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The top six qualities of a good business leader

Every senior businessperson wants to be a good leader. While ‘good’ is often a subjective term, there are certain leadership traits that define a great leader. These might come more naturally to some than others, but the qualities can all be developed and strengthened.

We work with a lot of different leaders around our board tables, who are always pushed and challenged by one another to become better leaders. They are aware of each other's strengths and weaknesses in terms of leadership style. With this in mind, we have brought together this guide of the top six qualities of a good leader to help you be the most successful leader you can be.

Qualities of a Good Business Leader

1. A good listener

Everyone likes to be listened to.

Why is this a good quality for a business leader?

Ian Gregory, TAB facilitator in Cheshire said that a leader who listens is most likely one who doesn’t make rash decisions. His colleague in Bristol, Jonathan O’Shea adds to this: “Leaders who are good listeners and effectively communicate are aware of what the world wants rather than what they think the world might want.”

Leaders who listen won’t make assumptions or snap judgements, allowing them to make the best decisions for their customers and their business.

David Abbott, TAB Facilitator in Thames Valley West makes a key point when he quotes Kevin O’Leary and says, ‘no one has a monopoly on good ideas.’ Business leaders who are good listeners understand that the best ideas for their business might not come from them. By listening more to their team, the business can move forward in a healthier way.

What can leaders do to be better listeners?

  • Practice listening regularly by asking for the opinions of others
  • Remind yourself that you have two ears and one mouth
  • Join a TAB Board – Meeting with other business owners who will advise you on your business every month would be a good way to better your listening skills.

2. The ability to inspire others

Why should good leaders be able to inspire others?

Communicating passion and purpose motivates others to achieve more, says Martin Munro, TAB Facilitator in West Hertfordshire. Building on this, David comments that inspiring other people maximises employee engagement and enhances your company culture. Of course, all leaders want employees to be as impassioned with their business as they are, so this is key. You might find our white paper on motivating your employees helpful here.

Steve Cook, from TAB Edinburgh West, says “to truly lead you need others to come with you on the journey. Motivated followers are far more effective than those that are dragged along.”

What can great leaders do to inspire others?

  • Martin’s top tip – Have a vision.
    • Work with a coach or mentor to develop a meaningful business vision that is underpinned by a compelling personal vision and sincerely held core values that are embedded into the business culture.
  • Develop a coherent, meaningful message and deliver it in words and a style that resonate with your audience. (David Abbott)
  • Listen and understand your staff, Steve says.

3. Honesty/integrity

Why is honesty a good quality for effective leadership?

Peter Harris from TAB North Staffs, thinks a good leader will be humble and starts from the assumption that they do not have all the answers.  Demonstrating integrity and honesty as a value is imperative.

Do your team feel you will do the right thing even when nobody is watching? Integrity at the top sets a tone for your business.

“Honesty breeds trust, and if your team members trust you, they will tend to be more honest with you. This allows you to understand quickly where issues may arise and keeps people on the right, motivated path.” (Steve Cook)

Just as Peter said, good leaders are honest in saying they do not know the answer to everything and Martin agrees, saying it can be lonely at the top. Good, honest leaders will reach out to others to increase bandwidth, bring fresh ideas and perspectives, enable better, faster decision-making, and avoid procrastination or costly mistakes.

What can leaders do to be more honest?

  • Work at active listening.
  • Encourage good ideas at the same time as accepting not all your own will be the best.
  • Talk less and listen more!
  • Be clear with your team on what they are aiming to achieve and how it is going.
  • Create a task-force at work
    • This is an easy way of involving others in problem solving and decision making and will help with their personal development and sense of empowerment.

4. Curiosity

Why is curiosity a good quality?

Rena Crossley, our Business and Personal Development Manager here at TAB says that curiosity enables a growth mindset to problem solving, innovation and coaching through questioning, rather than just advising people on the answer.

By being curious as a leader, you will push your team further and encourage more growth in them as individuals and collectively as a business.

What can leaders do to be more curious?

Here’s a list of questions business leaders should ask.

5.The ability to delegate

Why is delegation key to being an effective leader?

Stuart McCulloch, TAB facilitator in Farnborough and Farnham says: without delegating, the leader becomes the bottleneck and employees can become frustrated. Without delegation, there is a risk that capable employees become bored and leave due to lack of opportunity to prove themselves.

What can leaders do to delegate more?

  • Regularly review the tasks you are handling yourself
    • Delegate any tasks you can

Read more tips on how business leaders can delegate.

6. Empathy

Our final quality is empathy.

Why should leaders empathise?

It leads to compassion and understanding on the most human level. Additionally, Steve said that everyone needs to learn, and the best leaders I have worked for have been very patient and understanding when explaining what is required. This means staff should go away with a clear understanding of what’s expected, and the belief that they can question and ask for support if needed. Not doing this just leads to worry, confusion and often failure of the required task.

How can leaders become more empathetic?

  • Regularly challenge yourself to see things from other people's point of view
    • What could they be thinking? What might be driving that behaviour? If that were me, how would I feel in this situation?
  • Ask questions to make sure staff are clear what’s expected and ask if they need support.

How have owners developed their leadership skills since joining TAB?

“Since joining TAB I have made some good friends who laugh and cry together, which is testament to how strong the bond of the Board is. The different skills and diverse range of businesses on our Board means you get such a variety of views to help you see things from a new perspective. I couldn’t be without it to help me through some of the challenges I face and the bit of time I need to invest each month in the Board meetings and 1-to-1 sessions has made me more efficient and focused.” Rob Watson, PH9 Ltd

“What I value most about The Alternative Board is the opportunity to discuss my business opportunities and challenges with an experienced business coach and fellow business leaders. They give me different perspectives, great ideas and advice, and hold me accountable for completing the actions needed to take my company to the next level.” Jonathan Bell, Tyne Valley Motorhomes

If you’re looking to better your leadership role and have a sounding board for all your business decisions, find out more about joining TAB. 

For the past 30 years, The Alternative Board or TAB has been helping tens of thousands of business owners around the world through the power of advisory boards and coaching. 

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