Small business owners and managers must often take up the slack, wear many hats, maintain inner calm while others panic, and lead from behind with confidence and skill.

The Small Business Administration identifies 10 traits of effective business leaders:

1. Emotional stability, needed to deal with the stress and frustrations of making important decisions and leading people.

2. Self-control in business transactions, analyzing before jumping in, weighing pros and cons and avoiding impulsive business decisions.

3. A strong sixth sense of what’s around the next corner for the company and for the owner; “business intuition” gained from real world experience.

4. An understanding of human nature, the drives and motivations of their teams, and what affects employee morale. Great leaders have the ability to see things from others’ perspective.  

5. Assertiveness in their ability to engage other business stakeholders with confidence – not arrogance.

6. Confidence in their decisions and abilities, and courage to make a leap of faith.

7. Energy, the ability to motivate a business team, interact with vendors, help customers or clients – an effective leader’s enthusiasm for business success is useful motivation for others, i.e., if the company owner is 100% on board, the staff will be, too.

8. High standards; leaders expect themselves and others to do their duty and do their best.

9. Boldness; effective leaders are risk takers capable of bouncing back quickly, identifying business opportunity, and identifying potential business synergies.

10. Personal charm, sometimes called charisma, is often a trait of effective leaders. People want to work with charismatic people.

Of course, not all highly successful business managers can claim to possess all 10 traits, but all managers can work on improving their leadership skills.

Improving Your Leadership Skills

Leadership isn’t rocket science. Effective leadership is based on reliability, consistency, fairness, decency, personal ethics – all traits that turn into actionable changes that can improve the company’s bottom line.

  • Find the truth, no matter how ugly. The truth is based on hard data, fixed numbers, audited quarterlies, the company’s bank account balances. Even if the truth is unpleasant, you need to know what it is in order to fix it.
  • Facilitate your team’s needs. A good manager gets things done by providing the right information at the right time, by giving his or her team the right tools, and by listening to the people who actually do the job every day.
  • Be flexible, but within reason. You’ll be pulled in different directions on any given day. Set a schedule, stick to it, delegate, and assign authority to make decisions. However, stay nimble so you can “put out a fire” before it has a negative impact.
  • Develop the company’s future leaders today. Gradually add more responsibility, increase authority, and mentor the team you want to keep long-term.
  • Make sure company values reflect your values. Integrity and trust are earned every day. Be honest with employees, customers, subcontractors – all of the people you rely on.
  • Know your personal strengths and respect your personal limitations. If crunching numbers isn’t in your skill set, find someone who can crunch the numbers for you.
  • Hire people who know more than you do. Some small business owners view this as a threat. In fact, it’s an opportunity to learn as you derive benefit from that new hire’s approach.
  • Share the company’s short- and long-term goals with employees. This defines expectations and adds incentive to meet company objectives. 
  • Finally, remember that effective leadership is not about you. It’s not about calling the shots and being head honcho. Leave your ego at the door and pick it up when you head home.

Effective leaders readily admit mistakes. They laugh at themselves. They learn every day. Consequently, they can improve every day.


The information provided is presented for general informational purposes only and does not constitute tax, legal or business advice. Any views expressed in this article may not necessarily be those of Nevada State Bank. Nevada State Bank is a division of Zions Bancorporation, N.A. Member FDIC