What Makes a Great Business Leader?

19th May , 2021

Reviewing our business mentoring clients with their business mentors and coaches, we have found some critical behaviours and characteristics of successful great business leaders.  A confidential mentor or coach from International Business Mentors can help you become a greater leader. Read on below or contact us to find out how.

What We’ve Found Makes Great Business Leaders

Critical behaviours, skills and competencies are used by great business leaders when faced with material change and stress. Right now, many businesses face critical human, market, social and political unprecedented challenges as we transition through the massive changes sparked by the COVID-19 human tragedy. This has also led to significant business disruptions and has been added to by other changes such as Brexit, and the change of the US president. Changes on this scale are critical, and leadership needs to proactively adapt and drive optimal business success given the changes we now face.

Great Business Leader Essentials

Great leaders must be able to proactively deliver excellent performance and results against strategic plans and budgets, and lead their people in a distinct and agreed culture that consistently delivers on the business’s vision, mission and purpose.

  1. Make consistent decisions quickly and with conviction
  2. Keep customer priority the focus and consistently deliver outcomes
  3. Instil confidence and strengthen support from your people
  4. Proactively and rapidly adapt to change
  5. Reliability and systematic approaches
  6. Understand what drives the financial success and push up the cashflow, profit and returns
  7. Get engagement and buy-in among your people and other stakeholders
  8. Pivot on technology, changes in demand, your skills and remote working
  9. Have a deep understanding of your business
  10. Get intimately involved in developing strategy and its delivery as business situations change significantly
  11. Understand your markets and changes in demand, competition and product or service development needed
  12. Consistently make customers and customer value delivery central to the whole business
  13. Put in place strong competition strategies
  14. Marketing and sales are actively managed to deliver profitable growth
  15. Operations are delivered efficiently, with continuous improvement and cost control
  16. IT systems architecture, security and social media requirements are in place
  17. Understand and effectively use finance, and know the important financial numbers and non-financial KPIs to manage the business going forward, including forecasts
  18. Understand the importance of and how to maximise net cashflow, returns and profits
  19. Deliver on compliance with regulatory requirements and reporting
  20. Safeguard the business assets and reputation
  21. Clearly identify risks in the business and take active steps to mitigate and manage
  22. Secure Intellectual Property
  23. Ensure all contracts have been properly reviewed to avoid unnecessary legal risks
  24. Develop your people to optimise the business
  25. Understand the labour markets for the business’s required type of skills and talent requirements
  26. Have strong communication skills and use these well
  27. Maintain important relationships and feedback with the important and strategic stakeholders
  28. Improve your own performance capability in leadership and skills base through training, industry or other groups and business mentoring

Make Consistent Decisions Earlier

Great business leaders consistently make decisions earlier, faster, and with greater conviction despite ambiguity, incomplete information or being in uncharted waters.

“Former Greyhound CEO Stephen Gorman led the bus operator through a turnaround, said, “A bad decision was better than a lack of direction. Most decisions can be undone, but you have to learn to move with the right amount of speed.”

Keep a Customer Priority the Focus and Consistently Deliver Outcomes

Strong leaders focus on what their customers want and single-mindedly deliver business results. They develop a deep understanding of what their customers want, and then align their people and drive performance towards creating customer value.

Instil Confidence and Strengthen Support from Your People

Great business leaders instil confidence in their people and lead for success, while making the tough decisions in pursuit of business goals using strong conflict management skills. They listen to their people, giving them a voice, not a vote, and then they make their decisions.

Proactively and Rapidly Adapt to Change

Great businesses leaders adjust rapidly to changing environment with their new challenges and opportunities. CEOs know that they are many times more likely to succeed in changing environments if they adapt rapidly. This is an area where a business mentor can provide invaluable assistance.

Reliability and Systematic Approaches

Great business leaders are reliable, have a strong team around them, are particularly good at managing their organisations and have great planning skills. They establish business management systems so they are organised and know what is happening. This can include predictable focused meetings, dashboards of metrics, clear job descriptions and responsibilities (including their own), and monitoring performance and results from many angles to help make rapid course corrections.

Understand What Drives the Financial Success and Push Up the Cashflow, Profit and Returns

Understanding the financial dynamics of the business is fundamental for any great leader, as they must understand:

  • What is driving profitability now and in the future
  • How to keep a lid on cost structures
  • How to manage the balance sheet to optimise net cashflow and reduce the need for funding from an external provider
  • How to improve efficiency and productivity
  • Which products or service or customers give the best possible financial cashflow, profits and returns
  • Where the best potential is for future financial success (in what time frames) from products, services, customers and markets

This financial understanding needs to be coupled with an understanding of market potential and the elasticity of demand and the likely direction of suppliers’ prices and credit terms as the business expands or changes its offering, volumes and mix of business.

Pivot on Technology, Changes in Demand, Your Skills and Remote Working

Technology has allowed retailers to switch from physical outlets to online selling. Changing customer demand has been met by service businesses re-evaluating their skills base to target new customers or new services, or both. New technologies and operational models have been adapted quickly to evolve rapidly to compete in the emerging market opportunities. Great leaders find navigating change rewarding and they better compete in the markets than those slower to adapt.

Strong Communication Skills

Great leaders effectively communicate their strategic direction and positioning, their ideas, values, visions, missions, policies, advertising and offerings broadly with the following important relationships:

  • Customers
  • Shareholders
  • Debt providers
  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Labour markets
  • Partners
  • Alliances
  • Governments
  • Competitors
  • Public

A confidential business mentor or business coach can help you become a greater leader. Contact International Business Mentors today to find out how.

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