Traits of A Great Leader: Universal Qualities that Drive Success

Leaders creating the path forward for their companies

I’ve collaborated with business leaders for over four decades. They’ve come from companies of all sizes, industries and degrees of success. I’m happy to say most of them have done an amazing job at the helm, inspiring employees, differentiating their brands and driving customer loyalty, innovation, quality and productivity. There are certain universal qualities and actions that propelled these leaders and their businesses to the top. Let’s take a look at them.

Differentiate and Elevate

Leaders have told me that discovering and celebrating their brand’s differentiation was one of the most rewarding experiences of their career. Like any great journey, differentiating takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. It can transform a company from being just another product or service to being in demand. Discovering a brand’s unique qualities and sharing that story not only builds value, sales and customer loyalty, it also drives employee satisfaction and engagement when it’s celebrated with them.

Embrace Different Ideas and Approaches

Great leaders seek out different ideas and approaches and embrace difference. The best leaders maintain an open mind, knowing the next great idea can come from anywhere. It expands their perspective and creates an inclusive environment where employees feel empowered to make an impact. A diversity of ideas gives leaders more ammunition to overcome challenges and make more informed decisions that drive growth.

Resist Brand Homogenization

If you’re the leader of a company that has acquired many other brands in the same segment, it can be tempting to “streamline” them. This transforms once-unique companies into boring, mediocre, one-size-fits-all brands that no longer have their own personality or value. It’s demotivating to employees and ultimately blurs brands, possibly to the point of extinction.

Guide, Counsel and then Trust

Leader overlooking the city

For leaders, it can be difficult to resist intervening when something isn’t done the way they would do it. They have their own vision and when that’s not realized, the easiest response is to step in and fix it. But that can demotivate teams and damage morale. True leaders realize different approaches do not necessarily mean something is wrong or inferior. Instead, they coach and guide their teams, while trusting them to execute their vision.

Give Significance

It’s a leader’s role to provide significance to every individual who represents or affects the enterprise. That includes helping their team understand the value of what they do at the company. When employees recognize the importance and meaning they bring, they are less likely to look at a company as merely a steppingstone to bigger and better things. It instills a deep pride that reduces turnover, improves quality and elevates the experiences provided to customers.

Address the Invisible Elephants

Don’t be the leader who avoids addressing the invisible elephants that exist within a company. If there are issues, employees usually sense it, whether they voice their concerns or remain silent. The natural reaction is to fill any void of information with negativity. Great leaders avoid the void and speak the truth. Even if they don’t have all the information they need or can’t share it yet, they update employees as much as possible. Key players resist the temptation to wait until they have all the details before telling their employees anything—a sure recipe for disaster.

Live the Brand

Highly effective leaders “live” their brand. They not only sell their products, they own them. They become walking brand ambassadors who connect with customers on a deeper, personal level. Leaders like this truly understand what drives value in their company and gain a clear vision for their company’s future.

Be Accessible

What happens when a major customer issue or opportunity arises? The best leaders make themselves accessible and immediately jump in. You can build lifelong relationships when the customer knows you care. Conversely, if a leader is never available to discuss a situation, that makes a statement. Accessibility also goes for employees. When leaders take the time to listen to their team, they earn their respect and loyalty.

There’s more to being a great leader than impassioned speeches, shaking hands and keeping shareholders happy. It takes listening, inspiring and, yes, even being vulnerable at times. An effective leader can have far-reaching impacts on a business, from increased profits to building brand value to elevating employee morale and customer loyalty. While these leadership traits may be second nature to some people, for most, being a good leader happens over time through trial and error. Like anything else, the more work you put into it, the greater the rewards.

About The Author

Barry LaBov, a two-time Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year and inductee into the Entrepreneur of the Year Hall of Fame, is founder, president and CEO of LaBov & Beyond Marketing Communications and Training and is president of the board and a shareholder of Sycamore Hills Golf Club, both of Fort Wayne, Ind. LaBov & Beyond was founded in 1981 and has a client list that includes national and international brands in automotive, recreational vehicles, motorcycles, financial services, construction equipment, apparel and medical devices. LaBov has authored or co-authored more than a dozen business books, including The Umbrella Story series of business parables. LaBov has been published in national and international publications as well as appeared on CNBC and Fox Business channels. In addition to its Fort Wayne headquarters, LaBov & Beyond also has operations in Detroit, Phoenix and Indianapolis. His daily blog on business and leadership can be read at For editorial consideration please contact editor@jetsetmag(dot)com.

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