What It Takes to Be a Great Leader

06/08/2015 01:53 pm ET | Updated Jun 05, 2016


Few things are more important to human activity than leadership. Effective leadership helps our nation through times of peril. It makes a business organisation successful. It enables a not-for-profit organisation to fulfil its mission.

On the other hand the absence of leadership is equally dramatic in its effects. Without leadership, organisations move too slowly, stagnate, and lose their way.

Cool-headed, farseeing, visionary, courageous - whichever adjectives you choose, leadership is a winning combination of personal traits and the ability to think and act as a leader, a person who directs the activities of others for the good of all.

Effective business leadership demands a captain of the ship, not just someone who's standing by the helm. Leadership is active, not passive.

One person who knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a real leader is Richard Branson. Walk through any of the Virgin offices around the world and you'll really struggle to find somebody who has seen the company's Founder raise his voice when the going gets tough. High pressured situations need to be handled, all whilst keeping your eye on the businesses real goal.

"What leadership boils down to is people. Whatever your style, whatever your method, you need to believe in yourself, your ideas and your staff.

Nobody can be successful alone - and you cannot be a great leader without great people to lead. The trick is in striking the right balance between empowering your staff and being an example for them to follow," Explains Branson


As an entrepreneur with employees, one of your primary goals is most likely to attract and keep motivated workers. So let's explore the four key traits that will help you become the kind of leader people love working for.

1) Vision

We've all heard the saying "You must stand for something, or you'll fall for everything." But what does that really mean? Standing firm when it comes to your company's policies and procedures is all well and good, but it doesn't speak to having a vision. As a leader, you have to learn to communicate your vision or the vision of your company to the people you want to follow you.

2) Passion

Your employees want passion; in fact, they'll go to the ends of earth because of it, live and die for it. To build an extraordinary management team and a following of people who believe in the path ahead, you've got to light the "fire in their bellies," to get them to feel passion about the company and connect to your vision.

3) Communication

Strong leaders know how to communicate effectively with staff at both higher and lower levels in the company. Understanding how to clearly explain tasks and projects to staff while communicating the importance of your department's work to administrators is a crucial skill that takes practice. Good communicators keep staff informed when changes or updates to projects occur, are readily available to staff and hold regular meetings to ensure that all team members are aware of the status of projects.

4) Character

Without character, all the other "keys" are for naught. That's because your innate character strengths and limitations play a critical role in your leadership style. The real question is, are you aware of just what role they play? All great leaders have taken steps to learn about their individual personality and what part it plays in their leadership style.


Anyone can be a leader; even if the only person they're leading is themselves. But you can't be a leader just by saying you are. Business leadership, like leadership of any kind, needs to be worked at.

Now that you know what it takes to be a successful leader, let's look at the bottom line impact of leadership for business success.

To do that I recently caught up with 5 budding entrepreneurs, who all shared with me their perspective on why they believe leadership is an important element to business success. Here are the quotes in their own words.

"Great leaders care for their people, have a vision and are amazing at communicating with their team members to get the best out of them. The experience that a great leader creates is hard to describe, but you just feel better when you're around them. In my opinion good leaders are driven towards a mission that everyone can get behind." Andrea Palacios Blue Studies International

"The most fundamental trait is having inner confidence and trust in themselves and their ability to engage their team to deliver on the business vision. Without effective leadership a business can easily lose focus, direction and energy. Effective leadership is when there is congruency between the vision, the strategy and the team who all work towards a common goal." Melissa Lewis Style Confidante

"No business can succeed without leadership and the culture of every business is defined simply by the behavior of its people. Good leaders have a clear aspirational vision for where they want to be in their markets; they hare a passionate mission concerning the difference they make in the lives of their staff, customers and communities; and they have a clear set of values by which they operate." Tony Hughes RSVP Selling

"Without leadership, there is no direction. While the resources in an organisation may be sufficient enough to actually reach the goals it sets out to achieve, without direction the thrust needed to get there is simply wasted on issues not bringing the organisation closer to the goal. True Leadership align and direct the efforts to reach the goal, faster and more efficient." Carsten Primdal Vantage Compliance & Mitigation

"Good Leadership enables employees to also see the clear vision and direction. Leadership motivates workers to move toward the same end result and goal, clearly defined with steps on how this result can be achieved.

When we can see where we are going it is easier to reach our target. A business can only succeed with employees working towards the same agenda and being given the responsibility and belief they can achieve the result." Dr Karen Phillip Personal Website

I'm curious to know. What's one trait you've seen common in all great leaders? And why do you believe leadership is key to business success?