Managing a company requires solid leadership skills. But being a successful entrepreneur goes beyond basic leadership practice. Entrepreneurs have to create something from nothing. They must lead people into the unknown and devise structure where there is little or none.

Not all of these skills are obvious, especially to the entrepreneur. Often entrepreneurs follow their passion for an idea only to realize they need to sharpen their leadership capability. With a little luck, they figure this out before it's too late.

It helps to gain insight from those who have been entrepreneurs and those who have regularly observed the entrepreneurial journey. So here is my view, and more insights from my Inc. colleagues.

1. Pragmatism

There is no shortage of young idealistic visionaries trying to change the world. But few of them make their dreams reality because they are too focused on all the reasons why their idea will work forgetting why it might not. This constant glorification makes them seem reckless and foolish. Successful entrepreneurs highlight all the obstacles and challenges so they can resolve the issues and mitigate the risk. Pragmatic entrepreneurs more easily build better business models, attract smart people, meet deadlines and create the right opportunities ultimately leading to success.

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2. Humility.

Great leaders are the first to say, "I was wrong." Great leaders are the first to say, "I made the wrong choice. We need to change course." Great leaders instinctively admit their mistakes often and early because they're quick to take responsibility... and because they desperately want to build a culture where mistakes are simply challenges to overcome, not opportunities to point fingers and assign blame. Jeff Haden--Owner's Manual

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3. Flexibility

One quality I've seen in most successful entrepreneurs is the ability to be very flexible and adapt to quickly changing conditions. I was impressed when Bo Peabody changed the business model for his company Tripod overnight from one that gave recent college grads life advice to one that allowed people to build their own websites at a time when this was not available anywhere else. It's tricky, though, because another factor in success--at least sometimes--is the ability to stick to your guns when everyone is telling you to change plans. Knowing when to adapt and when not to is what sets the best entrepreneurs apart. Minda Zetlin--The Laid Back Leader

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4. Authenticity

I think the #1 quality for any entrepreneurial leader is to be real. When I was being trained as a manager years ago, the common practice was to avoid showing your own vulnerabilities to your employees. I think that's changed today. It's now critically important for anyone in leadership to show their strengths AND their weaknesses, and to be as real and human as they possibly can. Your people will respond by giving more of themselves, and being more real too. Peter Economy--The Management Guy

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5. Reinvention

An exemplary entrepreneur refreshes his or her leadership style, reinventing themselves along the way. They understand that the looking glass through which they see the world must have a continually broadening perspective; otherwise change will be uncomfortably forced upon them. To be this leader you must know where your leadership gaps lie and access the resources to close them. Continuing education, coaching, mentoring, industry and empowerment conferences, and a good library are all means to serve this purpose. And don't forget the most valuable resource: your team! Marla Tabaka--The Successful Soloist

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6. Awareness

Entrepreneurs are often viewed as self-assured, take no prisoner business professionals who are driven and single-mindedly focused on building their business with no consideration for others. But truly successful entrepreneurs are exactly the opposite. They are very aware. The successful entrepreneur takes the time to recognize how others view them, how much space they take up and how their presence can change the tenor of a room or the tone of a conversation. It's with this awareness that the entrepreneur can compensate and allow the strengths and ideas of those around them to really shine. It takes a healthy level of self-awareness to manage a team, sign that strategic customer or secure that important round of funding. Eric Holtzclaw--Lean Forward

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Published on: Jan 21, 2015
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