How can you become a great business leader?

Effective leadership involves constant learning, agility and an open mind

Good leaders foster teamwork and collaboration, and build a culture where teams are encouraged to work across departments. Getty Images
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In today’s ever-changing business landscape, effective leadership is more crucial than ever.

Great leaders successfully guide their teams through change, elevate organisations and have the power to transform economies and societies.

As the saying goes: “Employees don’t leave companies. They leave managers.” A good leader can help retain the right talent and save their organisations millions of dollars, giving them an edge over competitors.

But what makes a great leader? This raises the age-old question of whether leaders are born or made.

While some studies reveal that leadership is an inherited trait, effective management is a journey of constant learning, keeping an open mind and, most importantly, embracing agility.

I have had the pleasure of working with leaders from various backgrounds over the past 14 years, and while there is no single recipe for successful leadership, some key characteristics set exceptional leaders apart.

Lifelong learners

One of the most effective leaders I came across was the chief executive of a financial institution who dedicated time to weekly educational meetings with team members.

A guest would lead a session on various topics, and then junior and senior staff, including the chief executive, would discuss key lessons from that session.

There was an in-office library where staff learnt and sought inspiration from other industries.

Work-life balance

Great leaders are passionate about work, but also appreciate that work-life balance is crucial to success, both in and out of the office.

They encourage their staff to achieve a work-life balance by implementing policies that would help their employees unwind, prevent them from overworking and burnout, and encourage them to take time off.

A small business entrepreneur I know has implemented a policy where employees must take mandatory paid leave if they didn’t take a day off in the past four months.

Foster collaboration

Great leaders know that leading a business to success is not a solo act.

They foster teamwork and collaboration, and build a culture where teams are encouraged to work across departments and diverse opinions are welcomed and celebrated.

Effective communicators

Words have the power to motivate or demotivate employees. Great leaders are effective communicators.

They establish a transparent work culture where information is shared, and employees are encouraged to speak their minds and share their concerns.

A chief executive I worked with built a transparent work culture by encouraging employees to call him directly for any concern and not go through his executive office.

The door to his office was always open and he encouraged employees to stop by and raise any questions or concerns. His senior leadership adopted the same method, too.

With time, there was less gossip going around, and people felt a sense of belonging and their productivity soared.

Great leaders establish a transparent work culture where information is shared, and employees are encouraged to speak their minds
Manar Al Hinai

Agile and open to change

The only constant in the business world is change. Great leaders know that if they snooze, they lose.

Not only do they have an open mindset that embraces change, but they have also built a work culture where strategies and approaches are adjusted to meet challenges and grasp opportunities.

While some leaders are born, great leaders are made, too. They understand that leadership is a skill that needs to be honed through continuous learning, open communication with their team, embracing uncertainty and being agile.

Most importantly, they know that success is not a solo act. Instead, it is achieved by unleashing their teams’ collective power to build organisations that continue to thrive in the ever-evolving business landscape.

Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and communications adviser based in Abu Dhabi.

Updated: February 05, 2024, 4:00 AM