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Getting Started

Qualities of a leader

We look at the skills and qualities every entrepreneur needs to take a business through significant expansion

Qualities of a leader

Launching a business and getting it off the ground against the odds is undeniably an impressive achievement. At some point, though, every business needs to grow, and this throws up a battery of new challenges to an entrepreneur, requiring personal qualities beyond the self-belief, passion and creativity which first breathed life into the enterprise.

But what are those qualities, and do you have them? Martin Brown of business advisor Elephant’s Child, which helps support entrepreneurs, spells out the key strengths required.

Core qualities you need

Clarity of thought. “This may seem like stating the obvious but, given the complexities of modern business, a vital first step for expansion is for the entrepreneur to actively consider and firmly decide on the company’s strategic direction and future long-term development.”

Good communication skills. “The ability to commit your ‘clear thinking’ to paper as a business plan is an essential next step. Then you must live and breathe that vision yourself for all to see. There are a lot of business plans and mission statements out there that don’t reflect the reality of the companies that produced them. Remember, you’ve other audiences to reach too, including customers, stakeholders and other investors.” 

Ability to win hearts and minds. “Having defined and communicated your strategy,  you need to ensure everyone buys into it and knows what it means for them – how it effects their role, and how it will benefit the company and its employees. You need to be able to build trust around you and your plans, which means being authentic as a leader, so you can have those challenging conversations about what needs to be done to take things forward. It’s about building strong relationships.”

Persistence. “To be persistent, dogmatic and determined is critical for successful expansion. You’re going to get curve balls thrown at you, suffer setbacks and frustrating hold-ups, but you must always focus on your desired outcomes and be resilient if you want to achieve your goals.”

Be prepared to be supportive and self-critical. “Today’s entrepreneurs are smart enough to avoid attempting god-like control of everything. Now it’s much more about coaching and motivating, sharing skills and knowledge with your team and recognising when you need to bring in third parties to support or train them – and yourself. 

“An entrepreneur needs to have the emotional intelligence and courage to assess their own capabilities and, if necessary, have someone assess their abilities,” explains Brown. “If you‘re lacking in a particular skill or quality, don’t be afraid to get the formal, or informal, coaching or training you need. And if you feel you just cannot cut it in one area, bring in somebody else who has the right qualities.”

Shining example

“A leader who is a shining example – and has demonstrated all the right qualities to millions – is England football team manager Gareth Southgate,” says Brown.

“He’s not an entrepreneur, I know, but he uses modern business management techniques and approaches and applies them to his role. He’s been a clear thinker, he’s set out how he wants the team to play and each player’s role within it, and he’s communicated that effectively. 

“Southgate’s engaged and motivated a youthful, exuberant team to play to the best of their abilities and achieve considerable success. He’s shown resilience throughout the stress and drama of a World Cup and it goes without saying he’s helping to coach them. But equally he knows how best to use the experts around him to deliver results.

Brown concludes: “Like a successful, ambitious entrepreneur, Southgate is deploying the right skills to take his outfit to the next level and into a bigger, better and exciting future.”