What makes a good business leader?

Pursuit Software works across a range of businesses. From high-end, international companies to small and medium-sized businesses, we work hard to make sure that our products meet the demands for each of our customers.

One of the many things we have learned over the years is that each business is very much shaped by its management. That could be a team of people who drive and deliver the business strategy but, more often than not, there is one individual who is the mastermind behind the entire business and its direction of travel. And that individual is the person who sets a company’s principles and ethics – the cornerstones of a great business.

Business principles and ethics will play a key role in a company’s success. One of the greatest skills of a business leader is to identify the principles and ethics that underpin the company and then surround themselves with staff, partners and mentors/advisors who buy into the same principles.

Of course, these principles and ethics vary from one company to another but we feel that the five principles listed below are common to most highly successful companies and can be used by businesses of all sizes as a good grounding for success.

  1. Strive for excellence. Try to always do the right thing.
  2. No matter how big the challenge, look for a way to overcome it. And use the lessons learnt to improve the company in other areas.
  3. Be passionate about your idea, and be confident about it.
  4. Be trustworthy. Customers will want to do business with a company they can trust.
  5. Be respectful – We are all different in some way. Always treat others with courtesy and the utmost respect regardless of their differences.

Just as principles and ethics differ from company to company, so too do the characteristics of a great leader. And how people define great leaders also varies. Research conducted by business consultants Grant Thornton and published in the Business Leaders’ Report, suggested that the ability to articulate a vision was one of the key qualities that people looked for in business leaders. This quality was rated above honesty and decision-making capabilities.

In the survey, 75 per cent of participants (who are themselves leaders in the UK business world) rated the ability to articulate a vision as a top quality in leaders, with 37 per cent citing honesty and 34 per cent rating decision-making. Other important traits included ‘leading by example, ‘affecting change’ and ‘thinking outside the box’.

One, often overlooked trait, is the ability of a leader to recognise and utilise the strengths of those around them. This is something that Virgin boss Richard Branson has always done so well. Branson himself said that he had no obvious skills so he picked his team based on the skills he needed for the business to succeed.

In another survey, carried out on behalf of Forbes business magazine, 615,000 employees across a range of companies were asked what they thought was the primary quality needed to be an effective leader. The answer was a surprising one and focused more on the business as a whole than the person sitting in the CEO chair.

The ability of the leader to instil and spread a strong organisational culture was rated as the most important quality. Staff wanted to see their leaders living by the values of the company. It was felt that a company culture and strong values was a corporate necessity. By providing a great working environment with a strong, dynamic culture that everyone could relate to, staff were motivated and felt they could flourish.

In our next blog we meet five inspirational people from the world of business.

@forbes @richardbranson @GrantThorntonUK

Pic credit: Campaign Creators