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Traits of Successful Business Leaders

Updated on February 17, 2016

The Traits.....We Have All Heard of Them....

We’ve all heard of the traits of great business leaders. They are honest, they know how to delegate, they communicate with clarity, they have a sense of humor, they are confident, demonstrate commitment, have a positive attitude, they are creative, intuitive, and inspire others (Forbes 2014)

This list can be applied to any position in business, and any area of life. To be happier, successful in your own endeavors, be a great partner or parent. So how do we connect these traits with success in business? Is this all you need? Ethics and charisma mixed with a little creativity?

Leaders and Success Examples

Well, we can look at a few successful leaders and see what they have accomplished in 2013.

Angela Ahrendts, the CEO of Burberry (transitioning to Apple) took Burberry and made it the number one fashion brand in the UK.

Dan Akerson, the GEO of General Motors who redefined the Cadillac from a ‘parent’s car’ to a highly desirable status symbol of luxury.

Jeff Bezos CEO of Amazon, who has helped Amazon create a platform to sell everything under the sun, and is working towards a brand-extension of a smartphone. (Business Insider 2013)

We see success is not measured by a personality test or intelligence test. It is clearly linked to the end result of these leaders’ visions. That result is the financial and innovative success of a company. So….how do we know what these leaders did personally to attain such accolades and success?

We can assume they are creative, they excel in communication, are confident and innovative, but did they do it all alone? A smile and an idea got them there? No…But traits helped them get in the position, and what they did after that explains their success.

All of these leaders stand on the foundation of successful employee input and output. So the machine is created by the leaders, but it runs by way of employees. So we have to assume—these CEOs would not be successful without a great business culture. Otherwise, turnover and morale would stifle progress and innovation. So…..

What is the business culture like at these places? How can we draw the connection between the ‘great leader traits’ and these leaders’ successes?


Leaders' Companies and Employees' Reviews


According to GlassDoor Reviews

An employee summed up Burberry as “Amazing” :

“Amazing” June 26, 2014

Pros – Great company great benefits, fun environment to work.

Cons – Late hours. Opened too much.

They summarize the job as great benefits and a fun place to work but late hours as a con. This is a smart combination by the leaders at Burberry. They make it fun for their employees and offer great investment in human resources while committing to their customers by providing convenient and long hours for sales and customer support to increase sales ability. The offset to the long hours is great compensation and benefits. Quid pro Quo.


Next, tying with a rating of 3.4 is General Motors with an overall review that it is a fun company and has opportunities with good compensation and benefits, but a con with work-life balancing.

Pros “Fun job and wide range of opportunities within your function”

Cons "Sometimes work life balance can be challenging

The employee noted: "Compensation and benefits were good (including 18 paid holidays) with frequent raises, promotions or opportunities to move within the function, whether or not you have relevant experience"….They also have an ambassador program to enrich the skills and future opportunities for their employees.

We see a pattern evolving, fun and great compensation/benefits, but again, we run into a con of “Work life balance”. We have to ask how fun and innovative the environment is, for people to justify their continued loyalty to the company in the face of long hours.

This company clearly invests in its employees. It sends a message of “if you invest in us, we will invest in you”


Finally Amazon employees say:

“High Risk, High Reward”

Pros – Salary is good. Get stock vests over first 4 years. Very challenging and will push you to your limits, and beyond. I have grown as a leader 2 fold in 3 years. Amazon focuses on holding managers accountable and thus creates an environment of success. Highly driven by a feedback-centered culture.

Cons There is literally no work life balance inside this company

I love the title here. It creates excitement. And don't we all need a little excitement to help us hop out of bed every morning and go to work? See the employee’s statement “I have grown as a leader 2 fold in 3 years” -the pride in that statement is a direct result of the company culture.

But the same con of a work-life balance is raised. However; this person has been employed for 3 years. There is a risk to burn out employees, but the ones who stick it out are the ones that seem most thankful for their PERSONAL AND PROFESSIONAL growth offered BY the company.

What we see something in common with all three companies-they indeed have headlining CEOs, but..more importantly, they offer great wages, an enriching learning environment, they challenge their employees, they empower them, they make it fun, but also demand more in return for that work environment-mostly with longer hours or a work-life balance.


In turn, it appears these employees generally feel value in what they accomplish because they feel valued by the employer--and they feel valued because the employer takes the time to apply their traits not just to making innovative advances in their industry, but innovative advances in company culture.

So in order to be a great leader, it requires more than just the traits everyone talks about, it also entails the success of applying these traits to balancing the company culture between employee and customer needs.

Employees need to be invested in, so they will invest in your firm.

Customers need convenience, and that is offered through the employees’ willingness to commit to longer hours, or late nights.

These leaders see the need for creating an empowering and innovative business culture that great employees will thrive in AND commit to.

It is a business culture that will make an employee want to leave a review about the company, and state “although there are these cons, it is still an amazing company to work for”.




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    • Tara Mapes profile image

      Tara Mapes 21 months ago

      Thanks for reading Carol!

    • Carol Morris profile image

      Carol Morris 21 months ago

      Very interesting hub, thanks!