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August 30, 2012

The Art of Being a Good Business Leader (Part II)

by marcobuchbinder
Penny Webb

Penny Webb, Familias and Company

What makes a good business leader? What skills, qualities and attributes help business leaders succeed? Penny Webb, Founder and Managing Director of Familias and Company, shares her insight into what qualities are needed to succeed as a  business leader (Penny has consulted and coached 65% of the FTSE 100 CEOs, as well as executives across Europe, Middle East, Asia and the US).

  1. Create Alignment: Good leaders are able to ensure, on a continual basis, that every level of the organisation understands the strategy and their role in its execution. Penny says, “Often we ask employees, management, and board members to articulate the firm’s strategy and the lack of alignment in their responses is telling.”
  2. Appreciate Cultural Differences: Good leaders need to recognise that what works in the West doesn’t necessarily work in the East. They also understand the need to not impose their views on others. They tailor their messages and moreover, seek ways to learn from those who are different. “Think about the number of firms who have sought to invest or develop outside their home country? It doesn’t always work well,” Penny suggests. A leader must ensure that sufficient due diligence is done to assess a firm’s readiness to work and succeed in a different culture.
  3. Be Decisive: It is essential for any business to enable individuals to make decisions, and boards need to make sure those decisions are made. All too often, boards discuss matters that need to be addressed and the finer points of implementation are left in the ether and not monitored. A good leader identifies priorities and holds others accountable regularly. Moreover, in the event that issues are not readily agreed, a good leader makes decisions anyway, learns from them and is willing to change her or his mind should things go wrong. Inactivity and leadership are not good bedfellows. According to Penny, “leaders depend on a strong sense of who they are and rely on strong emotional support, in order to consistently make the tough decisions.”
  4. Build a Support Network: Due to the nature of the role and potentially the need to manage different stakeholder groups, a good leader needs to build an external support network to help her or him keep things in perspective. Just like good athletes have coaches and support teams, leaders of family businesses are no different and need to get the support they need. They don’t always rely on one individual, but build a wide support group that can help them to manage emotional, spiritual, physical and intellectual challenges.
  5. Values: It is crucially important for a leader to identify the values which she or he stands for and then to rigorously uphold them. Penny suggests, “List out your values and stick to them!”
  6. Be Generous: Good business leaders have a generosity in what they do and are generous with their time, helping others in their own careers, too. They are “Servant Leaders” because they know they’re there to help others to succeed and spend more time worrying about what others need instead of their own egos.
  7. Admit Mistakes: It takes courage to admit when something has gone wrong, but good leaders are prepared to stand up for what they believe in and admit when things have gone awry.
  8. Be Proud and Stand Tall: Business leaders that succeed make no apologies for their success and this is a great skill. Self-deprecation helps no-one. Teams need to be led and have clear direction and leadership, and good leaders do not apologise for what they have achieved.

Penny Webb, Founder and Managing Director, Familias and Company. Learn more about her and our other Featured Global Citizens.

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