We’ve all seen it happen. A million-dollar business idea. An extraordinary product. A service like no other. But it just didn’t work. It seems like the company was shuttered before they’d even opened the doors.

But why did it happen? And how can you protect your business from a similar fate? The simple fact is, no matter how great the product, a company is only as strong as its leadership. So, what are the skills you need to cultivate in your own leaders to help your business thrive for years to come?

To Lead, Perchance to Dream

A lot of business owners fall into the either/or trap when they think about the kind of leadership style they need for their employees. Either the bosses are skilled and disciplined managers, or they’re unconstrained visionaries.

The best-case scenario for your business, though, is when you find a leader who combines both. The best leaders are those who have the boldness and the imagination to take your company in unexpected directions, to envision a future so bright, you’re passing out Ray-Bans at the holiday party.

But to be effective, your visionary leader also needs to have the skills. They need to have the know-how to craft a strategy for getting to that sunlit destination and the management acumen to make it happen.

Talk the Talk

Another vital skill that business owners need to cultivate is the ability to communicate. Clear, comprehensive, and supportive communication helps your team to be more effective in their jobs, increasing productivity, efficiency, and performance.

But good communication does even more than that. It also helps to foster cohesion, collaboration, and cooperation. When you and your team are communicating effectively across all levels, divisions, and functions, you’re going to be more united. Your employees will be more engaged, and you will be a more effective manager because when issues arise, they will be more quickly communicated and resolved.

Best of all, this level of transparency and interaction between leadership and staff is inevitably going to boost morale. Basically, communication is the cornerstone of team building.

Get That Team Spirit

Of course, finding a leader who embodies both the strategic command of a General Patton and the visionary brilliance of a Stephen Hawking is a bit like finding a leprechaun riding a unicorn to the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

The fact is that solid leadership requires a host of skills, many of which can seem to be in perpetual contradiction to one another. Good leadership needs flexibility, adaptability, and the ability both to listen and empathize. At the same time, they also have to have the confidence and the talent to take charge, make decisions, and unite the team behind those decisions.

Even the best leaders, though, can never be all things to all people. This is where the power of the team is most apparent. Homogeneity is the death blow to effective teams. Your company needs personnel at all levels, leaders and subordinates alike, who possess all those talents we just described.

And it needs trusted leadership who knows how to marshal the particular and unique strengths of each individual team member, both for the good of the team and of the company. This is why getting to know your team, really know them, is fundamental to leadership success, no matter how young or old, large or small, your business may be.

The Art of the Deal

Being a great leader doesn’t just happen inside the office. It’s also about how a leader represents their company outside of it, in the community, among customers and stakeholders, and, especially, with other businesses.

One of the most essential skills a strong leader can have is the ability to negotiate. Whether you’re looking to outbid your competitors on a lucrative business project or hoping to snag an exclusive partnership with a coveted vendor, you need to know what your target needs and how to give it to them while also getting what you want.

Taking Care to Take Care

Being a great leader isn’t easy. You’re living your life constantly navigating high-stakes, high-pressure situations. It can feel like you spend most of your working days leaping from one crisis to the next.

That makes burnout not just likely, but inevitable. That is, unless you take proactive measures to take care of yourself so that you can continue to take care of your company, your staff, and your clients and stakeholders. One of the best things you can do is incorporate physical activity into your daily routine. Carve out time every day to get out of the office and into nature.

Go for a brisk jog or a peaceful nature hike. Check out the local bike trails or go for a swim at the local pool or picturesque watering hole. Grab your best friend and play a game of tennis or racquetball. Get out onto the basketball court. Do whatever you need to do, clear your mind and work off that workplace stress!

The Takeaway

Effective leadership is part art and part skill. It requires the ability both to dream and to direct. It means drawing out the best qualities of your team, marshaling the unique talents of your staff so that the sum of your teams’ gifts is even greater than its individual parts.

Leading well also means knowing how to represent, defend, and grow your business beyond the office doors. It means negotiating deals and cultivating relationships that will take your business to unprecedented heights.

Finally, it means taking care in order to take care. That includes taking the time each day to step away from the office. It means working off your stress and taking care of your mind, body, and spirit so that you can be the leader of your staff, and your company, deserve.