Successful leaders, like the rest of us, come in all types of packages. Some grew their empires out of sheer determination and doggedness, while others mastered the market with pure genius and paired with the right people to ride to the top. However, if you take a look at some leadership traits they possess, you will find that there are some that appear consistently.
We took a look at three great business leaders, each different in his own way but all of whom shared a few basic elements in common. Here is what we found.
For his book on leadership traits, author Shane Snow interviewed several people who had worked with famed business leader Elon Musk. One thing he learned was that Mr. Musk was very frustrating to work with…but that in the end what made him so frustrating was also what made his companies (Zip2, PayPal, SolarCity) great.
Elon Musk is what we call an “opinionated leader”. His opinions are strong, and sometimes his behavior seems unconventional. That makes people question him, but he is also very persuasive so people follow him. And if you know anything about his string of businesses successes, it usually all works out in the end.
That leadership quality, where you are able to get people to follow you, comes from passion, dedication, brilliance, ambition, innovation and the general ability to make people believe in your vision.
Steve Jobs was also an opinionated leader who could deliver his vision in brilliant, captivating ways that turned listeners into disciples. He was also, according to Mr. Snow’s book, humble. That means when he was wrong, he would admit it and then passionately advocate for something completely opposite from his former, incorrect opinion.
The ability to admit when you are wrong and be real in front of your employees creates trust in an organization. Changing your mind is human, and even the best leaders do it from time to time. Businesses that can manage an about-face when confronted with market sea changes are the ones that are resilient enough to survive for the long term.
By now, the leadership traits of legendary Jack Welch are well-known: he turned General Electric into the mega company it became after just eight years under his leadership: a market leader in 14 different businesses.
But it is his subsequent leadership traits that have caught our attention: a focus on the so-called “soft skills” of management: the ability to build better teams for leaner, more effective performance. Mr. Welch’s focus in this area is helping change the business environment to one that focuses on teamwork, communication and recognition of diversity. Again, like Mr. Jobs and Mr. Musk, it is all about vision.
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