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10 Characteristics of Superior Leaders

Do you have these essential traits of a leader?

Entrepreneur

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Leaders in a boardroom

Thousands of articles and books have been published describing what it takes to be a superior organisational leader. Some researchers and authors claim a superior leader possesses certain traits or abilities; others say it’s all personality. Still others maintain it’s the behaviours – not necessarily the intentions or thoughts – that are crucial.

Whatever your viewpoint, it boils down to this: successful leaders share the following characteristics or views:

1. Mission.
Leaders know what theirm ission is. They know why the organisation exists. A superior leader has a well thought out (often written) mission describing the purpose of the organisation. That purpose need not be esoteric or abstract, but rather descriptive, clear and understandable. Every employee should be able to identify with the mission and strive to achieve it.

2. Vision.
Where do you want your organisation to go? A vision needs to be abstract enough to encourage people to imagine it but concrete enough for followers to see it, understand it and be willing to climb onboard to fulfil it.

3. Goal.
How is the organisation going to achieve its mission and vision and how will you measure your progress? Like a vision, goals need to be operational; that is specific and measurable. If your output and results can’t be readily measured, then it will be difficult to know if you have achieved your purpose. You may have wasted important resources (time, money, people and equipment) pursuing a strategy or plan without knowing if it truly succeeded.

4. Competency.
You must be seen by your advisors, stakeholders, employees, and the public as being an expert in your field or an expert in leadership. Unless your constituents see you as highly credentialed – either by academic degree or with specialised experience – and capable of leading your company to success, it will be more difficult for you to be respected, admired, or followed.

Practically speaking, not all executives immediately possess all of the characteristics that spell success. Many leaders learn along the way with hard work. As crises and challenges arise, those at the top of the hierarchy have key opportunities to demonstrate to others that they are in fact, qualified to be leaders. In actuality, greater competency can be achieved as a leader gains more on-the-job experiences.

5. A Strong Team.
Realistically, few executives possess all of the skills and abilities necessary to demonstrate total mastery of every requisite area within the organisation. To complement areas of weakness, a wise leader assembles effective teams of experienced, credentialed, and capable individuals who can supplement any voids in the leader’s skill set. This ability is what sets leaders apart from others. However, the leader needs to be willing to admit he lacks certain abilities and go about finding trusted colleagues to complement those deficiencies. After building the team, the entrepreneur needs to trust that team to understand issues, create solutions, and act on them.

6. Communication Skills.
It does little good to have a strong mission, vision, and goals – and even a solid budget – if the executive cannot easily and effectively convey his ideas to the stakeholders inside and outside of the organisation. He must regularly be in touch with key individuals, by email, v-mail, meetings, or other forms of correspondence. Of course, the best way to ensure other people receive and understand the message is with face-to-face interactions.

Getting out of the office or touring different sites is an irreplaceable method of building rapport and sending and receiving messages. “Management By Walking Around,” or MBWA, meeting employees at their workstations or conference rooms, or joining them for lunch are just a few of the many effective approaches leaders can use to develop positive contacts with employees.

7. Interpersonal Skills.
Successful entrepreneurs are comfortable relating to other people; they easily create rapport and are at least more extroverted than they are introverted. These factors help leaders seem approachable, likeable, and comfortable in their position. Those qualities contribute to staff wanting to interact with their leader. They also help motivate employees to do a better job. When workers can relate to their boss, they believe that their boss is more concerned about them, their performance, and their output. Furthermore, they believe that they can go to their boss with problems they encounter on the job without fearing consequences for not knowing how to resolve issues.

Not all entrepreneurs are adept at interpersonal skills. Those who aren’t might find it helpful to take a course, choose a mentor or locate a therapist to help them build interpersonal skills. The intangible cost is too high to not improve these abilities. In addition, here’s where a strong team comes into play. The less experienced leader who is still learning these skills can rely on the team to get out and to “press the flesh,” interact with employees, and spread a positive attitude to help develop morale.

8. A “Can do” Attitude.
Nothing builds a picture of success more than achievement, and achievement is the number one factor that motivates just about everyone across all cultures. When employees see that their boss can lead and direct, has a clear vision and attainable goals, and actually gains results in a timely manner, then that person’s credibility increases throughout the organisation. Entrepreneurs must modestly demonstrate their skills to give their constituents valid reasons to appreciate and value their efforts.

9. Inspiration.
Quite often, employees need someone to look up to for direction, guidance, and motivation. The entrepreneur needs to be that person. Hopefully, Human Resources has hired self-motivated individuals. Nevertheless, there are times when many employees need the boss to inspire them by word or action. Employees need someone to look up to, admire, and follow. Even when the production or delivery of services looks like “it is all going well,” the leader may at times need to step in personally to offer a suggestion or encouragement to ensure that employees perform their jobs in an optimal manner.

10. Ambition.
Resting on your laurels is bad for employee morale and entrepreneurial credibility. Employees need to be constantly striving for improvement and success; and they need to see the same and more in their leaders. When the boss is seen as someone who works to attain increasingly higher goals, employees will be impressed and more willing to mirror that behaviour. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Guarantee Results

The basic message in this article is that you as the owner/entrepreneur need to “be out there” for your employees. Continually demonstrate to them why and how you earned the position you now hold. Communicate with them using any of a variety of methods that show them you are worthy of being followed. Make that process inspiring and positive and you can almost guarantee that your results will be consistent with your efforts.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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Leading

4 Tips To Become A Team Whisperer (And Improve Your Employee Engagement)

Engaged employees are motivated, innovative and willing to take on more responsibility.

Pieter Scholtz

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Your team needs to be nurtured on an ongoing basis if you want to attract and retain the best employees. You can hire people, you can fire people, and you can tell them what to do. But you can’t make them like what they do. Some business leaders are content with having an unhappy team; as long as they do what they are paid to do then the state of their mental health is seen as superfluous.

This line of thinking is not only wrong, but it is entirely counterproductive to the continued survival of a business. Gallup has run some excellent pieces that demonstrate the difference between engaged and disengaged employees. In particular, they list several additional things that engaged employees bring to the table: Motivation, innovation, and a willingness to take on more responsibility within the company. So how can you keep your team engaged?

That level of motivation contrasts greatly with employees who don’t even want to be there. They do their jobs, but they never put in more than the bare minimum of effort. Don’t expect them to ever go beyond what their job description requires, and if there is a chance for them to duck out of work without getting fired, they’ll take it. Obviously, you don’t want to have a team that consists of these people. But without the right knowledge of how to motivate a team, you’ll find yourself unable to inspire your employees to go above and beyond what is required of them.

Related: How You Can Make Leadership Excellence An Effortless Effort

A great company cannot exist without great employees, and there are steps you can take to mould them into the people you want to have working for you. These tips are proven methods of getting your employees to be engaged in what they do, and anybody can learn to apply them.

1. Be a team, not a dictatorship

Every ship needs a strong captain, but that doesn’t mean that you have to spend every second reminding your employees who’s the boss. Your employees look to you for guidance, but they also want to feel as though you are in tune with everything that is going on. Some managers come off as though they are giving mandates from heaven, or worse, they rattle off long lists of orders because they don’t want to do the work themselves.

If you give the directive and then pitch in to reach the goal, you’ll show your employees that they are all part of a team, and they sink or swim together.

2. Give them a chance to shine

It’s true that some people are placidly content with being a cog in the wheel. I’m sure you know of at least one person who is sitting in a job they are relatively indifferent to just so they can collect a pension in twenty years. Those that fit that mould will gravitate towards jobs that give few chances to stand out and plenty of job security. For those who want to achieve more, they will never settle for a job pushing pencils all day.

Related: Effective leadership – Serving Your Team To Serve Your Clients

These restless employees are always looking for a way to prove to you that they are capable of so much more than low-level work. Denying them this opportunity will either push them to greener pastures, or if they can’t/won’t quit, cause them to become disillusioned with what they do.

If you find somebody who wants to prove themselves, let them. An employee who shows the initiative and drive to better themselves is a person who will bring your business an incredible amount of value. Don’t waste this potential.

3. Don’t take them for granted — show your gratitude

This goes beyond a simple “thank you,” although those two words can have quite a bit of power in themselves. If your employees feel like their contributions are not recognised or rewarded, they will feel little incentive to go above and beyond in what they do. How you show this gratitude is as important as the action itself, because a perceived token gesture is even more insulting than a lack of a reward. Put another way, if somebody comes up with a million-dollar idea and you give them a monogrammed lanyard as a gift, don’t expect that person to stick around. Rewarding achievement is the flip side to punishing failure, and a balance between both is necessary to craft the ideal team.

As intuitive as these three traits seem, you probably know from personal experience that a lot of managers don’t quite know how to implement these strategies effectively.

Related: Leadership Hustle: A Modern View On Leadership

4. Share the bigger picture with them

A really important element of keeping your team engaged is to share the bigger picture with them. This involves amongst others:

  • Constantly communicate the Vision and Mission of your business to your team. If your team can buy into why the business was started, where it is headed and why you exist as a business, they will be able to be as passionate as you are.
  • Provide a monthly update on how the business is tracking against its plan and this will empower them to focus on the areas that matter most to the business at that time. This includes sharing financials with the team — here one needs to take into account any legislation that might be applicable — but the more you share, the more you show your team that they are trusted with the information as well as being able to make better decisions that affect the business.
  • Keeping your team engaged, excited and energised is a pre-requisite to developing a high performing team that is able to take the business to the next level. It takes a team of dedicated people to build a successful business. Without this team, your ability to expand at the rate you had planned to will be severely hampered.

IN YOUR TOOLKIT

Become a leader that inspires greatness

multipliers-how-the-best-leaders-make-everyone-smarter-by-liz-wisemanREAD THIS: Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter, By Liz Wiseman.

Multipliers is profound. It’s been lifechanging for me and everyone that works with me. Leadership is not about having the best answers. You need to ask the best questions, and what happens is that you are turning people into productive engines. Micro-managing stops people from thinking for themselves as they wait for answers from you. The principle is that micro-management on that level means you are paying people 100% salary for 50% productivity. The multipliers effect allows you to pay 100% salary for 200% productivity.” — Robin Olivier, co-founder and MD of Digicape, a R240-million business based in Cape Town. Go to multipliersbooks.com for additional tips, tricks and surveys.

 


WATCH THIS

Radical Candor means challenging employees directly and showing you care personally at the same time. It will help you and your team do the best work of your lives.

Developed by Kim Scott — who led AdSense, YouTube, and Doubleclick Online Sales and Operations at Google and then joined Apple to develop and teach a leadership seminar — Radical Candor is all about becoming a leader who is both respected and followed, without being falsely ‘nice’.

There are two great YouTube videos that will give you her tips and lessons in under 20 minutes:

And if you’re interested in really unpacking the lessons behind radical candor, read the book: Radical Candor: Be a Kickass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity.

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Leading

5 Signs A Business Is Being Poorly Managed

Are you considering investing in a new company? Evaluate its leadership with these five factors first.

Phil Town

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Ideally, every business’s success would be so simple that anyone could run it – even an untalented person. Unfortunately, though, many businesses cannot withstand the leadership of an unqualified or untalented person, and, if a business is lucky enough to achieve longevity, odds are that someone unqualified or untalented will run it eventually.

But, how can you, as an investor, identify when a business is being run by one of those untalented people? More importantly, how can you spot when a business is being run by an untrustworthy person?

In this video, Entrepreneur Network partner Phil Town breaks down five signs of bad leadership you need to consider before investing in a new company.

Click play to learn more.

Related: How To Help Your Team Shift Their Mindset To Embracing Technology For Business Management

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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4 Essential Steps To Take To Successfully Sell Your Business

Here are 4 essential steps that will help you avoid potential setbacks and increase the chances of a fair and satisfying transaction while you are selling your business.

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Successfully Sell Your Business

Many startup founders and small businesses dream of receiving an offer to becoming the next billion dollar business. Whether its because they are ready to move onto another project, or they are ready to expand and are looking to leverage the financial power of a bigger partner, selling a business is a big move for any business. For many business owners, getting an offer from a buyer is certainly exciting, but before you jump into anything, remember that are important steps to take before you sign the paperwork that will move a successful transaction forward.

From making sure you have a functioning and potentially lucrative business model, to working with an expert to establish goals and expectations on both ends to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Here are 4 essential steps that will help you avoid potential setbacks and increase the chances of a fair and satisfying transaction while you are selling your business.

1. Preparation is everything

Since you’re already a business owner, you most likely already know the importance of preparation. When it comes to selling your business it’s always wise to conjure up all that you have learned along the way and apply that to the process of making a sale.

Related: The 6 Most Common Questions Business Owners Ask Before Selling Their Business

Some of the key documents that buyers expect to see are:

  • Corporate records
  • Records of any important contracts
  • Information concerning stocks and investments that would affect the relationship with the buyer.

Preparation also entails that you are forward about any setbacks or issues you had in the past that currently affect company operations. Being open about what failed in your business model will help buyers feel confident in their decision working with you, in addition to understanding what to potentially avoid in the future.

2. Setting up the right environment for buyers

Your business may have received endless praise from the press and has made the “most up and coming list” time and time again that doesn’t mean you are ready to sell. Good press will very likely attract buyers, but if you haven’t created the right environment to continue along with a merger and acquisition, those investors and businesses that were one so eager to scoop you up may not stick around that long. To ensure a productive environment for selling your business  it pays to be open to new ideas, while also maintaining a professional setting from which trust can build.

3. Make sure your finances are in order

Financial records are vital when making a sale. Not only to they provide a clear outline of your businesses progress in numbers, they are also key to making sure you get what you want out of the final sale in the end; investments and any and all financial commitments. Ensuring that both parties are satisfied.

4. Hire a merger and acquisitions advisor

Even the most experienced business owners can benefit from the expertise of a mergers and acquisitions advisor. Trained specifically to help owners assess their the value of the business by reviewing it’s strengths and weaknesses on both a macro and micro economic level.

Some of the key ways that an M&A consultant can help you streamline the selling process are as follows:

  • Professional who specialise in mergers and acquisitions are highly skilled at preparing for due diligence, helping you to navigate and organise the necessary documents and information that is needed by all prospective buyers
  • If you are in the unique situation that you have more than one buyer interested in acquiring your business, an M&A consultant can help you assess which one will be the right relationship for you, especially if you will still be activity participating in daily business operations.

Related: How to Position your Business Now So You Can Sell It Later

Again, experienced business owners may know everything there is to know about running a company, but that doesn’t mean they know how to appeal to buyers. Not only do you have to be in tune with your own company’s needs, but it’s essential that you understand what buyers and investors expect from a sale.

At the end of the day, even if you think you’ve found the perfect buyer, taking a few extra steps to ensure that a potential buyout will meet both parties needs and is overall good for the business can be done by being fully prepared and and working alongside an expert that will help to point you in the right direction. Successfully taking your business won’t happen overnight, in fact most transactions take about six to twelve months to complete, so it pays to be prepared every step of the way.

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