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What makes an effective business leader?

By University of Phoenix

At a glance

  • While not every successful business leader has the same qualities and training, many do share several common traits and skills.
  • Some traits of great leaders are self-awareness, compassion, patience, open-mindedness and a desire to learn and improve.
  • To grow as a leader you must embrace a lifelong learning mindset. This might mean attending seminars, reading relevant books or expanding your skill set through courses.
  • Discover how University of Phoenix offers a selection of flexible, online business programs for tomorrow’s leaders!

Whether you’re an entrepreneur, a manager or a student pursuing a business degree, understanding the importance of leadership in business is integral to becoming a great leader. Many people have a strict definition of what they believe makes a good leader, and those definitions don’t always line up. The truth is there’s no one definition of what makes a good leader.

However, there’s often a great deal of overlap with key skills and qualities. As you’ll see in this article, certain characteristics tend to appear in many leaders with various leadership styles and experiences.

In working to develop your leadership skills, you may find that doing so affects more than your own success. Great leaders, after all, create great organizations and employee experiences. Here’s what to know.

Start your business career on the right foot. 

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Characteristics of a business leader

Online resources, such as the Better Business Bureau and other websites, provide lists of traits that great leaders share. Everyone has an opinion about what makes a leader stand out, and becoming familiar with these traits can help you begin to nurture them in your own leadership development.

While there’s no shortage of insight on strong leadership traits, it’s important to note that your way of leading does not have to fit a specific list to work. You can take the following and use it as a springboard to find an approach to strong leadership that works for you and your role.

Self-motivated and self-aware

Two popular characteristics of effective business leaders are the ability to be self-aware and self-motivated. This makes sense, since you need to be able to lead yourself toward your goals before you can effectively lead other people.

Self-motivated people are able to push to reach goals they have set for themselves despite obstacles. They often accomplish this through smaller, actionable goals or milestones that ladder up to a larger objective.

Self-aware people are able to identify their strengths and weaknesses and develop plans to grow their skill set. They understand how to overcome or compensate for their weaknesses and how to continue to grow their strengths, all of which suggests strong leadership potential

Deliberate and decisive

Another important business leadership skill is the ability to make decisions in a timely and effective manner. This is important since others will look to you to make decisions and follow through accordingly.

Strong decision-making is the result of highly developed critical-thinking skills and confidence. Being decisive comes from a high level of knowledge and expertise, a clear sense of direction and courage — all sought-after qualities in leaders.

Compassionate and patient

Many business leaders find success through compassion and patience. While it’s often the stereotype that those in business leadership are cutthroat and harsh, compassion and patience play a valuable role in effective leadership.

Compassion can help leaders to support their staff to find creative solutions, create a healthy workplace and avoid burnout. When leading others, compassion can help someone understand the viewpoint of the people they work with and make decisions that are best for the group as a whole.

Open-minded and flexible

When leaders are open-minded and flexible, they can adjust to and accept change easily. This might relate to changes in technology and systems, implementing more diversity or finding new ways to reach company goals.

If you’re open-minded and flexible, your employees will likely feel more comfortable sharing their ideas, concerns and questions with you. This flexibility can lead to higher levels of creative thinking and problem-solving in your company.

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Trustworthy and accountable

Trustworthy and accountable leaders will have the trust and loyalty of their employees.  They acknowledge when they have made a mistake and and accept responsibility for poor decisions.

Trustworthy and accountable leaders keep their word and can be trusted to follow through on important decisions. Employees who work for trustworthy leaders feel supported in the workplace, even in the face of major mistakes or setbacks.

Desire to learn and improve

If you’re a leader and you recognize some of these skills in yourself, then cultivate one more: the desire to learn and improve.

A lifelong learning mindset not only leads to continual improvement in yourself, but it also motivates those around you, including your employees, to learn and improve their skills.

Becoming an effective leader is not something that happens overnight; it’s a lifelong process. By having a desire to learn and a growth mindset, you’ll be able to evolve as a leader and develop skills for the entirety of your career.

How to improve business leadership skills

You can continue to learn and develop as a leader in many ways. You might, for example, find a mentor, read leadership and business books and continue your education.

In fact, you can specifically study leadership and management as a part of a business degree both at the bachelor’s and master’s levels. Pursuing a degree can make you a more effective leader because it employs the twin benefits of learning new material and gaining insight from teachers and business professionals.

No matter your leadership style and experience, you can develop traits that will make you an effective leader. By identifying the traits you want to work on, and taking steps to learn and improve your skills, you can lead your team — and yourself — toward success.

Earn a business degree from University of Phoenix

If you’re looking to learn more about more general online business programs that prepare students with skills for a variety of career paths, University of Phoenix offers a variety of relevant options. Whether you’re looking to build the fundamentals or advance your skill set, there are plenty of degrees and certificates to consider.

Associate of Arts with a concentration in Business Fundamentals From management to accounting, skills learned in this program are essential for anyone looking to advance in their business education. 

Bachelor of Science in Business Knowledge of the ins and outs of running a business can spell the difference between success and failure in a competitive business world. 

Master of Business Administration Prepare for higher leadership roles in an organization. This degree program can prepare graduates for careers as business managers, operations directors and more.

Master of Management Take your understanding of business organization and management to an advanced level. This degree program is perfect for those with experience in the workforce who are looking to take on greater leadership roles. 

Doctor of Business Administration Expand your understanding of organizations, work environments and industry. This program invites participants to delve into cutting-edge research in the field of business and develop skills for solving complex organizational problems. 


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