Being a successful entrepreneur takes creativity, guts and savvy. But not just that: you need to know how to get a whole team behind you. Leadership qualities are the “soft skills” that can make or break an organisation. The good news: they can be learned. Here is our rundown of some of the top qualities that make great entrepreneurial leaders:
#1 A strong vision
Leading a company can pull you in a lot of different directions. A strong vision is essential to staying focused on your company’s reason for being. While it’s important to be able to receive input from others, leadership also means staying focused on your vision. This helps you stay on course when setbacks or new challenges arise. Being clear about your vision and goals inspires those around you. Knowing what the big picture looks like keeps everyone pointed in the same direction and gives them a sense of purpose.
#2 Knowing how to motivate & support
Entrepreneurial leaders don’t just see their team as a support for their own vision though. They have a talent for finding their employees’ hidden strengths and inspiring them to challenge and develop themselves. A strong leader recognises the contribution of each team member and pushes them to go beyond their comfort zone. They create a supportive environment for self-development while at the same time taking responsibility for the fall-out of risks and changes. In turn their employees have a greater sense of purpose and are more committed and loyal.
#3 Trust & transparency
Another key to building employee satisfaction and commitment is building trust. It starts with being clear about the company’s vision and its goals. This helps team members prioritise and stay focused on what’s important. It’s also essential to be transparent about decisions and what is happening with the company. Leaders are also called upon to be present and available to listen to any issues that come up. They need to communicate clearly about internal changes as well as any shifts in strategy. Finally, they need to cultivate an atmosphere where team members feel at ease sharing their opinions and concerns.
#4 Diversity & inclusion
Today’s entrepreneurial leaders know that diversity drives innovation. Attracting top talent of any gender, ethnicity or background makes your company stronger and more agile. Having a diversity of perspectives and viewpoints on board also helps prevent blind spots and drive new ideas. Creating an inclusive work environment is about more than just ticking the demographic and gender boxes. It means allowing for a diversity of voices and creating an atmosphere where people feel valued and accepted for who they are. As a true entrepreneurial leader, you should start with listening to your team and being ready to hear the answers, however uncomfortable they may be.
Entrepreneurial leaders have to be able to adjust quickly to shifting terrain. Whether it’s a new technology or a pandemic, change can overthrow your plans and give you an opportunity to pivot. A good leader doesn’t wait until they are forced to adapt (or die). You are tuned in and ready to respond, with a change-ready mindset and culture. They know how to set the stage for change in their team by framing the challenge and leading the way forward. This takes being comfortable with a certain level of risk, especially if it will benefit your company over the long term.
#6 Daring to decide
Leading a business sometimes involves making difficult decisions. This could mean choosing between different options that all have their own drawbacks. As the leader, you are ultimately responsible for the consequences. Trying to avoid making the wrong decisions and making a mistake can leave you paralysed or playing it too safe. While it can help to consider valuable advice from others, ultimately you have to be decisive. Think through the risks and be prepared to learn from your mistakes. Remember, non-decisions have consequences (and often a price tag!) too.
Surviving the ups and downs of startup life requires resilience and perseverance. Entrepreneurs have to be ready to roll with the punches and learn from setbacks and failure instead of becoming defeated. Moving on from failure doesn’t mean just shoving it under the rug. True entrepreneurial leaders openly recognise failure as a part of the culture of testing and iteration essential to innovation. A good leader knows how to translate these lessons into wisdom for the entire team, building a collective vision to get through tough times. Entrepreneurship is a long game, after all.
What top leadership qualities would you add to the list? The more feedback, the better!