5 Traits of a Great Leader
Leadership is an extraordinary skill so much so that it is often difficult to define that certain something which differentiates the great from a good leader.
When assessing investment opportunities we always look at the leadership first and foremost, particularly in start-ups. To guide us we have developed the 5 Key Trait test. It is rare to find all of the traits in one person but when we do we know we have a winner.
So what are the 5 Key Traits?
1. Simplicity of Vision.
Einstein once said that if a theory couldn’t be explained simply it was probably false and much the same can be said of a business. A leader needs to convince investors, employees, bankers and customers that their vision is sound and each person needs to be able to understand, believe in and take that vision on board the first time they hear it. This sounds simple but it it’s not, indeed it is extremely rare, most leaders become bogged down in detail and blur the vision.
An exceptional leader is motivated, single minded and above all persistent. We look for leaders who when knocked down get up and get back on track. Taking Churchill’s advice they “Never, Never, Never, Give Up.”
In today’s competitive and constantly challenging business environment the great leader quickly recognises potential corporate risks or opportunities, assesses the situation and develops strategies to move forward. This style of entrepreneur isn’t a talker they are doers and they deliver.
It is so easy to be distracted when managing a dynamic, growing business, as CEO you are deluged with ideas about finance, marketing, stakeholders and more. It takes extraordinary courage and focus to identify the small number of key actions which absolutely must be completed for the greater good of the venture, to stick with those actions and to complete them perfectly.
The more focused a leader is the more comfortable we are in believing this person can and will deliver results.
Again a great leader understands and manages the value of culture. They care about the details which build corporate culture and brands; they manage those details because intuitively they know the importance of the seemingly small in building large. You can never be too important to let go of this detail. Look as Steve Jobs and Apple, how he micro managed form and function to build culture, brand and following. Those small details became the definition of his corporation.
Great corporations are built by great leaders who build the strongest teams. A great leader, supported by a strong team will always succeed. To attract the best people to a business, prospective employees need to believe in its leadership, to want to work within it, to help share and build the vision. To achieve this a great leader needs a special charisma, something we call magnetism.
Leadership is complex and ever changing but understanding these 5 Key Traits has proved helpful to our company when identifying great leadership.
The Barking Mad Blog
Business Advice with Bite
Connect with me on LinkedIn, Twitter or Wardour Capital:
Think, Change, Grow, Prosper!
In the dark distant past when coffee came without froth and computers were kept in sealed rooms and operated by bespectacled men (sorry ladies its true) in white coats, I spent a few years climbing the corporate ladder which included a stop off in the Marketing Department of a major multi-national.
We saw marketing in aggressively military terms of war, battles, and campaigns, all fine-tuned through tactics, strategy and whiskey.
Statistics and information was gathered from the market and analysed, products were designed, costed, tested, refined, manufactured, advertised and sold, hopefully, at a profit.
Much thought and combative discussion was applied at each stage, key objectives were established, strategic marketing plans, short term tactics, placement attacks and budgets were drawn up and approved before being committed to endless reams of paper. Weekly meetings were held to gauge progress and we wrote up even more notes in pencil before dictating them to our “girl”, sorry PA, to be typed up.
Much time and efficiency was lost in the process and very few really great ideas came out of it.
When I attend marketing meetings today the mood is less combative and the whiskey has unfortunately disappeared yet I fear just as much time and efficiency is being lost in the discussion of SEO’s, word place rankings, the placement of hash tags and how well the product will look on mobile devices. I leave the room bored and just a little concerned that no one is actually marketing the product.
Perhaps it’s time to redefine MARKETING.
“Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.”
– David Packard, co-founder, Hewlett-Packard
When you own the show you can make such bold statements! However, if we ask any ten business leaders today to define marketing we will probably get ten different answers. Marketing its function and its purpose appear to have entered a management grey zone.
I was fortunate some years ago to meet the father of modern management, Peter Drucker, on a number of occasions and his view was: “Because the purpose of business is to create a customer, the business enterprise has two – and only two – basic functions: marketing and innovation. Marketing is the distinguishing, unique function of the business.”
So, what is marketing and are we moving closer to a definition? The Silicon Valley venture capitalist and former Intel executive Bill Davidow said, harking back to warfare, “Marketing must invent complete products and drive them to commanding positions in defensible market segments.” The man should know. He wrote the seminal book on high-tech marketing.
Interestingly Davidow didn’t learn marketing at university as he studied electrical engineering. Steve Jobs, another brilliant marketer, dropped out of school. These guys and others like them demonstrate that great marketing skills can be developed.
So how do great marketers learn about marketing? I am convinced that great marketing skills are best learnt on the job. Doing the hard yards.
SME’s and Startup companies are great places to learn and develop marketing skills because they’re all about developing innovative products and getting customer traction – and not much else. Further they’re always strapped for cash and needing people to wear multiple hats.
Interestingly as an engineer by training I also learnt marketing on the job.
Its been a long and complex journey but here are THE SIX KEY LESSONS I learnt along the way:
Marketing is Hard.
It has been said that “Marketing is like sex: Everyone thinks they’re good at it”. Well I’m not getting into that one but on observation there are more posers in marketing than most other fields, probably because the demand is so strong and the supply of real talent is so weak, and it’s easy to fake. When discussing a Telco acquisition with an American banker some years ago he started to tell me how the marketing model needed to change. When challenged he answered “Bankers like to think that they are marketing geniuses. We really do.” He said, this is because “we can fake it far more convincingly than in other areas …” It’s worrying but it’s out there, be warned.
It’s about determining what customers want, often before they know it themselves – look at Sushi-Sushi and how they got everyone eating raw fish. If you’ve got a knack for that sort of thing, trust it. Be your own focus group of one. And while it’s tempting to think of markets as amorphous virtual entities, remember that, even in the B2B world, every product is purchased by a human being in the real world.
Marketers don’t reinvent the wheel.
Some people are great inventors. They come up with wild concepts that nobody’s ever thought of. But great marketers tend to be innovators who turn inventions into things people can use. Marketing thrives on reusing ideas in new ways. Most modern Japanese industry was based on this premise. Steve Jobs didn’t invent he moulded inventions into products people wanted to use.
Marketing is too important to leave to the marketing department.
It really is! Marketing is the hub of the business wheel. It’s where product development, manufacturing, finance, communications, and sales all meet. Marketing’s stakeholders are every critical function in the company. Every member of the leadership team is an adjunct of the marketing department. SME or Giant Corporation it’s all the same.
Marketing Really Counts.
Contrary to today’s popular feel-good wisdom, in business, winning is everything. Every transaction has one buyer and one seller. If you do it right, buyer and seller both win. All the other would-be sellers lose. The real world is brutally competitive. Be different to win.
Great Marketing Ideas are Rare.
By executing the right communication strategy, great marketers can create a groundswell of customer excitement and viral demand for a company or product that nobody’s ever heard of. And it can be done on a shoestring budget. Steve Jobs was a master at maintaining secrecy and controlling exactly how and when anybody learned anything about Apple’s products. MacDonald’s are turning bad press about fast food into selling points through its new menus and PR.
The truth is that great marketers are few and far between. Which begs the question, who exactly are you trusting the most important aspect of your business to? Something for you to think about as you take your SME global.
Finally my definition of marketing is to “take something useful and turn it into something desirable”
The Barking Mad Blog
SME Advice with Bite!