Leader.co.za - Management, Training and Career Advice for Business Leaders

13 JUNE 2012
What makes a leader great?
by Monique Verduyn
Is there such a thing as a 'born leader'? Can you learn to be a great leader from books or university courses?

Jim Collins, US academic and author of the book Good to Great, put together a team of business students to identify the best-performing listed American companies between 1975 and 2000. He set out to discover why companies like Kimberly Clark and Phillip Morris were such great performers. One area he focused on was leadership.

He found that in general, top-performing CEOs were not rock stars but honest, down-to-earth types who had come up through the business over a long period of time. He also found that great leaders employ great people to work with them. They are big questioners. Using what is known as the Socratic method, they ask questions rather than presuming they know the answers. In so doing, they arrive at a better understanding of problems and this results in better answers or solutions.

However, while they encourage healthy and even aggressive debates to encourage broad thinking, they eventually arrive at a decision and expect their teams to fall in line.
There also seems to be a common commitment to articulating and identifying a simple plan for building a great company.

Over time, extensive leadership literature has outlined the top qualities that business leaders must have to be great:

1. Motivational skills

A great leader should be able to command a room and inspire a team to perform at their best.

2. Ability to take risks

A great leader has an entrepreneurial spirit and is not afraid to take risks to advance the business and improve revenues.

3. Ability to take the initiative

Initiative is important in business as it continually pushes people to work harder, learn more, and perform better.

4. Competitive spirit

The desire to do better than the competition can prove vital to your success.

5. Knowledge

Thorough knowledge of the business world, as well as of technology, economics, politics, history, and other matters, is important for business leaders.

6. Solid communication skills

Business leaders must be able to communicate effectively in writing and orally to ensure the highest levels of efficiency.

7. Amiability

Great business leaders have great personalities. Their colleagues and subordinates like them, respect them and enjoy working with them.

8. Ambition

The most successful business leaders have ambition. They have lofty goals and do whatever it takes to achieve them.

9. Reliability

Great business leaders are steadfast. They can be counted on to get the job done and always make a positive contribution.

10. Personal and professional integrity

Successful business people conduct themselves in a respectable manner and always act ethically, fairly and responsibly.
Useful resources:

Entrepreneur Magazine
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