5 Key Traits of a Successful Business Leader

Shown Above: Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Alphabet, Inc.

Shown Above: Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman, Alphabet, Inc.

This guest column is by Ashish Jhalani, Founder, eTailing India

Leadership is an important trait that defines most successful entrepreneurs. It helps them steer their ship and crew in the unknown, turbulent waters of the business world. The trait can be an even more useful tool when launching a startup where, initially, a lot of what has to be accomplished rests on the shoulders of the founder.

As the captain and creator of their own ship, it is only the founder who knows the course to the self designated destination. While the endless pitfalls in the bumpy journey may halt ordinary mortals in their tracks, a true leader will know how to ride through it all fearlessly. In the modern, highly competitive and frequently changing business landscape, entrepreneurs need to lead from the front to survive. Here are five essential qualities every entrepreneur should have to be successful in an already crowded startup landscape.

1. Creative vision

People follow leaders because they can visualise what others can’t see. Entrepreneurs usually cause disruptions with their startups and become game changers in their respective fields. Mostly, their desire to strike out on their own stems from their vision of wanting to do things differently from the way they were being done and finding the new ways to do them.  Bill Gates is a good example of a person with a far reaching vision who transformed existing technologies to adapt to the fast paced nature of the technology sector.

2. Self motivated & optimistic

These qualities are intrinsic and go hand in hand for a successful business leader. Without being self confident and self motivated, in no way can one launch and run a startup against all odds. Since they have a passion for their job, much of the motivation is automatic. Their passion for to realize their vision keeps them motivated to keep pushing their boundaries.

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Running a startup comes with its fair share of hurdles, but maintaining faith in one’s vision and being optimistic is the key to long term survival. The quality of optimism helps an entrepreneur see the positive side of difficult circumstances and imparts courage to rise up after the many falls and keep going. This way they are able to learn from their mistakes and are able to apply this new found information to their advantage later on.

Usually people with a good self esteem make good leaders as they exude confidence, trust their own decisions, and make positive relationships with other people. This self esteem may be shaped by their upbringing, experiences and their interactions with other people in the journey of life.

3. Perseverance

Overnight success stories are rare in the startup world. For an entrepreneur to succeed, they need to hang in there in the face of rejections, failures and breakdowns. Sticking to their guns in the face of criticism and optimism needs extraordinary perseverance, sometimes at a great cost. Had geniuses like Steve Jobs given up early, we would have never heard their success stories!

Steve Jobs had to call upon this quality at the peak of his career at the age of 30 when his board of directors fired him. Jobs took it as a sort of freedom and went on to found NeXT, a software company, and Pixar, an animation production company, making big budget animated movies. The rest is history. Jobs got his position back at Apple and took it from strength to strength.  

4. Adaptability

Although great leaders start with a vision, being rigid about it does not always help. In the course of developing a technology or a business, new challenges, competition and circumstances will crop up which require course correction of the original idea. A successful leader will always be flexible enough to weigh the pros and cons and not shy away from change if the startup stands to gain in the long run.

Facebook might not have been the success it is today if Mark Zuckerberg had not be open to changing his business model from a “go to” social network to a larger user base based on feedback.

5. Nurturers of people

Leaders can’t operate as an island. A business leader needs a crew to help take the vision to fruition. So, good interpersonal and communication skills to convince and align people to their vision, and sound mentoring skill to spot and nurture talent beneficial for the startup can prove to be a huge advantage.


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A lot of these leadership qualities are innate but some may have to be learned and inculcated for self improvement. Good leaders constantly assess and upgrade their leadership skills through industry mentors, workshops, and analysis of their failures.  A good leader is a good student for life.  And this desire to always be on top of the game is often the one quality that sets them far ahead from others in the race.

Image Credit: Huffington Post