Key Characteristics of Successful Business Leaders

I keep thinking of more leadership characteristics to share but I don’t know how possible it actually is to have all the characteristics I’ve already mentioned, as well as all those I’ve yet to mention (which are already on my list!)

So I’m not sure we could call them all essential to business success – what do you think?


Exceptional business leaders don’t just have knowledge or expertise in their field, they know the key skills, attributes and behaviours of successful leaders, and they appreciate the difference between leadership and management.

However, they know that this knowledge is only the starting point; in order to truly understand and learn how to be a great leader and manager they must also apply that knowledge.

In addition, they must really know their people. They must understand what motivates and de-motivates them and apply this to their working relationships. They must continually adapt their style to suit the needs of the individual as well as the needs of the task.

The saying “knowledge is power” is only partially true – it’s only “potential power” until it’s applied with humanity and integrity.

Excellent Interpersonal Skills

Knowing your people, having an aptitude for people and having a genuine interest in them, go hand in hand with excellent interpersonal skills.

The most successful business leaders seem to be able to get on with anyone; they are self-aware, have a high level of self-esteem and a passion for life.

These leaders know how to read people – their body language, facial expression and voice tone; they can diffuse difficult situations and people; they can enthuse and inspire with their voice and their energy; they know when it’s necessary to talk and when it’s important to listen.

They are good at coaching staff, motivating and supporting them as well as directing them. They are adaptable, don’t pre judge people or situations and make a genuine effort to understand others points of view.

However they are also open to continuously learning from their mistakes, to which they can easily admit!

Specific Communicators

Exceptional business leaders know that the more specific their language, the better people understand them and that this generally leads to fewer misunderstandings and conflicts.

They check understanding of key instructions and details by asking questions and listening carefully to responses.

They give specific, detailed feedback to individuals and teams when they praise good behaviour and performance. Also when they deal with underperformers – they detail the current situation and the fact that it is not acceptable; they check out the reasons for underperformance; they agree opportunities and actions for improvement; and detail the consequences of not improving.

Because they are good at using specific, detailed language with everyone, they help their staff to be more specific in their dealings with them and with each other.

So how do you rate yourself against each of these characteristics?

And where can you make improvements?