Business Leaders: What Sets Them Apart?
We all have come across business owners who have an uncanny ability to inspire and lead. These are the business owners who seem to make effortlessly astute decisions and guide the business and its employees to success.
At Kona Impact, we have worked with around 400 businesses over the years, and most of the time, we are working with the owner or one of the top people in the company. We have seen a lot of great managers, people who make sure stuff is done and in an organized, orderly and cost efficient manner.
A much rarer breed, however, is a great leader, the person who sets an ambitious tone for the business and has the skills to ensure that the business not only stays on track but thrives.
It’s been said many times that a great leader will choose the destination, and a great manager will makes sure there are enough supplies and human power to get there.
Here are five characteristics of great leaders I have seen in Hawaii:
- Decisiveness. Leaders make decisions, and they make them quickly. This does not mean that they make decision without considering all the pertinent details—they do—but they make decisions without over-analyzing or dwelling on the inconsequential. We see this with many of our most successful clients: when we ask the leader of the business for a decision; we typically get an answer within seconds. Granted, ownership of a business enables one to make decisions without consulting others, but leaders tend to be men and women of action: get things done and move on.
- Loyal. Employees make mistakes. Suppliers make mistakes. Strong leaders accept this is true and use errors to grow and strengthen relationships. Most of Kona Impacts most loyal customers are some of the best business leaders, because they value consistency, reliability and trust. They know that they only get this from long-term customer-supplier relationships. They also know that we can count on their business in the future, so if something needs to be done and it’s on a weekend, we do it. Loyalty breads loyalty. Leaders know this.
- Future focused. Leaders tend to seek out innovation and game-changing products and services. We are constantly amazed at some of the ways our most successful clients innovate and offer products or services that meet a current need in the market, or in many cases, create a new market. Few leaders, from our experience, spend a lot of time looking in the past, and to some extent, focusing on competitors. They set the standards, and they know that by excessively focusing on competitors, they will always be behind or second best.
- People people. We have one client that makes everyone around him feel good about what they do and how they help the business. He communicates well, and with sincerity, from the dishwasher to the manager. One of our real estate clients, once said, “it’s easy to bring people down. I want to bring them up.” It’s a simple approach to relationships, but it is at the heart of being a leader.
- Focused on value, not cost. Our most successful clients, those who run business that everyone in town knows, are focused on what a person, product or service brings to the business in terms of adding value. This is quite different from cost. A new sign might cost $1000, but if it brings in ten times that in profit a month, it is a good value. The cost is irrelevant as long as there is sufficient value.
Academics have argued for decades if leadership can be taught. It’s really not the right question.
Leadership is not a binary thing: you have it or you don’t. We find that some leaders may be stellar with people, but be less decisive. Others might be high on loyalty, but more cost conscious. Leadership a singular trait of; instead, it is a basket of behaviors, attitudes and ways of working with people.