hallmarks of leadershipWhat does it take to be a leader? It’s such a broad term and encompasses so many skills, it’s hard to answer with “just the one thing” that’s required. Then there’s the differing meanings of leadership. Are we talking thought leader, political leader, or the leader of the band?

For us who teach entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial culture, leadership is taking an enterprise from concept to cash. In other words, it’s creating a business and becoming an acquisition target, and setting a good example for your team to help you get there.

Here’s our short list on what it takes for that kind of leadership:

1. Sensitivity

The ability to see beyond the present. The ability to recognize opportunities. And the ability to imagine solutions to problems and look for answers.

Leaders recognize the limitations of their own skill set and allow others to take the lead to solve the technical and marketing problems. They have the humility to be open to the input of others who have more experience in the space they will be venturing into.

2. Innovation

The ability to look at a problem and create a solution. The willingness to test your solution in the real world and start over if necessary.

Leaders know that innovation doesn’t end with the product, but continues on to solve all the constant challenges necessary to get the product to, and keep it on, the market.

3. Tenacity

The ability to keep going even when it takes twice as long and costs twice as much. The wisdom to surround themselves with optimistic people who believe in their solution and give them the encouragement to stick to it.

Leaders must also provide the encouragement, recognition, and validation their own people need to keep going and improve. They must issue clear directions and set a standard for improvement so everyone on their team believes that progress is being made.

4. Empathy

The ability to look for and understand what every different person wants in every different relationship, whether it’s employees, vendors, or customers. The ability to understand and satisfy the various levels of customers between them and their eventual consumer or end-user.

Leaders communicate the needs of others to their people in a way they can understand and relate to. Leaders focus on sales and what is necessary to make them happen as a result of satisfying their customers’ needs.

5. Hustle

The ability to move quickly on opportunities. The ability to look for and hire only those people who demonstrate hustle.

Leaders must have a certain sense of urgency to get things done to meet their deadlines and those of their customers. They must have a keen sense of priority and execute the tasks that must be completed first.

6. Decisiveness

The ability not only to make decisions, but to make the hard decisions. The ability to realize that it’s better to make a decision on time with 75% of the data than to miss the opportunity by waiting for 100%. With this comes the ability to admit to poor decisions and correct and learn from them.

Good leaders must give their people permission to make mistakes – as long as they do so in a way that results in improving the company’s policies and procedures… permanently!

7. Sharing

The ability to share the wealth. The ability to look for strategic allies who can benefit from their success. And the desire to implement a profit- and equity-sharing agreement with key team members to secure their long-term buy-in, encouraging them to make sacrifices necessary to achieve success.

Leaders also share their challenges with their people, respecting their suggestions and encouraging participation in the problem-solving process.

There have been tons of books written on this subject, but from our real-world experience in our own business and in working with other entrepreneurs, these are the essentials!

Leaders lead. They lead the market and they lead their own people. Some put leaders on a pedestal and see them as glorified. It’s tough being a leader. There’s a lot of anxiety, delayed gratification, and just plain fatigue.

Some of us tend to only remember the ones who succeeded. But every leader failed their way to success. Every leader had doubts and had to bite the bullet.

But thanks to the leaders, we have jobs, a high standard of living, and some level of security. Leaders can take it from ideation to monetization. And they set a good example for all of us who follow them.


Who We Are

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey Barefoot Wine Founders

Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey co-authored the New York Times bestselling business book, The Barefoot Spirit: How Hardship, Hustle, and Heart Built America’s #1 Wine Brand. The book has been selected as recommended reading in the CEO Library for CEO Forum, the C-Suite Book Club, and numerous university classes on business and entrepreneurship. It chronicles their humble beginnings from the laundry room of a rented Sonoma County farmhouse to the board room of E&J Gallo, who ultimately acquired their brand and engaged them as brand consultants. Barefoot is now the world’s largest wine brand.

Beginning with virtually no money and no wine industry experience, they employed innovative ideas to overcome obstacles, create new markets and forge strategic alliances. They pioneered Worthy Cause Marketing and performance-based compensation. They built an internationally bestselling brand and received their industry’s “Hot Brand” award for several consecutive years.

They offer their Guiding Principles for Success (GPS) to help entrepreneurs become successful. Their book, The Entrepreneurial Culture: 23 Ways To Engage and Empower Your People, helps corporations maximize the value of their human resources.

Currently they travel the world leading workshops, trainings, & keynoting at business schools, corporations, conferences. They are regular media guests and contributors to international publications and professional journals. They are C-Suite Network Advisors & Contributing Editors. Visit their popular brand building site at www.consumerbrandbuilders.com.

To make inquiries for keynote speaking, trainings or consulting, please contact sales@thebarefootspirit.com.