Small to medium businesses make up 91% of South Africa's formalised businesses. They create 60% of all jobs and contribute to around 34% of the GDP. This ability to catalyse economic impact is why effective leaders of small businesses play such an integral role.
Many of these successful business owners and leaders, regardless of their industry or the size of their business, share similar yet specific characteristics and traits. De Wet Schoeman, Director: Centre for Applied Entrepreneurship from USB-ED lists 10 essential characteristics shared by business leaders that have contributed to their success:
1. Integrity: Maintaining a high level of integrity is essential for success in the long run. As a business leader you have to set the example by living out the values and ethics of their company. As a business leader, the best manner in which to earn trust from employees, consumers and other stakeholders is to be 100% authentic, transparent and direct. This will indirectly lead to increased profitability.
2. Passion: Most successful small business owners have developed businesses based on their passions, or they are able to integrate things they are passionate about into the day-to-day operations of their enterprise. Starting a small business in the current economic climate can be daunting; without a true passion for the industry or craft, many businesses fail to achieve success because of a lack of motivation and driving force.
3. A Positive approach towards life: Life is full of ups and downs. Great leaders always see the glass half full rather than half empty. Their ability to retain a positive outlook even when the odds are stacked against them is what often takes a leader and a business from being good to being great. A successful leader must consider every worst-case scenario and cascade a plan through the business to handle each prospective challenge.
4. Confidence: An effective leader needs to be confident in his or her ability to achieve set goals. Projecting confidence can warrant respect, instill trust, increase morale and effective decision-making. All of this, in turn, contribute to a more productive business team. The leader must however, take care that her/his confidence is balanced and unobtrusive and does not border on narcissism or egotism.
5. Industry Knowledge: Successful business leaders must acquire adequate knowledge on their industries before heading into a competitive market. It is essential that they are experts in the overall dynamics of the market, are on top of industry trends, know the competitive landscape and have full knowledge of the day-to-day operations-side of their businesses, even if they entrust the running of this to others.
6. Innovation: Innovation is essential for success and survival in today's business world where change is at the order of the day. Successful leaders are innovators. Whether innovation comes through thought, technology or practice, it is an essential trait that will impact the longevity of the business.
7. Business acumen: In order to be a good business leader, one needs to have a good sense of all the functions of a business. You do not have to be an expert at all business functions, but you need to be able to understand the big picture and all of its dynamics.
8. Empowerment: The ability to inspire and empower others is an indispensable trait for any successful business leader. A good leader knows when to delegate responsibility and tasks. Not only does this provide employees with the opportunity to advance their skills-sets and accelerate their growth but is a valuable tool in assessing the strengths and weaknesses of individuals and teams within the business.
9. Team builder: An effective business leader does not have to be an expert in all functions of a business, but should have the ability to “assemble" a strong team. This includes aspects such as the team architecture (who to put in a team), organising and motivating the team.
10. Accountability: Holding people and oneself accountable is important for sustained team performance. It is more than only taking responsibility for one's actions; it is also the action taken to address the consequences. A successful business leader must be humble enough to account for his or her actions, as well as the actions of the business team.
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