If you have ambitions to climb the career ladder or want to set up your own business, you may have wondered how you are going to get to that position.
Here are the top 10 qualifications and skills that are essential for business leaders.
1. Business Management Skills
If you want to run a business, it is important to know how. Good instincts when it comes to managing people is more important than knowing how each department works.
You may never understand the inner workings of the IT department, for example, but knowing how to get the best out of the people who do will make you a brilliant senior manager.
If you want to know what it takes to succeed in the industry, then undertaking Aston University’s online MBA will give you an excellent start and help you to develop management skills that you can work on throughout your career.
2. An Understanding of Finance
You don’t have to have an economics degree but understanding how the financial side of a business works is going to stand you in good stead if you want to be a business leader.
This is especially true if you want to be an entrepreneur rather than work for an established company. You can get an accountant to crunch the numbers for you but having a basic understanding of what they are doing and why is important to any business.
This will help you to decide what you need to spend money on and where you can make cutbacks. Being able to make important financial decisions for your business is imperative to its success.
3. Leadership Skills
Most companies are a product of the people who work for them, so you have to know how to get the best out of your employees to be a successful business leader.
The best business leaders have the drive and charisma to motivate others and it is never too early to start developing your own leadership style. Leading from the front is important and to be a great leader you have to get stuck in as well.
Leaders who hide in offices on the 17th floor and are never seen by their staff do not gain respect, and although they may be good at business processes or number crunching, they will never be true leaders.
Leaders who are visible to everyone from their own PA to the office cleaner gain respect and this makes them better leaders. The personal approach works best every time so make sure you are visible and approachable if you want to be a good leader.
4. Communication Skills
It is one thing being visible but knowing how to talk to people once you get in front of them is trickier. One skill all business leaders have in common is that they are excellent communicators.
They can communicate with everyone from their own staff to the lawyers in the boardroom. They have to be able to communicate in person as well as via e-mail, telephone, and in a presentation.
The most important communication skill is listening, but some leaders prefer to talk than to listen. It is good to be able to give orders but the ability to listen to new ideas, deal with complaints and sort out workplace grievances is what sets the best business leaders apart from the mediocre ones.
5. Delegation Skills
Good business leaders must know how to delegate. This can be an exceptionally hard lesson for an entrepreneur to learn as they have started up the company themselves and ran it alone until it grew big enough to hire a senior management team.
They then have to release the reins and let those managers do their jobs. It is not possible to oversee everything in a larger company and it is important to be able to delegate.
Business leaders who have got involved with the business when it is already huge often have an easier time delegating as they have less emotional attachment to the company. However, it is still imperative that they allow their senior managers enough breathing space to do their own jobs and trust them to do it.
Delegation is an art and it comes with experience and instinct, but it is still something that a business leader needs to be good at.
6. Negotiation Skills
Even if you aren’t heading up the sales department, knowing how to be an effective negotiator will get you far. To start with, you will have to negotiate yourself into a company or into a position where you have the resources to start up on your own. This can involve successfully negotiating an interview or a start-up loan and making sure the terms you receive for your efforts are as good as they can be.
Once you get into the job you may need to hustle for more business or work out how you are going to climb the career ladder and negotiation skills come in very useful here too.
When you are agreeing contracts, deals, or business opportunities you will get a lot further if you are an excellent negotiator as this means that you can work out terms that are favourable to your business rather than having to go with the offer you are made. All the best business leaders have excellent negotiation skills, so this is something you need to work on if you want to get to the top.
7. Networking Skills
An essential skill for a business leader is the ability to network. This is something you will need to develop right from the beginning of your career if you want to be really successful. Often it is who you know rather than what you know that will land you the job of your dreams or lead to you signing the best deal of your career.
Getting to know the important people starts as soon as you go into a company. You can attend networking events or volunteer for additional work that will put you in contact with the managers and senior managers within the workplace.
Don’t be afraid to ask someone you admire to act as a mentor to you when you start. The worst thing they can say is no, but the chances are they will be flattered by the compliment and want to help. This is your chance to learn, so make the most of it.
As your career progresses you will get to know more people. Find out what they can do and make a note of who they are. Don’t be afraid to follow up the initial meeting with an e-mail and keep in contact. You never know who will be useful to you in business or when they might be useful.
8. Decision Making Skills
Although the best business leaders know they are part of a team they still have to make decisions on their own sometimes. They know that the buck stops with them and the decisions they make are vital to the welfare of the business. They have to be able to lead from the front and although they don’t always get it right, they have to stand by their decisions whether they are good or bad. A great leader owns their mistakes as well as their triumphs and can take ownership of the decisions they make.
The true test of a great leader isn’t how they cope when things are going well; it is how they cope when things are going badly. Whether it is the result of market conditions, an industry slump, or their own bad decisions, a business leader who can roll their sleeves up, get stuck in, and do the work that needs doing while still managing to be supportive and lead from the front is essential in a crisis and this ability shows what a true leader is really made of.
10. Forward Planning
Business leaders need to see the whole picture rather than simply focusing on what they are doing in the moment. They have to be able to think ahead so that they can anticipate any issues and resolve them before they become bigger problems.
They have to be able to see what way the market is going and make plans about the best way to take advantage of market conditions in the future to grow and sustain their business.
They have to be able to spot new trends and understand whether they are looking at the next big thing that their business needs to be a part of or if the trend won’t last long enough to make back any money they have invested in a new venture.
This is a difficult task as predicting the future isn’t possible but knowing how to take advantage of the opportunities that are coming up is essential to the survival of any business.
The life of a business leader is never easy but if you have these skills and you enjoy a challenge then you might just make an excellent business leader yourself.