6 traits you must have to become a Business leader and sustain your role in the 21st century


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The bedrock of national economic prosperity is entrepreneurial skills and business leadership. Meanwhile sustaining business leadership can be daunting. It requires the capacity to adapt and adjust consistently.

However, the skills that help build great business leaders can be consciously honed.

The stories of successful business leaders and entrepreneurs such as Branson, Buffet, Steve Jobs, Shawn Carter, and Mark Zuckerberg suggest this is true.

That truth becomes even more fundamental when you consider how the market is continuously shifting – demanding that businesses move pass the old way of relating with technology and consumers.

Critically the interface of tech, the workforce and changing consumer demand requires fresher and settled mind at the top of every organisation. In addition, turning in profit as at when due necessitate the ability to stay close to people as well as make tough calls. Travis Kalanick and Adam Neumann, previous CEOs of Uber and Wework, respectively, would wish they knew better.  

Certain traits are common to great and lasting business leaders.  These traits can be adopted by young people in the 21st century. Here are 6 recipes to becoming a real entrepreneur and business leader in this century:

  1. Determine to do great things (Model includes Richard Brand and Mark Zuckerberg). If you aspire to be a CEO, you have chosen a path of priority and focus that will require you shut out other options that can set you in a different path. Believe it. You will have to shut many doors – and some seemingly promising doors at that. Richard Branson dared speech impediment, Zuck protected young ‘facebook’ from Microsoft’s tempting offers. Like these two genius, you will get all kinds of advises from people who will care too much and friends who think you are arrogant and snobbish. This is your first lesson. Your ability to survive this barrage of opinions will automatically promote you and build your confidence so that you can survive on the long run.
  2. Invest to understand (Warren Buffet). Buffet partnered with Benjamin Graham on whose ‘Value Investment’ methodology he later built Berkshire Hathaway. This second stage calls for apprenticeship. Understand that whatever you aim to achieve, someone, somewhere, and at sometime, has done something similar or almost similar. Get your hands dirty like a little boy in a mechanic yard by working for a business or someone that can teach you how to succeed. At this level, you may have to sacrifice large pay and leisure but the trade off will be well worth it at the end. You have to realise that the first phase of your life is about the business of learning about yourself – about what you are good at and what you are not. It is also about learning why and how the world is the way it is. You will also learn about people (the good, the bad and the ugly) and how to live and succeed among the wolves and foxes’. This will help you build a platform of personal experience and hard business skills.
  3.  Take Risk (Shawn Carter also known as Jay Z). Throw yourself at the deep end as often. If you swim, you can be sure you can survive the oceans that life is often is. When ‘Jay Z’ was rejected by some of the early record labels he approached, he decided to form his own label, and swim or sink. Many unlike Shawn Carter sink though. However, this is what it means in the real sense – dare to participate in the big projects where you work. Take up what others think is too much for them. In essence you will acquire courage, a hallmark of leadership, and learn the various aspects of the business sooner. If you do this successfully over time, you will attract attention from the top, and promotion to greater level will come your way. But make sure you ask yourself if you still want to go on because often this is the best time to move on either to acquire a further experience somewhere else like a different industry or to begin your own entrepreneurship journey.
  4. Learn to cooperate and cocreate (Steve Jobs). During his second stint at Apple, Steve Jobs had become a better man. He was able to work to some extent with other better minds. Great things are hardly done alone. The period of the great inventors and heroes are out in the dump. Pardon that. Because of the almost insatiable human needs, fragmented market and the short span of innovation have made it necessary to seek recourse constantly through intelligent pairing and smart partnership. It begins with someone to always have intellectual chat with, a team you never seem to be ‘a-know-all’ within. And within your team, when it comes to discussing great ideas or project act as a moderator in the discourse and you should always be a ‘Caleb’, an optimistic and positive person. This attracts people to you.
  5. Find a mentor (Richard Branson and Uncle Jim). Every leader is unique. If you want to be yourself, never take everything you believe and the way you live from a single person. Go for as many people who have achieved something of worth. Research them or keep their company.  Take certain aspects of their lives. The reason is, almost everyone has unique genetic coding that makes the difference even among people of same personality trait; if you pattern your life after what you can see, you may be getting to know too late, you are not getting as far as they got. Richard Branson had Uncle Jim to thank for some of best decisions. He said, “There have been countless occasions in my business career where everyone has urged me to make one decision, and I have gone in the opposite direction – from setting up Virgin Atlantic to fighting to get Virgin Trains West Coast back on track, from signing The Sex Pistols to launching Virgin Brides. Not every move has worked, but that’s part of the fun and the best way to learn. Uncle Jim’s example was simply that it is sometimes OK to take the path less travelled. It’s a lesson I’m still following today.”
  6. Integrate work and family (Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla).  Zuck took time out to stay beside his wife when she was about to deliver their daughter. Even Facebook has a geneorous package for paternity leave! In a world where marriages are in shambles and children learn cruelness for lack of homely love because couples are too busy making money, you sure want to make a difference. You can’t afford to create problems for a world you are striving to proffer solutions to. Learn early how to enjoy life. Share time with the people that matter in your life – say 1 to 2 hours daily, maybe over dinner or during a stroll. If you learn that in your 20s, it will form part of your life later on.

Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka
Toyin Afilaka writes with simplicity and insight. He aims to enrich the Nigerian small business landscape. Through Hustle24 he connects entrepreneurs with information about new policies, enterprise solutions and opportunities that will aid their 'hustle'. He has written extensively for CobraReview, a product review portal, and served as a lead project manager for MarketingMix where he consulted as PR consultant for MTN Project Fame and Business Next Titan etc.


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