Key Leadership Traits for SME Success

Many qualities go into the makeup of effective small and medium enterprise (SME) leadership. Without these qualities, a CEO, business owner or entrepreneur may attain a certain degree of success, but chances are it will be fleeting and will fall far short of what could have been achieved. Truly successful leaders work on continually improving themselves, while focusing on key areas where they can maximize their efforts and see the greatest return on investment for their time and effort.

These key leadership traits include:

Hire Wisely

Any good leader knows where his or her weaknesses lie – and recruits individuals who are “better” than them in certain areas of business. They bring strengths to the enterprise the CEO can never supply on his own. Leaders also gain balance and a fresh perspective from a great hire.

Some business owners may feel reluctant to bring on someone with stellar experience and skills, because they perceive this person as a threat. But if everything is aligned within the organization, this shouldn’t be an issue. Although finding that individual may take longer and cost more money, it’s worth it. Hiring the right person enables leaders to extract themselves from daily tactical situations and focus on long-range, strategic opportunities – the kinds of opportunities that help ensure future success and growth.

Clarify Expectations

Before a CEO can manage his staff or delegate key responsibilities, he or she has to be very clear about expectations. When assigning a role, articulate a crystal-clear vision about what needs to be done. By contrast, less effective leaders emphasize methods and tactics, rather than outcomes and results. Make sure each person understands precisely what is expected of them.

Execute with Vision

When people and systems aren’t aligned with the leader’s strategic vision, the chances of eventual success are slim. Everyone in the organization needs to see how their efforts and the processes they’re responsible for contribute to the execution of the organization’s vision and strategy.

Business leaders must understand that execution takes time. This can be a challenge in itself, since as time passes, other priorities arise. Effective execution must be flexible enough to adapt to unforeseen events or changing market conditions.

Be Accountable and Hold Others Accountable

The leadership team and employees need to clearly understand they will be held accountable for the actions they take. In organizations where the right people have the right tools, resources and talent, accountability becomes just another part of the process. When failure occurs, it’s commonly because leadership failed to provide the right tools or hire the best people. Business success starts with the person who’s running the show.

Take Smart Risks

There are smart risks and there are foolish risks. Nothing’s guaranteed, of course, but by asking the right questions and accurately evaluating marketplace conditions, a business leader increases the odds of successfully moving the business forward. The key is moving decisively when conditions are in flux and competitors are waiting for the dust to settle before making their move. It’s a simple recognition that change is a constant and that your business must keep pace in order to succeed.

Risk-taking entrepreneurs and business leaders understand that taking chances sometimes results in failure—but that isn’t the end of the story. The marketplace is littered with businesses that threw in the towel too quickly. Dogged persistence and the ability to bounce back are absolute requirements for growing a business.

Don’t Strive for Perfection

Many CEOs are good at what they do because they insist on perfection. But, at a certain point, perfectionism can become self-defeating. When an employee delivers a completed project (that meets professional standards), it’s important to reinforce their creativity and excitement. This doesn’t mean skimping on any aspect of performance. However, when an employee’s work has reached the point where repeated fine-tuning makes little discernible difference, they should be encouraged to run with it.

Brad Mishlove is CEO of Catapult Groups.