Successful business requires many things, but it's ultimately all about leadership. Only, how do you achieve the necessary qualities?
There are many theories of leadership, from the so-called "great man" model, which assumes people are born to lead, to the ideas of behavioral (it's how you act) or transformational (vision, baby). But a new study in the Harvard Business Review suggests that there are four traits you can work on that make the difference between good and great executives.
Consulting firm Navalent included 2,700 leadership interviews and analyzed the data to find which executives were the best performers. Ultimately, the firm boiled everything down to four areas. The great executives had mastered all four. Good executives managed only two or three. To be a great business leader, here are the four things you need to do.
Know the whole business
There are many ways executives come up through a business. Some focus on finance, others on marketing. There are those that come out of engineering disciplines. However, great executives aren't focused on only one aspect of their companies. You can't afford to favor one part of a business or assume the limitations of a given background. Logistics, manufacturing, accounting, sales, design, IT -- all aspects are important, and the great executive gets them to work together.
Make solid decisions
Executives are the ones where the buck stops. They make the decisions that drive the company forward and address everything that comes up. Great leaders get input, consider the options, take responsibility, and communicate their choices. They also move smoothly between intuition and data analysis and focus on the most important priorities.
Know the industry
It's become fairly common for executives to transfer between companies and industries, thinking that, at the basics, all companies are the same. Except, competing in different industries means grasping how companies precisely make money, what exactly customers want, and how a corporation works within this specific context. It's that context you must understand, just as you need to read a map to navigate effectively.
Form strong relationships
Above all else, the single most important factor -- the lack of which led to problems most quickly -- was the ability to build strong bonds with people. Such executives look to understand others in the company, try to grasp their interest, communicate clearly, and create mutually beneficial relationships. That means getting feedback from others, building your emotional sensitivity, and never sacrificing actual collaboration to looking good to others.
The good news is that unlike some theories, these traits are things you can learn and strengthen. Even if you aren't a great executive today, you can become one.