10 Top Keys to Leadership – How to Be a Good Business Leader

There is a huge difference between being a good business leader who is capable of getting the job done most of the time, and really standing out as a great leader who has the skills to accomplish all leadership goals no matter what the circumstances may be. If you want to be great rather than mediocre or just good, consider the top 10 keys to leadership. These are universal strengths that every great business leader has, regardless of the type of leadership being carried out.

#1 Versatile Communication

Having great communication skills is an obvious requirement for leading others to business success, but when you have versatile communication skills you are able to adjust your tone of voice, body language, and other aspects of your demeanor to the situation at hand. A good leader is able to communicate with others when they are in cooperation, but a really great business leader can adjust those skills to successfully communicate with literally anyone.

#2 An Open Mind for Innovation

Don’t get too stuck on doing things the way they have always been done, or your own way. A good leader listens to new ideas, but a truly great business leader knows how to take the right innovative ideas and apply them to create the most effective ways to solve problems and create a strong business.

#3 Open Door Policy

This is a combination of having an open mind and establishing great communication skills. It doesn’t matter how open minded you are or how great your communication skills are if everyone you are leading is scared off from coming to talk to you. Good business leaders say they are always open while great leaders make sure everyone knows they can talk to them whenever necessary and then they follow through with that.

#4 Forward Focus

All good leaders are able to manage and keep things under control in the moment, but a really great business leader always has an eye to the future. They are able to tailor what they do today and what they instruct others to do in order to improve the company or make their team stronger in the future.

#5 Consistency with Rules

One aspect of leadership that some people really enjoy is the ability to set the rules and force others to stand behind them. A good business leader is able to set rules which are good for the company or the team, but a really great business leader keeps the rules consistent over time and does not get off on a power trip putting up rules without just cause.

#6 Respectable Consequences

This one goes hand in hand with being consistent and reasonable with rules. A good business leader sets consequences for rules but a really great leader will let everyone know ahead of time what those consequences are and they will make sure punishments are reasonable and understandable. The punishments must be the same for everyone; no playing favorites.

#7 Respect & Care for Others

Without the people on your team, you would have no team. Good business leaders care for others while great leaders know the difference between showing care and being manipulated. You should be able to both show care and concern for others and uphold your rules and stick to the mission of your company as a whole.

#8 Time Management

Many leadership positions require you to make things happen on a very short time limit. This means you need to manage more than just what tasks are handed out to what person. A good leader makes sure all bases are covered and all tasks have been assigned but a great business leader will continually check up on each member of the team to ensure time is being handled effectively and the project is moving along at a nice pace.

#9 Self Confidence & Belief

If you don’t believe in yourself, why would anyone else? Great leaders display an air of unshakeable confidence while good leaders try to fake it.

#10 Personal Integrity

It is one thing for a good leader to understand the integrity of the company and to mold themselves to that model while working, but another thing for a really great business leader to ensure that their personal life exemplifies that integrity as well. In our modern world this means not displaying sexually gratuitous pictures of you while drunk on your MySpace page while trying to convince your professional associates that you are a person of integrity.

It should be clear from this what sets a really great business leader apart from someone just trying to get by with as little work as possible.

Reducing Training for Business Leaders Causes More Problems

Training for business leaders has become a growing concern among companies. Businesses are seeing negative results when leadership skills are not consistently improved. This is because ineffective leadership directly affects a businesses bottom line. Every mediocre decision has a ripple effect which leads down to the lowest level employee. As resources are wasted, company profits decrease. Economic conditions have caused many companies to decrease employee training budgets. These changes directly result in a lack of management skills. Without continued skill enhancement, it is harder for companies to expand appropriately. Enhanced leadership expertise creates competitive edge through the application of well thought out business decisions.

What happens when training is cut due to changes in the economy? Management focus does a complete flip. Leaders tend to focus on innovative ideas which can move the company forward. The goal is continued growth. However, the focus moves toward processes for sustaining current success as these tools are stripped from management. Innovation is removed from the picture. Leaders have to motivate employees to be forward thinkers. If they are not motivated themselves, it is very difficult for them to give employees the positive push they need to accomplish more. Troubled times or not, training is an essential tool for businesses to groom both leaders and their general staff. Managers learn new ways to create better staff performance. They can apply different techniques for varying individual personalities to achieve a highly productive work force. Companies get more by supplying the tools leaders need create success in the workplace.

Facilitation Courses Provide Motivation and Direction

Consider what happens during hard economic times. Employees become very concerned about the status of their positions. This stress reduces overall morale within the company. Leaders who do not receive appropriate training cannot guide employees in a positive direction. This decreases productivity. Compare the process to a plant not getting the nutrition it needs to blossom. Managers are not receiving the nourishment needed for all staff members to thrive within the company. Instead they are being starved. This negatively impacts a business by inhibiting the innovation needed for proper growth. Facilitation courses are the nourishment for leaders to motivate their staff. The application of superior leadership skills is capable of improvements within a matter of hours or days.

Management training can include topics such as team building, individual goal setting, goal alignment, and planning. This type of training creates a drive among managers. They want to apply the learned techniques to improve the ambition of their own staff. Motivation allows every employee to feel like they are working toward a goal instead of just performing a daily job. Business owners are beginning to realize that cutting training is not a good idea even when the economy is suffering. Training is an investment which provides future success. Look for specific topics when seeking an effective program. Topics may need to be tailored to your company’s exact needs. Connecting with the staff, improved listening and feedback, or becoming a better leader are all rewarding courses. This training can reduce negative outlooks of individuals, offer beneficial tools, and motivate staff members to take charge for the success of the company.

Qualities of Potential Business Leaders

Inspite of all the rhetoric about leadership bench strength, a robust pipeline and smooth leadership succession many corporate organizations still do not have a specific process in place for identifying high potential employees and grooming them for leadership positions. In his book “The Leadership Engine”, Noel Tichy right in the introduction postulates, “The companies that win will be those that build or maintain a steady focus on developing leaders at all levels of the company.”

Enunciated here are five qualities which would certainly help someone in developing into a successful corporate leader. When we discuss leaders we already take certain traits for a given – domain expertise, diligence, being industrious and an average intelligence or preferably higher.


A potential business leader needs to have the intellectual bandwidth of being able to look beyond tomorrow at where his industry and company can be in the global context. Besides the vision he must have the bandwidth to assimilate that picture, confidence of taking his team there and have the strength to work towards it. This is a quality which is often ignored when identifying a future leader. I remember in a seminar of CEOs, Professor Ram Charan was asked, “What is the one quality you look for when consulting with a Fortune 100 company for their search for a business leader?” He replied “bandwidth”. I saw the face of many attendees fall because they were expecting a more profound answer!


Individuals demonstrate resilience when they are able to face difficult experiences and rise above them with ease. It is the ability of using challenges for growth. Rapid, disruptive change is today’s normal. Corporations are in need of people with the ability to bounce back, cope, reset their course of action, and renew their efforts. Resilience is about tapping into your reservoirs of strength under adverse conditions. I firmly believe that such people have at the least 2x potential. I undertake at least one arduous mountain trek every year. I choose one which seems difficult for me; everyday when I reach the half way mark and feel I can go no further I just say to myself that I have 2x potential and I can complete the second half if I set my mind to it and that is how I am able to complete the day’s trek every time. Sportspersons constantly practice resilience training and stretch themselves much beyond their normal capacities.

Leadership EQ

Daniel Goleman says that the powerful role of emotions in the workplace sets the best leaders apart from the rest-not just in tangibles such as better business results, but also in the all-important intangibles, such as higher morale, motivation and commitment. People with high leadership EQ also project a consistent display of trust, integrity and conscientiousness.

When Jim Collins in Good to Great talks about Level 5 Leadership, he says – Leaders are a paradoxical blend of personal humility and professional will.


High potential employees are deeply enthusiastic about their work and about achieving success. Steve Jobs in one of his talks said that people who are successful have a lot of passion for their work, love it and have fun doing it and so they are able to persevere through the hard work.

Jim Collins echoed the same thoughts, writing, “Level 5 leaders are fanatically driven, infected with an incurable need to produce results.”

No wonder Andy Grove (CEO of Intel Corpn) famously said, “Only the paranoid survive” and wrote a book with the same title.

Promising business leaders are good collaborators, high on execution and very focused on their goals and achieving success.


Another mark of high-potentials, especially important in today’s atmosphere of turbulent change, is the pursuit of constant learning and growth. They have openness to experience and grab the chance to take up difficult projects that stretch their capabilities because they are motivated by the prospect to increase their knowledge. They have a quest for innovation, for wanting to change the world, for breaking the glass ceiling. During my rookie engineering years when I was peddling a technology new to India, I repeatedly observed this trait in CEOs who were my customers.

To combat leadership deficit and have a healthy pipeline, Organizations need to distinguish executives who show a strong promise of the characteristics and put them onto the leadership development bandwagon as many of these qualities are teachable and can be strengthened.