Whether through the way that they inspired others, the decisions they made, or the organisation they facilitated, the modern world has undoubtedly been built upon the endeavour and determination of steadfast leaders.
Indeed, without such visionaries and pioneers, our lives would be very different, demonstrating the impact that strong leadership can have. Therefore, as a business owner, it's vital to take heed of your own leadership abilities.
An excellent place to start is by learning from others – especially if they happen to be some of the greatest leaders that history has ever produced. To illustrate what you can pick up these from astute and revered minds, we've provided eight examples of good leadership that you can apply to your own business enterprise.
1. Leading by Example
As an entrepreneur, your decisions affect the wellbeing of the company – and everybody who works for it. Therefore, regardless of your chosen style, you need to be a leader worth following. One of the best ways to do this is by setting a positive example: your own. You have the opportunity to set the tone for how your company handles its business, so put your best foot forward, lead by doing and, under no circumstances, never ask your employees to do something that you wouldn't do yourself.
Example: Mahatma Gandhi
Indian independence leader Mahatma Gandhi not only preached a simple lifestyle; he lived it. Dressing in traditional clothing and living a life of few possessions, he addressed everyone – from villagers to statespeople – as his equal.
By committing to this simple but powerful leadership tactic, Gandhi achieved credibility and respect and was able to bring together one of the largest and most diverse nations in the world.
2. Selling a Vision
As an entrepreneur, you need to be able to imagine a future that no one else can envision and then press your team to reach that future. The ability to sense that a particular technology, system or service has the potential to be better in a way that isn't apparent – and sometimes doesn't even seem feasible – is what will drive your team to push through boundaries.
Example: Steve Jobs
The tech industry has produced many notable visionaries over the last few decades, but none have had quite the cultural and practical impact as Steve Jobs. An abrasive leader with an uncompromising vision for the future, Jobs was a marketing genius whose ability to sell his brand not just to customers, but to his employees, created a loyal and committed company culture that still exists today.
3. Persevering Through Hardship
Successful entrepreneurs need to be able to stay the course when the going gets tough, particularly when, as a new business, you face challenges from larger competitors and unforeseen complications. The ability to get past these obstacles and lead your team forward is an essential leadership trait for entrepreneurs.
Example: Bill Gates
Microsoft was involved in a 21-year long trust lawsuit that threatened to split the company apart until it was finally resolved in 2011. During this time, Gates stuck to the original strategy and vision that he had laid out to defeat the threat to his company, refusing to compromise or be distracted by the many issues that Microsoft would face over those two decades.
4. Trusting Your Instincts
In business, you need to be able to make significant decisions that can have a considerable impact; to be able to do this, you have to trust your instincts. As your business grows and the stakes get higher, everybody will have an opinion on what is the right action to take – but ultimately you need to be confident enough in your own judgement to settle on a course of action and commit to it.
Example: Winston Churchill
Thrust into office at the outbreak of the Second World War, Winston Churchill was immediately faced with a crushing dilemma; declare war on Nazi Germany, or sue for peace and remain neutral. Under intense pressure from senior Parliamentarians who did not want another war, Churchill stuck to his instinct and refused to cave to Adolf Hitler's demands, rousing public support through his fiery speeches and ensuring that the UK ended up on the right side of history.
5. Rewarding Your Employees
No leader is more endearing to their team members than the one who shares the spoils of the company's success. As an entrepreneur, your ultimate goal is to create a profitable company, and if you are bringing in revenue, then your staff will appreciate being rewarded for the fruits of their labour.
Example: Henry Ford
After eleven years of production, Henry Ford's Model-T was a massive success, with the company's assembly line proving itself hugely valuable. However, there was one slight problem – employee retention was abysmal.
To remedy this situation, Ford bet heavily on his employees. He reduced their workday from nine hours to eight, doubled the pay of every employee, and introduced a third shift, creating thousands of new jobs. These moves - revolutionary labour practices at the time - would come at a cost of $10 million for the Ford Motor Company, but would ensure that it's most valuable asset remained happy and productive.
6. Finding Creative Solutions
In any environment, a skilled leader needs to be able to adapt and find creative and practical solutions to the problems they encounter. This is especially true as an entrepreneur, as your business will not always have the resources to deal with every obstacle straightforwardly. Therefore, you will need to be able to think outside the box and enable your team to find solutions to obtuse problems.
Example: Eleanor Roosevelt
With her husband, US President Franklin Roosevelt, occupied with managing US involvement in the Second World War, Eleanor Roosevelt was determined to step up to the mark, focussing her attention on the country's internal matters. She helped establish many different groups within the US and drove social change on important issues.
Not in possession of the presidential powers afforded to her husband, Roosevelt held press conferences, published columns and participated in radio broadcasts to bring attention to the issues she felt were the most important. Thanks to her creative leadership, she helped to create UNICEF and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
7. Utilising Communication
Regardless of what your vision is, you need to be able to communicate it. Strong communication is the bedrock of any successful professional relationship, and to ensure that your employees are on the same page as you, it is vital that you maintain open lines of dialogue with them.
Example: Julius Caesar
One of Julius Caesar's most renowned leadership qualities was his ability to connect to those around him. As a military commander, he famously knew the names of every man under his command, while his habit of referring to them as comrades, rather than inferiors, helped forge lasting bonds. These loyalties would enable Caesar to achieve some of the most audacious military victories in Roman history.
Away from the battlefield, Caesar was also a renowned orator and politician, enacting regulatory changes that would improve Roman society, reduce the empire's debt and grant citizenship to foreigners living in Roman territory.
8. Projecting a Strong Sense of Self
To lead well, you not only need to be able to trust your instincts; you also need to inspire confidence in your team that those instincts are right. That process depends on your ability to project a strong sense of self, no matter the obstacles you find in your way.
Example: Sandra Day O'Conner
Justice O'Conner faced many barriers in her quest to join the US's most powerful court. Discrimination against women in law offices kept her from opportunities that she deserved early in her career, and she faced a steep climb to the positions she did earn. Once she was appointed to the Supreme Court, though, she would serve for 24 years under three different Chief Justices.
Examples of good leadership are not just confined to history, either; there are numerous contemporary business leaders who have plenty of management wisdom to offer.
Don't forget to take a look at these definitive leadership lessons from other public figures, either!
As a business leader, what are your favourite leadership examples? Let us know in the comment section below.