What special traits do creative business leaders and successful entrepreneurs such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Warren Buffett, Richard Branson, Henry Ford and Aliko Dangote possess that you don’t? Have you ever wondered what it takes to build a successful business from scratch? What does it take to be at the helm of affairs of a Fortune 500 company? If you seek answer to any of these questions, then read on.

“In the course of building a business, leadership skill is not an option. It’s a necessity.” – Rich Dad

To successfully complete the entrepreneurial process, you must be a leader but to build a business that will be a pacesetter in any industry it finds itself; becoming a leader is just the beginning. You have to be creative and exceptional in your leadership style. Being creative and exceptional requires you adopt a strong, tested and proven leadership strategy.

“Inventories can be managed but people must be led.” – Henry Ross Perot

Today, I am going to highlight 15 traits possessed by creative business leaders who have shown exceptionality in their endeavors. I am not highlighting these traits to thrill you; rather, I am highlighting them so that you can look into yourself and know the traits you lack.

“If there is such a thing as good leadership, it is to give a good example. I have to do so for all the IKEA employees.” – Ingvar Kamprad

With these 15 traits in you, growing your small business startup at a very fast rate will be a piece of cake. Possession of these 15 traits is the sole reason the school drop out billionaires were able to become great business leaders, build successful businesses and ultimately became rich.

Have you ever wondered why Facebook grew so fast? Or why Mark Zuckerberg became the youngest billionaire in the world? Or how Aliko Dangote emerged the richest black man in the world? Well, the answer can be found in the 15 traits highlighted below.

Top 11 Traits of Exceptionally Creative Business Leaders

1. Integrity

“The most important thing in your business relationships is your reputation for honesty. If you can genuinely and sincerely fake honesty, you will be a success. Never doubt it.” – The Mafia Manager

The first trait possessed by exceptionally creative business leaders is integrity. The Oxford dictionary defines integrity as the quality of being honest and fair. It also defined integrity as the state of being whole or unified.

“Real integrity is doing the right thing, knowing that nobody’s going to know if you did it or not.” – Oprah Winfrey

Of all the traits I will be sharing with you, integrity is the most important. But unfortunately, it’s difficult to find entrepreneurs of integrity today and the past case of Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Anderson proves it. Integrity is supreme, it is the thin line between the over achievers and the average. Building a business on the foundation of integrity is a recipe for survival; take a look at businesses that have stood the test of time and you will see integrity at the base. General Electric is one of such businesses.

“I shall argue that strong men conversely know when to compromise and that all principles can be compromised to serve a greater purpose.” – Andrew Carnegie

The importance of integrity cannot be over emphasized. I have seen entrepreneurs raise billions of dollars in capital without stress because they have a reputation for honesty. Integrity can be your leverage if you hope to rise to leadership position in the future and it can also be your winning competitive strategy. Take a closer look at the life of exceptional business leaders and you will see they are an embodiment of integrity. Warren Buffett is a good example of an exceptional business leader with integrity.

“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five Minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

So if you want to be an exceptional business leader, then you must be a person of integrity. You must have strong self imposed standards and stick to it because it takes discipline to manifest integrity. In fact, you must be yourself and be a man of your words. Be honest, be open; be disciplined.

2. They are Excellent Strategists

“The best thing to invest in your business is your time. To schedule, plan and use time effectively, know your turf and know your objectives. Assess the obstacles and opportunities, then devise your strategies.” – The Mafia Manager

Entrepreneurship is a game and to emerge a winner in a game, you must be strategic in approach. The ability to strategize is what separates exceptional business leaders from the average one. Creative business leaders are referred to as masters of the game because they are excellent strategists. Bill Gates, Jack Welch and Alfred Sloan are the master strategists of the business world.

“The most meaningful way to differentiate your company from your competitors, the best way to put distance between you and the crowd is to do an outstanding job with information. How you gather, manage and use information will determine whether you win or lose.” – Bill Gates

To become an excellent strategist, you must develop your critical thinking skill; you must learn to think critically and strategically. Critical thinking is essential to becoming an excellent strategist and an exceptional business leader.

3. Humility

“To learn new things; you might need to unlearn old thoughts and tricks. Both processes can never be achieved without humility.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

Show me a humble leader and I will show you an exceptional leader. What does humility have to do with being an exceptional business leader? My answer is everything. It takes humility to serve; it takes humility to learn and it takes humility to admit your mistakes.

So therefore, it takes humility to be an exceptional business leader. Nobody will willingly follow a proud and arrogant leader except they are forced to. Take a look at successful entrepreneurs such as Aliko Dangote, Mike Adenuga of Globacom Nigeria, Cosmos Maduka of Coscharis Group, Bill Gates and Li Ka Shing; these men are epitomes of humility.

“One of the great things about being willing to try new things and make mistakes is that making mistakes keeps you humble. People who are humble learn more than people who are arrogant.” – Rich Dad

4. They are Proactive Learners

Highly exceptional business leaders are proactive learners. They know that no man has monopoly of knowledge; they know their cup must never be full so they are always willing to learn at every giving chance. Sometime ago, Bill Gates scheduled a visit to meet Warren Buffett. According to Bill Gates schedule, the meeting was to last an hour but Bill Gates over stayed his time by nine hours.

The meeting ended up lasting ten hours because Bill Gates and Warren Buffett discovered they both had something to learn from each other. Being willing to sacrifice other appointments to learn something you don’t know is an attribute of an exceptional business leader in the making. To be a successful leader, you must be willing to expand your context at every giving opportunity; your cup must never be full.

“A cup that is full is useless.” – Chinese proverb

5. Decisiveness

“You have to act and act now.” – Larry Ellison

One important trait possessed by exceptional business leaders is the ability to arrive quickly at a decision. Most people avoid being responsible for their actions; they hate being the one to take the last decision. As an entrepreneur and business leader, you are the pilot of your business and it’s up to you to determine the direction your business goes. No matter how smart your business team is, you hold the last decision. In retrospect, a single decision; just one decision can either make or break your business.

“Screw it, let’s do it.” – Richard Branson

I believe being decisive is an exceptional trait possessed by creative business leaders. These set of business leaders face reality with guts and take their stand; they make decisions with the probable consequence in mind and they are prepared to face it.

“Before making an important decision, get as much as you can of the best information available and review it carefully, analyze it and draw up worst case scenarios. Add up the plus or minus factors, discuss it with your team and do what your guts tell you to do.” – The Mafia Manage

6. They are Excellent Communicators

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” – Peter F. Drucker

Are you a communicator? Are you good at selling? If your answer to the two questions above is no, then you are never going to be an exceptional business leader. Take a close look at the highly exceptional business leaders and you will observe that they are excellent communicators and sales people.

When they speak, people listen. Bill Gates, Steve Jobs are critical examples. Show me a successful business leader and I will show you an excellent communicator. Learning and harnessing your communication skill is very vital to your bid of becoming an exceptional business leader.

7. Exceptional Business Leaders are Team Players

“Business and investing are team sports.” – Rich Dad

Aliko Dangote; the richest black man in the world once attributed his success to his business team and if you should take a critical look at his statement, you will observe the truth in its entirety. No exceptional business leader stands alone; they surround themselves with men smarter than they are.

“Successful businessmen share the ability to hire people smarter than they are.” – Dillard Munford

They are also good networkers; they network with other exceptional business leaders. They know that birds of the same feather must flock together.

8. They are Flexible

“Willingness to change is a strength, even if it means plunging part of the company into total confusion for a while.” – Jack Welch

Flexibility is another outstanding trait possessed by highly exceptional business leaders. They are always willing to try out new strategies and innovations even when there is massive risk involved. In retrospect, lack of flexibility made Henry Ford lose the leadership position of Ford Motor Company to a more flexible General Motors led by Alfred P. Sloan.

“Defeat your enemy by flexibility and strategy.” – Sun Tzu

“The competition to hire the best will increase in the years ahead. Companies that give extra flexibility to their employees will have the edge in this area.” – Bill Gates

9. Creative Business Leaders are Excellent Negotiators

“If you cannot negotiate, you will end up getting good deals at exorbitant prices or worse still, you will get nothing.” – Ajaero Tony Martins

I don’t think I need to stress much on this because the lesson is clear. If you cannot negotiate deals; forget about being an entrepreneur, talk more being a business leader.

10. They are Excellent Motivators

“I am looking for a lot of men who have the infinite capacity to not know what can’t be done.” – Henry Ford

Exceptional business leaders are masters of motivation. They know how to use words to stir the spirit of their employees. They know how to motivate employees; they know how to bring out the best in their employees.

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” – Sam Walton

11. Highly Exceptional business leaders thrive on Criticism

Show me a business leader who hasn’t faced stiff criticism and I will show you a mediocre leader. All great business leaders I know have at one time or the other faced severe criticism and media attack. From Ingvar Kamprad, Bill Gates, John D. Rockefeller, Henry Ford, J. Paul Getty to Mark Zuckerberg and George Soros.

“There will be times when you will have to be abrasive, even brutal to members of your staff. Don’t worry that your people will say bad things about you because of this. They already have. But in general, try to be pleasant and accommodating. Try to please the greatest number who work for you that you can; antagonize the fewest. Blow smoke.” – The Mafia Manager

All these men have faced mass criticism but they were not deterred; they remain focus to there calling and got to the place of their dream. So if it’s your utmost desire to become a creative and exceptional business leader; then you must be prepared to face criticism. It’s not optional; it’s a must.

“Dare to risk public Criticism” – Mary Kay Ash

As a final note, I want to state clearly that it’s within the reach of everyone to be an exceptional business leader but unfortunately, many won’t dare to reach for this height because they hate being responsible for their actions. So if becoming an exceptional business leader is your dream, then take these 11 traits to heart and go for that dream. Good luck.

Ajaero Tony Martins