15 Important Traits for a Small Business Leader (2023)

What is the most important trait for a small business leader?

To help you with recognizing the necessary traits to become successful in your business, we asked our community of small business leaders this question for their best insights. From being respectful to remaining flexible, there are several traits that may help you thrive as a leader in your small business.

Here are 15 traits for successful small business leaders:

● Be Respectful

● Know When to Delegate

● Take Care of Your Customers

● Have a Community Mindset

● Lead Through Servitude

● Transparency

● Be a Humble Leader

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● Don't Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty

● Be Willing to Entrust

● Practice Optimism and Positivity

● Be Tenacious

● Have Endurance

● Learn How to Effectively Engage Employees

● Be Appreciative

● Remain Flexible

Be Respectful

In all sincerity, there isn't just one trait. It's a grouping of traits that are in such good alignment it shows as, "Passionately Confident" but in truth, there's a foundation under that, that supports this way of being. We must highlight that foundational trait as being respectful.

Respectful of self, relationships, team, clients, community, diversity, health, quality, resources, performance, time, commitments, environment, and essentially all-living beings.

-Michelle Lagos, Get Lagos Now LLC

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Know When to Delegate

As a small business leader, you need to wear a lot of hats and also have a baseline knowledge of many aspects of business: marketing, sales, accounting, hr, and legal to name a few. An important quality is to have the pragmatic understanding of how much you should put in of your own time into each of these, and when you should delegate out to employees or contractors. A lot of businesses either grow too fast in that they allocate out everything to others and can't afford to keep up with delegating appropriately. Or they get too locked into a mentality that they need to do everything themselves, and become unable to expand. Striking a good balance is essential for success.

-Erik Croswell, Bridge City Media

Take Care of Your Customers

And they will take care of you. What this means is to treat your customers with respect, patience, and integrity. This does not mean shortchanging yourself. Charge what you are worth. Your customers will respect that you also need to make a living. Your customers will take care of you by continuing to do business with you and, just as important, referring their friends to you, allowing your business to continue to grow and prosper.

-Mary Ann Aschenbrenner, Waterlink Web

Have a Community-Mindset

Leaders typically excel at setting clear goals, encouraging strategic thinking and communicating their vision. While these traits are important for small business leaders, they also need to be community-minded. It is in comradeship where small business leaders flourish and become agents for positive change.

-AnneMarie W, Signalmash

Lead Through Servitude

As a small business owner, leadership is not about absolute authority and power. Leadership is a multi-faceted skill, incorporating humility, honesty, mindfulness, listening, and vulnerability. Being a business owner is a legal creation, but being the leader of a team is an earned privilege. This privilege, not right, must be regularly renewed through practices that empower your crew not only to make decisions on their own, but to trust that you will have their interests in-mind. Leaders know that the decisions they make impact not only their ship, but the crew that operates it too.

-Luna Snowe, Stingray Botanicals


A small business leader's most important trait is transparency. Through being a transparent leader, employees are encouraged to be the same. This gives rise to opportunities of growth and change not just for the employee, but the business itself.

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-Sarah Vito, Yellow Emperor

Be a Humble Leader

A small business leader should inspire their team to learn, grow and evolve as well as let them figure things out. A true leader helps to birth other future business leaders. A leader should also enroll people outside of the company to encourage them to work for the company, do business with the company and become customers. However, a good business leader should not be a control freak.

-Bill Glaser, Outstanding Foods

Don't Be Afraid to Get Your Hands Dirty

A small business leader needs to be able to get their hands dirty. As they build a team and the organization, they'll certainly need to take a hands-on approach. Not only does this make sure the work gets done, it also sets a tone for team members. It creates a culture where people try their best to find solutions before giving up or looking for outside help. A small business leader that can get into the details at the right level will go so much further than one that can only delegate.

-Logan Mallory, Motivosity

Be Willing to Entrust

Be willing to entrust. As a small business owner, one of the first lessons I learned was to delegate tasks. It's only natural to do so because it's meaningless to surround yourself with knowledgeable and talented people if you don't allow them to do their jobs. I understand; your company is your baby. However, if you are unwilling to relinquish control, your company will never reach its full potential. You can only accomplish so much on your own. Allow your employees to focus on what they do best. I mean, employees are hired for a reason.

-Axel Hernborg, Tripplo.com

Practice Optimism and Positivity

Optimism and a positive mindset go hand-in-hand and are the most important traits for a small business leader. Positivity is contagious and will maintain high morale for your entire team. When given a critical task, staying optimistic about its completion and success will manifest its effectiveness. When faced with a bad-user experience review, positivity will help turn the situation around. When presented with challenges in your personal life or your employees' personal lives, staying optimistic and positive will not only help shift perspectives, but will prevent your business from being negatively affected.

-Bradley Hall, Sonu Sleep

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Be Tenacious

Tenacious people won’t let anything hold them back from achieving their goals. They realize the importance of hard work and are dedicated to achieving their objectives. A tenacious business owner will manage through economic fluctuations and remain optimistic about their small business’s future. This type of resilience is integral for success in any industry because it helps leaders overcome obstacles that could otherwise derail an endeavor.

-Marc De Diego Ferrer, MCA Assessors

Have Endurance

Business Leaders do not exist without endurance. It is the most central determinant for success and dealing with complex conditions. Business leaders must possess endurance in order to continue leading and overcome business obstacles. Being a leader requires developing an ability to deal with ambiguity. Business is not an easy game. There are numerous ups and downs, such as annual revenue losses, market and rival pressure, mass resignation, etc. Business entrepreneurs need to endure in the face of them. This will help you to grow and establish yourself in the market. You will have your victories and your defeats. However, you must maintain your confidence throughout. You must always have faith in yourself and your capacity to see things through to completion. Do not lose hope whatever the situation will be.

-Ryan Yount, Luckluckgo

Learn How to Effectively Engage Employees

With retention rates at an all-time low and a growing labor shortage in the U.S., it's important for any business leader to understand how to effectively engage their employees. Beyond delivering consistent performance feedback, a mindful leader will work with employees on a career development plan. For example, ask questions like: “What path would this employee like to focus on? Where would they like to grow over the next 6-24 months?” Once you’ve agreed on developmental areas of focus, it’s helpful to outline what success looks like in a new role in 6, 12, 18, and 24 months. Also, what will you do as a manager to support their development and ensure their success in a new role (e.g., coaching, mentoring, feedback, etc.)? What experiences, exposure and/or education will they receive to fill the developmental gaps you’ve identified as an effective business leader?

-Carter Reum, M13

Be Appreciative

Being a founder and a leader, I relate to this query and would like to answer it based on my knowledge and experience. Being appreciative as a small business leader creates a positive environment. A leader who admires others for their work and is open to communication makes others also enjoy the work they're involved with. This leads to more productivity and results. It removes the hesitation of the team members of sharing any difficulty with you as well. This solves half of the problem. When a leader values others, others also feel like they're not in the business for taking order but to contribute to it. This creates mutual respect which is important for building a relationship with your team and growing the business.

-Meera Watts, Siddhi Yoga International Pte. Ltd.

Remain Flexible

Running a business is an unpredictable undertaking which is why circumstances will require you to be flexible. If your small business must adjust to changes in market conditions or environmental factors, it is up to you to guide the company through these fluctuations. Utilize your creativity and imagination when facing potential challenges so that you can develop a plan of action for dealing with them effectively. The ability to overcome adversity and succeed in the face of uncertainty makes excellent leaders stand out from the rest.

-Peter Lucas, Relocate to Andorra

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