Peer to peer: Lead with clear communication, firm goals

What are the key leadership traits needed to run a successful business?

Loa Fridfinnson - Chief creative strategist, Activ8 Corporate Relations

In the 20 years that I’ve run an integrated marketing agency and worked with many impressive leaders, the core strengths that I’ve witnessed them possess are:

•A clear vision of purpose that inspires others to become a part of a movement through compelling storytelling. These leaders have the ability to align what is important to them with the values of others to build an organization that creates positive change in an industry.

•Support for their team members in reaching their individual potential and providing growth opportunities in a family-like culture. This is what amazing leaders do in the 21st century. It’s not enough in today’s competitive job market to give a person a paycheque; there must be opportunities to develop oneself within an organization, and employees (especially millennials) need to feel they are a part of something bigger.

•The ability to take calculated risks and push boundaries. If it doesn’t work out, effective leaders learn and move on. They don’t dwell on the past or stay stuck in a position that doesn’t offer forward motion.

Great leaders have an unshakable sense of commitment to building something that makes a difference in the lives of their employees, customers, industry and community.

Donna Diskos - Partner, Grant Thornton LLP

The role of leaders in creating successful businesses and driving growth is crucial. How leaders run their teams, exhibit certain traits and make decisions can be the difference between success and failure.

Top leadership traits such as integrity, clear communication and a positive attitude are almost universally agreed upon to be key to success. Confidence and the ability to inspire are also critical, while some believe in the importance of creativity and intuition.

Leaders of dynamic businesses are more likely to have used a coach, are more likely to use their intuition or experience to make decisions and constantly strive for growth. They are open to a range of improvement techniques, including setting challenging goals and monitoring progress, pursuing leadership skills assessments and developing peer networks.

To enable and embed a new way of working that is more agile, responsive and innovative, traditional leaders need to change their leadership style. Modern leaders recognize that they are not perfect and do not have all of the answers. Leaders of dynamic organizations continually consult and engage with their teams. Leaders of dynamic organizations demonstrate good listening skills, ask good questions and are open, honest and sincere. They inspire a productive culture and understand their personal responsibility for the development of others.

Alex Chisholm - Vice-president, marketing and operations, Merchant Advance Capital

Transparency and consistency are crucial. If you want your business to scale, you need to learn to rely on your team. To allow them to reach their potential you’ll have to have a true sense of their strengths as well as an understanding of their capacities. Yes, it’s hard to let go, but functioning under the impression that you’re the only one who’s capable of steering the ship, as many entrepreneurs do, isn’t helpful if you plan on building something big.

If you’ve built a truly exceptional team, it’s likely you’re relying on their characteristics as much as your own. They come from a host of different backgrounds and experiences and can provide valuable counsel if you seek it. Their traits, likely complementary to yours, are part of your leadership arsenal, and wasting them is a genuine detriment to your business.

A successful businessperson is often a great leader, but those of us who lack the qualities of the latter can adjust for that by designing a team that’s autonomous and problem-solving by nature. They’ll flourish when you’re open and transparent with them and you’ll get their best results by asking ‘why’ instead of showing ‘how.’

If you’ve built your business on the premise that you’ll keep them in the loop, then you’d better make it a promise that you intend to keep.