More than delivering on a vision or trusting your gut, one of the most important characteristics of a successful business leader is the ability to inspire. There's no greater asset at your disposal than people, and it's up to you to recognize and unlock each employee's potential.

Your employees drive your business's success every day. They interact with your customers, deliver your services, generate new ideas, and generally make the world go 'round.

But many leaders take a standard approach to leadership. They rely on methodologies that are seemingly scalable--and that's the problem. People don't need scalable solutions; they want personalized ones.

My employees at Gravity come from far and wide, bringing a slew of skills to the table. And that's the key: The business thrives because each person has an opportunity to play to his or her passions and take the lead in any specialty area.

This tailored approach shows a commitment to each employee's personal success and growth, which in turn keeps those people engaged in the overall success of the company.

Power to (and From) the People

Now more than ever, leaders need to embrace the value of their employees' diverse ideas and skills. Follow these steps to put those differences to full use:

1. Be human. Leadership is just a term; personal connections are much more important. Don't do the leadership "thing" just to grow your business or to improve people's perception of you. Truly listen to what your employees are both telling and showing you, and try to understand their challenges and needs. When you combine those insights with a few business strategies, you can make the biggest impact on your employees' lives--professionally and personally.

2. Don't sugarcoat. People sometimes ask for more than you can give them. If an employee asks for a raise or promotion that doesn't fit with your business plan, that's OK. Just be transparent. You won't do anyone any favors by glossing over things people don't want to hear.

3. Raise the bar. You've assembled some talented employees. What else can they do? When employees don't feel challenged in the workplace, they can become complacent. (This goes for leaders, too.) Consider giving your employees challenging tasks and responsibilities to keep them motivated and identify strengths and weaknesses. They'll continue to grow as professionals--and it could help your bottom line.

4. Never stop training. Obviously, you need to train people to do their jobs. But to tap into your employees' full potential, allow them to seek other training opportunities. Let them take a college course, pursue a certification, or even learn a new skill that doesn't directly relate to their jobs. Employees are likelier to stick around if they feel in control of their own careers.

5. Obey the Golden Rule. They're words to live by, so why not work by them, too? Treat people the way you want to be treated. An easy place to start is by giving credit where it's due. Focusing on outcomes is important, but acknowledging the time and energy your employees devote to your business is a sign of respect.

Building the strongest business means valuing its greatest resource: people. Your business--and your team--will thrive when you align your company's goals with your employees' passions. By investing in your employees and inspiring them on both a personal and professional level, you increase the chances of seeing a better return. And isn't that what business is ultimately about?

This article was co-authored by Alex Andreyev, vice president of digital at Gravity.

Published on: Apr 18, 2016
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.