As someone who meets a lot of business leaders and is immersed in business collaboration, I can tell you that when you meet enough impressive entrepreneurs and executives, you start to see patterns emerge. Initially, I thought this was coincidence, but as CEO of M3Linked, a business-collaboration franchise where entrepreneurs and business owners present themselves and their work, it dawned on me: These traits definitely aren’t a coincidence—they’re necessary for success.
Let me share with you some of the most desirable traits, in no particular order, that all great business trailblazers tend to possess.
The more powerful you are, the more people expect you to have an ego. As the owner of a company or maybe a high-powered executive, you have a lot to be proud of. You might be forgiven if you’re somewhat egotistical.
But if you’re not, you’ll be rewarded for that. If you make it clear you don’t put yourself above everyone else, more people will admire you, and you’ll become an even more connected leader—all the while hopefully retaining that humility.
2. A Willingness to Reach Out
This goes hand-in-hand with humility. If modesty is your calling card, you’re going to recognize that you don’t know everything and can’t do everything, so you’re going to be more likely to reach out and work with other business leaders.
That’s important. If you can get advice from other strong leaders, that will ultimately help your business. Whether you’re seeking advice on how to manage new government regulations or how to ship products more cheaply, your company can end up far better off.
If you’re an excellent business leader, you’re curious about the world around you. The business leaders, not to mention political leaders, who get into trouble are often the ones insulated in a bubble, unaware of cultural and generational shifts and technological changes. They can’t recognize when potential problems are on the horizon because they never go out of their comfort zone.
If you aren’t genuinely curious about how the world works, you’re not going to know much about the world you operate in—and when a crisis occurs, you’re probably going to be caught flat-footed.
4. A Deep Desire to Help People
I think we all, on some level, want to help people, but sometimes we get caught up in our own lives and desires and goals. We don’t always think about the customers we serve or our employees.
It’s understandable—but not very good for business.
If you can maintain that passion for helping people, which may be what got you into business in the first place, and put your customers and employees first, your business is going to thrive.
Employees have no incentive to stick around when they think the boss doesn’t have their back, especially in today’s competitive labor market. Customers know they have choices too, and if they feel like you’re taking them for granted, they’ll go find a competitor who truly cares about them.
The business leaders you admire should be those who help you become a better person. The formula is simple: Treat others the way you want to be treated.
5. Being an Effective Communicator
This is very important, and unfortunately, it’s not a trait that comes easily for some people. But if you’re going to lead, good communication skills are crucial.
Even if you weren’t a born communicator, you can learn to be better. So much of getting better at communicating involves, like anything else, practice.
If you shelter in place in your office (which, yes, we’ve needed to do for the last 18 months or so) and you only communicate through emails and texts, you’re going to lose a lot of your edge as a communicator. But if you force yourself to get out there in the world and interact with people, whether in person or on the phone, or in Zoom meetings, you’re going to find that you start getting better at communicating.
You might even find that you like it.
Doing what you say you’ll do seems so simple, but so many people seem incapable of this. People stop following leaders when they no longer trust that they’re going to deliver.
We’re all busy, and we’re going to fall behind; we’re all going to drop a ball or two. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad person or a bad leader. It means you’re human. But if you tell your employees something is going to be done, you need to find a way to get it done. If you’re collaborating with another CEO and you offer up some resources to help him or her but then don’t follow through—well, that’s a recipe for getting people to lose faith in your word. That’s not what you want your reputation to be as a person or as a leader.
All the most inspiring leaders have some measure of courage. Risk-taking is inherently part of leadership, and taking risks means having courage.
Just making yourself vulnerable enough to ask other people for help takes courage. Sometimes, you may disagree with what people are telling you and feel compelled to go your own way. Frequently, you’re going to have some people in one camp of thought and some people in another camp of thought—and you’ll have to choose between them. When you do that, you know you’re going to disappoint some people you may really like and respect. That’s not easy.
Leaders in business have to put themselves out there, follow their convictions, and hope they won’t lose respect even when people disagree with them. That takes bravery.
But if you’re a true leader who possesses these other traits, losing respect won’t be such a big risk after all. If you act like the leader you’ve always wanted to be, most people are going to support you and follow you, even when they disagree.
Related: 7 Things Great Leaders Do Every Day