How to Become a Better Business Leader

BUSINESS icon Giles Cadman October 17, 2022

Successful leaders form the pillars of successful businesses. Leaders see the potential, create a plan to maximise on it, and lead their team to success.

John C. Maxwell summed this up exquisitely when he said, "A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way."

Successful managers run the day-to-day tasks and carry out the plans of the leaders. They are concerned with the details rather than the overall picture.

If you want to be a leader instead of a manager, there are a few qualities you will need.

Before we look at these qualities, let's first look at the differences between managers and leaders in more detail.

Manager vs Leader

Both managers and leaders are essential for the successful running of a business. You need leaders to set the vision and managers to carry out that vision.

For example, if you were in Toronto and wanted to build a train from there to Vancouver, you would require different people for the different project stages.

First, someone has to pioneer the route. This is the job of a leader.

The leader then hands over to the engineers who designs and construct the train track.

The manager works alongside the engineers to ensure that things run on time. They also deal with minor issues, such as cost and time barriers. Major issues, such as recessions and natural disasters, may require the input of the leader to innovate a solution.

Another major difference between the two roles is that a leader focuses on the outcome and a manager focuses on the function.

If your company sells cement, an amazing manager will become the best cement seller that they can be. A leader will answer questions like, "should we be selling cement or something entirely different?"

The final difference is that leaders see everything at the same time, whilst managers deal with specific processes. If there are minor issues, the leader will overlook these because they do not contribute to the bigger picture, but a manager will be eagle focussed on these because they are essential to a specific process.

If there are major issues, such as a rapidly growing competitor, the leader will need to turn all their attention towards creating a strong company brand to help them stand out against competitors. The manager will be primarily unaffected because the issue will not affect the day-to-day running of the business.

The Qualities of a Successful Business Leader

Now we have covered the core difference between a leader and a manager, let's look at some qualities needed to be a successful business leader.

Deep Thinker

The role of a leader is 80% thought and 20% action. They need to think beyond the every day to find those rare diamond ideas amongst the masses of coal.

Leaders understand that thinking time is not wasted time, and that every idea is helpful, even if it is bad. Knowing what you don't want is almost as helpful as knowing what you do want.


Every good leader is a visionary. A business visionary is someone who decides on a future goal based on a diamond idea and then creates a plan to help the business reach it.

A vision is an aspirational goal, not an easily achievable goal. For example, Apple's vision statement is: "To make the best products on earth and to leave the world better than we found it."

Effective Communicator

It goes without saying that excellent leaders need to be effective communicators. They need to be able to convey their visions to the rest of their team.

They need to be eloquent and be able to capture the room whilst delivering an understandable message.

They may also need to be persuasive. Some of the best ideas are incredibly high risk and seemingly impossible.

Think of Amazon, a company that sells everything to everyone in 13 of the world's most populous countries. Now imagine Jeff Bezos pitching that idea to a room of investors. He would have had to have been unbelievably persuasive to even get them to consider the concept.


To be an effective communicator, leaders need to be decisive. It is very difficult to convince people on your point of view if you are unsure of it yourself.

There is a firm line between decisive and reckless, however. Leaders need to back their decisions with facts, research, and a good deal of experience.

They also need to be decisive when problems occur. I say when, not if, because you cannot stop issues, and if there are not happening, it is because you haven't detected them yet.

When something goes wrong, the first decision you make defines the outcome. It is essential to deliver clear and reasoned messages to your team in order to get the right outcome.


And lastly, leaders need to be self-aware. Self-aware leaders use their awareness of their impact to motivate, inspire, and challenge progress in their team.

It is equally important that leaders are aware of their impact on a business. A good leader doesn't take credit for things that have happened in their business because they know they are nothing without their team. They shine a light on the people who have carried out the work, rather than those that pioneered it.

How to Develop Leadership Skills

The best way to improve your leadership skills, is to learn from others.

Select your favourite leaders, either for their successes, their principles, or their product. Then work out what makes them successful. What makes them credible? These are not straightforward questions to answer and may take months to truly work through.

Once you know what makes these people successful, you now know what to aim for. Leaders are made, not born, so don't expect perfection straight away. With hard work, dedication, and a little luck, you can lead your team to success.