Well-known successful businesspeople often share qualities that make them great leaders. There's no shortage of lists and reports that promise to boil down the recipe. Established authors have cited as few as seven -- and as many as 40 -- leadership traits to develop.
Look more closely at their descriptions, though, and you can simplify it even further: There really are just four leadership qualities that are true must-haves for great leaders.
The most successful businesspeople of the modern era don't just sell products. Often, they're motivated by a personal vision of how they'd like the world to be. According to trainer and Fabulous Body Founder Akash Sehrawat, "Very successful people strive every minute of their day to turn their vision into reality."
Bill Gates had a clear vision of “a computer on every desk and in every home.” That version gave him purpose. Entrepreneurs such as Gates, Elon Musk and Mark Zuckerberg can be polarizing figures, but there's no denying they've changed the field. Money and fame rarely are their main sources of inspiration. Instead, those are side benefits of their achievements along the way to making their visions a reality.
"You may or may not share this view about entrepreneurs such as Elon Musk, Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg," InnovaLab Cofounder Reinaldo Normand wrote, "but you cannot deny they change things and move the human race forward. Money is not a motivator for these folks as they pledged to donate their fortunes, in life, to causes that are important to humanity."
No matter how great the vision, will still is needed to pursue dreams. True leaders persevere. They're optimistic and determined. It's easy to overlook the fact that many failed more times than they succeeded when they first started out. But they had a different perspective on failure.
Normand notes that for some, “Failure is not an option. The impossible becomes possible.” Others view failure as a way of learning what not to do in the future. Jack Ma is a good example. The Alibaba founder is worth approximately $35 billion today, but he was rejected for 30 job opportunities in the past. Ma was passed over for jobs at KFC and with the Chinese police academy, to name a few. Harvard University rejected his application 10 times.Most people would consider these rejections as failure, but Ma persevered. He believed he eventually would succeed. Perseverance can give the strength needed to recover from a crisis and continue to turn vision into reality.
Pragmatic people are process-oriented and modest. They not only set goals and make realistic plans, they take action. Pragmatists create strategies and prepare contingency plans in case they face obstacles. Their modesty is a reflection of the knowledge they can't do it on their own. As Sehrawat puts it, "They need a team of super achievers, bonded together with a common cause."
Assembling that super team requires the ability to communicate a vision to others. Most great leaders have a natural knack for convincing people to believe in their ideas, follow them and take action. Bestselling Author Deep Patel believes that “charisma means you have storytelling ability, conviction, and empathy."
Most lists of leadership qualities prioritize communication, but those skills can be acquired through practice. More crucial still is a leader's capacity to share ideas in a way that engages the audience. The message doesn't mean much if the speaker lacks conviction. That's why people must trust in themselves and their vision before attempting to persuade others. The most charismatic leaders are empathetic. Their compassion and apparent caring draw others to them. This allows them to gain influence and gather even more people who are willing to help them turn their vision into reality.