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What is the most important trait a leader must cultivate?

5 min read


The following answers are provided by the Young Entrepreneur Council, an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. The YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and e-mail lessons. Read previous SmartBlogs posts by YEC.

1. Communicating your passion

Great leaders make sure that their team is aligned and “rowing in the same direction.” While you may have passion for the company’s mission, you won’t succeed unless you can create a team of believers. Practice communicating your message until it resonates. — Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches

2. Leading through influence

Most leaders lead using their position of power. However, getting compliance never sticks; leading through influence impacts behavior on a long-term basis. Learn how to connect with people so they do something because it’s important to the company’s success. This only comes if they like you. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but it’s the truth! — Raoul Davis, Ascendant Group

3. Trusting your intuition

Very few people quiet their thoughts and listen to their intuition. As an entrepreneur, your mind can drive you crazy because often times, there are too many variables to make a logical decision. If you work to develop your intuition and gut instinct, the answers will come to you without all the noise. — Matt Wilson, Under30Experiences

4. Showing empathy

Leadership hinges upon influence, and the best way to gain influence is for people to feel like you truly understand their unique perspective and needs. Once people feel heard and understood, they’re much more likely to take your advice and direction to heart. The act of placing yourself in your team members’ shoes helps you make better decisions, and it earns people’s respect in the long run. — Matt Ehrlichman, Porch

5. Persevering through challenges

Startups are hard. Building a business is hard. Being able to persevere through challenges, hearing “no,” losing customers and losing money is essential. It is important to cultivate perseverance in yourself and your team. — Adam Lieb, Duxter

6. Being addicted to personal growth

When a leader is constantly working on himself, he sets an example for the people who follow him. Learning to be a healthy, balanced and joy-filled leader are top priorities. — Corey Blake, Round Table Companies

7. Trusting your relationships

Few things are as crucial for success in a startup as trust. Trust in the leader, trust within the team, trust in your brand, trust from the audience, etc. Each is intimately tied to the other, and each demands insane focus on staying true and never compromising on the values set forth from day one. — Derek Flanzraich, Greatist

8. Being resilient

Resilience is a key trait that a leader must cultivate. You are going to fail, but you need to take those failures in stride, learn from them and keep moving forward to reach your goals. — Michael Mogill, Crisp Video Group

9. Being able to execute

Passion. Drive. Vision. Salesmanship. These are all important leadership traits, but without the proven ability to execute, they are just gravy. Successful leaders must cultivate the ability to execute. To do so, focus your time and energy on doing the right things at the right times — and get the job done. — David Ehrenberg, Early Growth Financial Services

10. Staying positive

A leader must cultivate and encourage positivity. Nothing kills employee or company morale faster than a negative or condescending player on the team. Staying positive during all the ups and downs of a startup will help those around you see that being positive and happy is a choice you make, not just a condition you find yourself in. — Kim Kaupe, ‘ZinePak

11. Caring about company culture

You are the boss, so everything starts and ends with you. Is everyone miserable? Why? Find out why and how you can work together to fix it. Is everyone happy? As a leader, you have the opportunity to make them even happier! Creating a better culture will help define you as a better leader and help you grow your business. — Joe Apfelbaum, Ajax Union

12. Creating autonomy

The most important trait a leader should cultivate is creating autonomy for others. The value of a true leader is the community that supports him, and he should focus on creating mutually beneficially relationships and creating value for those around him. Autonomy allows others to feel invested and responsible for their work, and it defines their value as part of the team. — Fabian Kaempfer, Chocomize

13. Making difficult decisions

A leader has to make difficult decisions: direction of the company, partnerships, terminations, etc. Most of these decisions are uncomfortable because they strain personal relationships. I believe a leader must be comfortable with these situations. I’ve had to terminate friends and tell friends we can’t work with them. They’re really difficult decisions, but they are the right ones to make. — Liam

14. Knowing how to communicate

It’s essential for leaders to know how to communicate. They need to be able to select goals and explain them completely to the team. When everyone is on the same page, you’ll be more likely to reach those goals. With successful communication, your team will be able to depend on you. A leader who does not know how to communicate will fail. — Heather Huhman, Come Recommended