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Strong business leadership is a vital part of every successful company. A team with strong, skilled leadership is more likely to be productive than one without.
Strong business leadership is a vital part of every successful company. A team with strong, skilled leadership is more likely to be productive than one without.

Diving deep into the personality traits of great business leaders

What does it mean to be a strong leader in a business setting? DAVID BROWN explores the common traits shared by jewellery industry trendsetters.

I must confess that I’m loathed to write an article that lists the top 10 ways to do something.

It seems everywhere you look online there is a ‘listicle’ of sorts that has been designed to be little more than clickbait for someone’s website.

Having said that, there’s a reason this practice is so common and that’s because a good list cuts to the chase of what busy people are wanting – a summary of points and a ready-made recipe of what they can do to see fast results.

I was talking with a colleague recently and we discussed what made a good manager so effective at what they did.

We both agreed that it was invariably their personality traits that had made the difference, It’s that ‘certain something’ that was unique to them that helped them to respond positively in the situations that a manager must deal with.

Personality is an inherently individual thing, and you can change your personality as easily as you can change the planet you live on. With that said, there are certain traits you can add to your personality to help you become a more well-rounded manager.

Key traits
  • Open-mindedness: Being open to new ideas and perspectives can help you make informed decisions and foster a collaborative work environment. In a constantly changing world you won’t survive long without this skill.
  • Empathy: Understanding and valuing the emotions and perspectives of others can help you build strong relationships with your staff and foster a positive work culture. Nothing beats the ability to ‘get’ where the other person comes from.
  • Resilience: A good manager must be able to handle stress and adversity and bounce back from setbacks to continue leading their business effectively. This can serve as an example to those under them.
  • Confidence: Complete confidence in your abilities and decisions can help you inspire trust and respect from your staff and stakeholders. People follow those who show confidence in what they do.

As artist Vincent van Gogh once said: “If you hear a voice within you that says ‘you cannot paint’, then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

  • Creativity: Creativity can help you come up with innovative solutions to complex problems and challenges. This may be one of the more difficult to adopt, but where you may lack creativity yourself, the skill of encouraging outside-the-box thinking in others can be just as effective.
  • Emotional intelligence: Understanding and managing your own emotions and those of your staff can help you create a positive and productive work environment. We place a high value in academic intelligence and too often undervalue this skill. It can often be the more important tool.
  • Integrity: Honesty, ethics, and transparency are critical for building trust with your staff. To paraphrase US president John Kennedy, “you can convince the world you are in earnest, only if you are in earnest.”
  • Flexibility: Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and remain flexible in your approach can help you navigate unexpected challenges and opportunities. Being creative or open-minded will not serve you if you don’t adopt the flexibility to implement.
  • Strong work ethic: Leading by example and setting high standards for yourself and your staff can help you achieve your goals and drive success. This is not only in terms of effort but also the spirit in which this effort is implemented.
  • Curiosity: Being curious and seeking out new knowledge and skills can help you stay informed about industry trends and develop your leadership skills.

I’m sure there’s room for expanding this list; however, for now it’s better to be concise. No matter how good you are in any of these areas, any improvement will get you even greater rewards.

Making decisions work for you

If you ever wonder why some days you hit the pillow feeling absolutely exhausted even though you’ve done very little physically, spare a thought for the effort your brain has put in that day.

It’s estimated the brain uses around 20 per cent of our ideal daily calorie intake, or around 300-400 calories per day and it’s little wonder after a study by the University of Leicester in the UK found that we typically make around 35,000 decisions every day!

"Being able to adapt to changing circumstances and remain flexible in your approach can help you navigate unexpected challenges and opportunities."

No wonder we can’t wait to crawl into bed each night!

Unfortunately, not all these decisions are good ones, regardless of the energy we might burn. In his 2007 book Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb details the two primary ways we make decisions.

‘System one’ is immediate – which was designed to provide us with the flight of fight mentality for early survival. We didn’t always have time to study a threat coming toward us, we had to rely on intuition to quicken the process.

Unfortunately, we still rely rather heavily on system one which is automatic, experience-based, fast, and effortless. This appeals strongly to us as by instinct we enjoy exerting minimal effort!

‘System two’ is cognitive – it requires us to think, to study and to apply reason. It is slower and less intuitive and consumes more time and energy which can be tiring.

Add a little structure

Sadly, because of the relative ease, many of us rely on the emotional responses of system one to issues which while simpler, can tap into our many biases and lead to poorer quality decision-making.

A structured decision-making process can provide you with better results, or at the very least, a pathway to discovering where you have erred. Here are some of the key steps I consider important in making a structured decision.

  • Gather information: Unfortunately we don’t always get all the information we need before reaching a conclusion. Time can work against you in this regard but you should try to get as much together as possible within the limitations provided.
  • Identify the problem: You can’t fix an issue if you haven’t identified exactly what it is and what caused it.
  • Know the ideal outcome: How do you define a successful conclusion? What is it that you want? We can be guilty of not defining the ideal scenario leading to frustration when we can’t seem to reach a satisfactory conclusion.
  • Consider the options and study them: Are you being objective? Are you using system one or system two? Although this is an exercise in thought be careful to avoid creating too many options which can lead to ‘analysis’ paralysis’.
  • Seek advice: Is there anyone else who can provide additional input to the process? Who might have the information that you don’t have? Remember that you learn more from failure than from success. You must not allow failure to stop you, as failure builds character.
  • Test your assumptions: Can you trial your preferred option with minimal risk or outlay before you commit? The less risk there is in the outcome the more confidence you can approach the issue with.
  • Make a decision: This is sometimes the hardest part! At some point you must commit to an outcome. The more thorough your process has been the more confident you can feel about the result.
  • Review and evaluate: Has the correct decision been made? If not, what changes need to be implemented? Always be willing to change your mind if your original decision was wrong.

As author Melissa Steginus tells us: “The review is essential to evaluation, which is essential to progress.”

Although this is a simplistic approach to planning, the steps involved will give you a strong basis to systemise your approach problem-solving.

Gut intuition can be a good start; however, it doesn’t provide you with all the information you need to reach an effective conclusion.

Spend a little more time thinking, if nothing else the extra calories burned might just be that diet supplement you’ve been looking for!

More reading:
Leadership in business: Look who’s talking!
Selling: Everything starts from a solid core
The art and science of storytelling in sales
Quality customer service always beats out pricing
Networking for small business owners is crucial to relationship building

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David Brown

Contributor • Retail Edge Consultants

David Brown is co-founder and business mentor with Retail Edge Consultants. Learn more:

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