Are You A Leader

by: Kate Driesen

Are you a leader? Of course you are. You wouldn’t be running a small business or considering starting one if you weren’t. But how many of the traits of a successful leader do you have? Use the checklist below, developed in over 20 years experience in training and coaching leaders, to identify your strengths and areas where you could use improvement. Then plan how to bolster your strengths and grow where you have challenges, using the suggestions at the conclusion of this article.

The characteristics of good leaders that apply to organizations large and small are:

Vision: Leaders have a vision for the future and the overall direction needed for the organization to grow and prosper. The vision embraces what you want to become over the years, not just an extension of what you are now. Every major decision is taken with an eye to moving toward this vision.

Worldview: Leaders can scan and interpret the outside world, keeping the organization in touch and ahead of the competition and out of harm’s way. It’s the top responsibility for a leader. They are the eyes on the ever-changing, ever-challenging world.

Strategic and Conceptual Thinking: Leaders have the ability to think strategically about what options are open to them and how to take advantage of them.

Passion: Leaders are passionately committed to the cause, organization and their people. They have fire in their bellies.

Honesty, Integrity and Trustworthiness.  Without these traits, leadership has no credibility and the organization will founder.

Ability to Motivate and Inspire: A leader inspires ordinary people to achieve extraordinary results. Leaders recognize people excel to the degree they participate. They take the time to give recognition and feedback.

Develops People: Realizes that people are the organzation’s most precious asset and develops them through training, coaching, mentoring and assignment of responsibilities.

 Instills a Culture of Accountability: Sets organization and individual objectives and holds him/herself and the team accountable for achieving them.

Listens: Listening builds a culture of respect and trust. Good strategic and operating decisions can only be made with good current information.

Has a Bias For Action: Leaders have a bias for action and making tough decisions quickly.

Tough and Persistent: Sticks to their objectives and timetables. Makes the tough decisions on people and resource use. Leaders are, however, consciously flexible when conditions change and objectives and timetables need to be altered.

Ask for Feedback: Feedback is the breakfast of champions. Leaders build a culture of trust and respect by asking for and listening to feedback about their leadership style and practices.

How do you grow in areas that need improvement? Leadership is an art that can be taught in principle but grown only by observation of good leaders and personal practice. There are several ways of getting started on your growth path.

  1. learn the principles—read, take a training course, observe good leaders in action.
  1. ask questions of other leaders.
  1. join a group of small business owners that will discuss leadership and management matters.
  1. find a mentor.

Finally find a leadership coach who can teach you the principles over time and coach you on how to implement them.


            Remember, when all is said and done, leadership is an art and, like all arts, it is a skill developed with practice.