staff through team building, and consumers through their vision and brand.
A final thought
For many leaders, their skills are not innate but rather learned, but they all boast a mindset that enables them to acquire new strengths and absorb new ideas along the way.
Indeed, as the business landscape has changed to become digital and global, so too have the skills required of those at the top of their fields.
Or as Harvard Business Publishing reflects: “Leaders who can manage complexity, manage global business, act strategically, foster innovation, leverage networks, inspire engagement, develop personal adaptability, and cultivate learning agility will be the ones whose organisations succeed.”
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