What leadership skills do you need to develop your business?

By Heidi Ashley-Hacker, Toastmasters International

As leaders in small businesses we need to develop and make the most of our leadership skills.  Over many years working with business owners, executives, and committee members in the voluntary sector I believe that there eight key leadership skills essential for anyone aspiring to become the type of leader we need for today and for the future.


Be confident and comfortable with who you are and behave in ways that mean other people sense your authenticity. Your drivers and motivators should be transparent.  An uncomplicated business leader appears genuinely approachable and easy to build a relationship with.

2.Belief in others

When people you work with feel valued by you for their experience, what they offer and simply who they are, this has a huge impact. They will naturally start to take on more responsibility and accountability. To make this happen you need to acknowledge them for their current efforts and the potential you see in them.  When they realise they will be listened to and respected they will blossom under your leadership.

3.Integrity and Honesty

We all have deeply held principles and values.  Can you articulate your principles and values and be honest with yourself about how well you manage to adhere to them even under pressure? Being honest with yourself and others makes it easy for others to offer you their trust and loyalty.  If you maintain a focus on behaving in ways that enhance trust you’ll find that this encourages trust in your team and others with whom you interact. Why risk a blame culture? You want a culture in your business that is open and trust-creating.

4.Continuous Learning 

To keep building your business for the future you need a sense of excitement about adding to what you know. Have a desire to broaden and deepen your understanding as well as encouraging this habit in others.  This will not only introduce you to ideas that will help you develop your products and services but can lead you to new and creative avenue you might not have predicted.


When you think of yourself as the boss it seems natural to be the one always in charge.  What I’ve come to realise is that we all need to see ourselves as part of a bigger system.  Even as a business owner we depend on others as much as others depend on us.  When you’re a self-starter it is good to actively encourage the shift from ‘me’ to ‘we’ and openly seek the ideas and contributions from others.

6.Contagious Inspiration

To run a successful business over a long period of time you need passion to achieve your goals and a sense of possibility.  You need to look after yourself and manage your energy so that overall you can be ‘energy giving’ not ‘energy draining’.  People will feel motivated when they can respond to your positivity and enjoy interacting with you.

7.Clarity of Vision 

To give people the unwavering confidence to follow your lead you need to exude confidence that you have considered all the pertinent and influencing factors balancing hindsight with foresight.  Especially as an entrepreneur when navigating new waters, your followers need to know with a high degree of certainty that the charted course is the most appropriate.

8.Bravery and Confidence

In business, situations often get challenging.  Effective Leaders focus, observe, assess and make timely and often tough decisions that help navigate through the situation.  When situations challenge you, how can you ready yourself to hold your nerve?

Having said that those are the eight key leadership skills there are two additional skills that arguably come more naturally to women than men.

9.Being Compassionate 

Demonstrate that you understand the challenges that come with balancing personal and professional responsibilities; practise acceptance and forgiveness and believe in people’s good intent; understand that everyone makes occasional mistakes and offer second chances.

10.Showing Appreciation

Appreciate and acknowledge others’ efforts and accomplishments.  Recognise and reward those people and groups that through their followership enable you to succeed.  The power of helping people feel appreciated for who they are, what they bring and how they contribute is often underestimated.

As a female business leader, if you can practise all ten of the leadership skills described –I believe you have the key ingredients to success.

About the author

is a member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 352,000 in more than 16,400 clubs in 141 countries. Since 1924, Toastmasters International has helped people of all backgrounds become more confident in front of an audience. There are more than 300 clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members. To find your local club: www.toastmasters.org  Follow @Toastmasters on Twitter.

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