Owning or running a business is not for the faint-hearted, particularly when it comes to effectively leading your team towards greatness. I recently caught up with the blokes about town over a delicious lunch at ocean ended, maroochydore for their take on the subject.

No matter what business you are in, regardless of how big or small it is, the ability to lead your team effectively and productively is pivotal to its overall success. Leadership is one of the hottest topics in the business world right now and there have been millions of books written on the subject, however good management and leadership often comes down to experience and learning what doesn’t work. Often it has little to do with seniority or titles but more the ability to inspire and motivate. A good leader leads by example and encourages the team to perform to their optimum at all times. So what are the characteristics of a good leader? Is it a skill we are born with or can it be learned? What are the challenges they face? To get some answers I posed the questions to a bunch of local business owners who are all great leaders in their own right, for their thoughts on what it takes to successfully lead their team. Joining me for lunch was Guy Gibbons, CEO of Bennett Carroll Solicitors; Drew Grosskreutz, CEO of Otium; Jamie Grigg, CEO of JGI Insurance Brokers; Jack Childs, CEO of Think Investment Realty and Tony Chamberlain, Owner and Instructor at Kumon Kawana Waters Education Centre.

What are the most important decisions you make as a leader/owner of your business?

Guy: I’m a numbers man so I have seven or eight KPIs I work to. I find that’s the easiest way to make decisions. I have to have something to hang on to and to test and measure.
Drew: The leadership I gravitate towards is followship, so being a leader people want to follow. I try and practice that as much as possible. I’m passionate about the staff following someone they respect. If you have happy staff, you have low turnover of staff and consistency of message.

Is there any particular leader who inspires you and your decision making process?

Guy: To be honest no. I pinch little bits from everywhere. I see clever people every day doing smart stuff I can adapt for my business.
Jack: I agree, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel you just have to keep your eyes open for good ideas.
Drew: I get so much great information from Twitter. They have 140 characters to impress me, it’s short, sharp interesting tidbits of information I can use.

When you are operating at a certain level you are going to make mistakes, you are going to get knocked down and that’s ok.

What traits do good leaders have?

Drew: For a start they have to want to be there and that goes back to giving them a platform to be brave enough to speak up and to bring up any problems, issues and concerns. There are times when we have had to change our business rapidly so a good leader needs to be able to adapt to that change. I also invest in coaching for my leadership staff so they feel confident in what they are doing and I don’t have to second guess how they are feeling.
Tony: I always carve out a niche for myself wherever I have worked. I had a staff of 150 teachers from all over the world when I worked in education in Japan. The biggest thing for me as a leader is the contact. I always liked to be available even if it was via Skype to get face-to-face with staff . I find that solves a lot of problems rather than letting things sit and stew.
Jamie: I think you have to be a bit of a maverick. For me, it came from working somewhere I felt dissatisfied. I could see where changes needed to be made but frustrated they weren’t put in place. That’s when I decided to become a business owner and director.
Jack: I’m pretty lucky, I got my first management role when I was 21 and I’m now 65. I have learned a lot about diff erent management styles over the years and have used just about every one of them myself. One of the most important things I learnt from a man I worked for 25 years ago was the importance of testing and measuring and it’s the one thing we do better than most. I was lucky enough to have a couple of good mentors when I was young who gave me a crack and taught me stuff you can’t learn from a book. You can also learn a great deal from younger people too.

Are leaders born or made?

Jamie: I think some people naturally take charge, you don’t have to tell them four or five times to do one task. There are always those individuals who want to take more responsibility and naturally rise to the top.
Jack: I believe they develop from childhood which starts from watching their parents, through to when they start working and watching the way leaders around them work. I believe developing and learning from other leaders never stops.
Tony: My view is based on the Japanese idea of “SENSEI”. It literally means one who lives ahead of others. Therefore, I believe ‘effective’ leaders are people who draw on a vast array of skills and experiences built up throughout their lives and thus live ahead of their people; leading by positive example.

What are the challenges of being a leader?

Guy: You have to think fast and have the ability to think on your feet. You don’t see that in those who are not natural leaders.
Tony: I think it’s important not to be too hard on yourself. When you are operating at a certain level you are going to make mistakes, you are going to get knocked down and that’s ok.
Drew: There are challenges every day but I love it. It’s what I thrive on. I love leading a team of mostly women too. They are the most loyal employees.