Key aspects of business leadership

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The study of business leadership–what it is and how to acquire or develop it–has produced blog posts, think pieces, and textbooks examining the topic. Business leadership is one of those qualities that’s notoriously hard to pin down in an objective way.

As more and more researchers turn to looking at what makes business leaders tick and try to discover the specific qualities that successful entrepreneurs and leaders have, there is more data and even more opinions and differences about the key aspects of leadership.

In a recent article on Inc., Peter Economy writes about a study by leadership consultants that surveyed 300,000 business leaders to rank the top competencies and skills that leading executives must have. Among the skills highlighted were building relationships, displaying a strategic perspective, inspiring and motivating others, and displaying integrity and honesty.

Scott Paterson, a Canadian technology and media venture capitalist, makes specific mention of coaching skills and the ability to empower teams to make decisions as two qualities that are often undervalued as business leadership skills.

Recent research on the performance and effectiveness of teams, exemplified by Google’s work on the subject, has shown that teams work well in an environment of psychological safety, a term that means that team members feel confident in taking risks around each other, e.g. making suggestions about improving a process or a product. In addition, the meaning of a team’s work and the impact that it has, when communicated to team members, can make a huge difference to the overall efficacy of the team.

As the business environment evolves, so does the relationship between teams and leaders, which means that the skills required for business leadership are changing over time as well. The qualities that might have made for an admirable and effective business leader 10 or 20 years ago are not the same qualities that would make for a great business leader now. To be an outstanding manager or executive means being dedicated, making good decisions, and having advanced knowledge, but it also requires a willingness to adapt and create a supportive environment for team members and employees.

Jay Coen Gilbert, the cofounder of B Lab and the movement of Certified B Corporations, recently wrote an article for Forbes about what the future of business leadership might look like. B Corporations are businesses that have what’s referred to as a triple bottom-line: people, planet, and profit. In his article, Gilbert writes that, in recent years, consumers, investors and employees have become more concerned with aligning themselves with businesses that are values-driven. With this change in sentiment, new leaders are needed who can drive their businesses to have an impact on society and the environment. Gilbert states that this “new vision of capitalism needs new leaders. Leaders who build their missions into their businesses’ DNA.”

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