Whether you’re a freelancer, small-business owner, or full-timer, to climb the ladder, you must know how to lead the pack. Are you destined to be the big boss or be bossed around? To find out, take a look at these 10 characteristics shared by great business leaders:
1. Persistence, Persistence, Persistence
In the 1890s, Henry Ford came up with the Ford Quadricycle, a vehicle made up of a frame mounted on four large bicycle wheels with an ethanol-powered engine. Needless to say, it wasn’t a success. Ford later founded the Ford Motor Company, invented the Model T, and became one of the wealthiest men in the world. Do you try, fail, and pick yourself back up again? Bingo!
2. Thick skin. Rhino-thick.
Walt Disney’s editor at the Kansas City Star told him that he had no good ideas and lacked imagination. He could have taken the harsh words to heart and given up the creativity ghost. Instead he went on to become the most successful animator of all time, winning 22 Academy Awards, creating characters like Mickey Mouse, and opening his own theme park. Today, Walt Disney is one of the world’s most ubiquitous household name brands, synonymous with creativity.
3. An Eye for Talent
It takes a village to make amazing things happen. That’s why great leaders surround themselves with other great minds. Steve Jobs was always on the hunt for talent in unique ways, like accepting invitations to lecture at universities so he could scout potential employees. Jobs personally interviewed over 5,000 applicants during his lifetime, managing all the hiring for his team.
4. Can’t Get No Satisfaction
What do Google, Yahoo, and Facebook have in common? All are billion dollar companies that started in dorm rooms. Great business leaders are never satisfied and continually strive to take their business to the next level. As Ingvar Kamprad, the founder of IKEA, said, “The most dangerous poison is the feeling of achievement. The antidote is to every evening think what can be done better tomorrow.”
When Richard Branson was younger, his aunt bet him that he couldn’t learn to swim during their family vacation. After failing to master the skill during the trip, on the drive home, he asked his father to pull over the car. He jumped into a river, swam, and won the bet. Today, Branson, the founder of the Virgin Group, which is made up of over 400 companies, believes in a philosophy of taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone. “You don’t learn to walk by following rules,” Branson said. “You learn by doing, and by falling over.”
6. Owning Your Mistakes
After Amazon deleted copies of unauthorized versions of Animal Farm and 1984 from users’ Kindles, there was an immediate negative backlash. Not only did Amazon cop to the mistake in an official press statement, CEO Jeff Bezos personally apologized, admitting that the company’s solution to the problem was “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with our principles.” He also offered, “deep apologies to our customers.”
If you want to lead in the business world, you’re going to have to stand up for yourself. “When somebody challenges you, fight back. Be brutal, be tough,” advised Donald Trump. Michael Bloomberg agreed, saying at a commencement ceremony that, “In the business world, it’s dog-eat-dog,” and, “you occasionally have to throw some elbows.”
8. Winning Friends and Influencing People
But don’t take the tough act too far. People work better for managers they like. John D. Rockefeller said, “The ability to deal with people is as purchasable as a commodity as sugar or coffee and I will pay more for that ability than for any other thing under the sun.” Mark Cuban put things a little more simply: “People hate dealing with people who are jerks. It’s always easier to be nice than to be a jerk. Don’t be a jerk.”
9. Singular Vision
It all starts with an idea. Howard Schultz envisioned a single brand with coffeehouses across the globe. He turned that dream into a reality and founded Starbucks. “I think if you’re an entrepreneur, you’ve got to dream big, and then dream bigger,” he said. “It’s seeing what other people don’t see and pursuing that vision.”
10. Powerfully Passionate
Above all, a true leader is passionate about whatever venture he or she is undertaking. As Jobs said, “You have to be burning with an idea, or a problem, or a wrong that you want to right. If you’re not passionate enough from the start, you’ll never stick it out.” Oprah Winfrey also had some powerful words on the subject. “Passion is energy,” she said. “Feel the power that comes from doing whatever excites you.”
Let me know what traits you think make a great business leader @MichaKaufman.
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