Leadership is an extraordinary skill so much so that it is often difficult to define that certain something which differentiates the great from a good leader.
When assessing investment opportunities we always look at the leadership first and foremost, particularly in start-ups. To guide us we have developed the 5 Key Trait test. It is rare to find all of the traits in one person but when we do we know we have a winner.
So what are the 5 Key Traits?
1. Simplicity of Vision.
Einstein once said that if a theory couldn’t be explained simply it was probably false and much the same can be said of a business. A leader needs to convince investors, employees, bankers and customers that their vision is sound and each person needs to be able to understand, believe in and take that vision on board the first time they hear it. This sounds simple but it it’s not, indeed it is extremely rare, most leaders become bogged down in detail and blur the vision.
An exceptional leader is motivated, single minded and above all persistent. We look for leaders who when knocked down get up and get back on track. Taking Churchill’s advice they “Never, Never, Never, Give Up.”
In today’s competitive and constantly challenging business environment the great leader quickly recognises potential corporate risks or opportunities, assesses the situation and develops strategies to move forward. This style of entrepreneur isn’t a talker they are doers and they deliver.
It is so easy to be distracted when managing a dynamic, growing business, as CEO you are deluged with ideas about finance, marketing, stakeholders and more. It takes extraordinary courage and focus to identify the small number of key actions which absolutely must be completed for the greater good of the venture, to stick with those actions and to complete them perfectly.
The more focused a leader is the more comfortable we are in believing this person can and will deliver results.
Again a great leader understands and manages the value of culture. They care about the details which build corporate culture and brands; they manage those details because intuitively they know the importance of the seemingly small in building large. You can never be too important to let go of this detail. Look as Steve Jobs and Apple, how he micro managed form and function to build culture, brand and following. Those small details became the definition of his corporation.
Great corporations are built by great leaders who build the strongest teams. A great leader, supported by a strong team will always succeed. To attract the best people to a business, prospective employees need to believe in its leadership, to want to work within it, to help share and build the vision. To achieve this a great leader needs a special charisma, something we call magnetism.
Leadership is complex and ever changing but understanding these 5 Key Traits has proved helpful to our company when identifying great leadership.