What makes a successful leader?

Jobs in Scotland looks at what qualities businesses here in the north-east of Scotland should search for when it comes to finding the right person to lead their organisation. 

After more than a year of fierce campaigning, in-fighting and hyperbole, the dust has finally settled on the US Presidential Election for another four years at least.

Beset by unsavoury behaviour on both sides and frequently lurching from one scandal to the next, the campaign failed to endear either candidate particularly well to voters outwith their own narrow support base, or indeed in the court of global public opinion.

Despite the candidates’ forceful personalities and many years’ experience in high-level positions, it is telling that they both struggled at times with the long-standing challenge leaders face in staying ahead of the game.

Following the appointment of the most powerful person in the world, what qualities should businesses search for when it comes to finding the right person to lead their organisation?

Kenny Dooley is a director of business consultancy C Growth and managing director of specialist oil and gas recruitment firm Copius Jobs. Based on Greenbank Road, Aberdeen, Copius Jobs specialises in providing technical and engineering contractors to the global energy market. Kenny has some advice on a few key characteristics to look for:Kenny

Ability to look beyond the current situation. This is particularly important for businesses operating in the North Sea where there can often be a knee-jerk reaction to changes in the global marketplace, rather than taking a long-term view about what is best for the health of the company.

Ability to listen. No one person can possibly be an expert on everything. There is a fine balance between taking ownership of a situation and knowing when it’s right to delegate and allow other members of the team to demonstrate their skills and knowledge.


Ability to engage with key stakeholders. In contrast to the deeply polarising effect of this election contest, a leader needs to be able to negotiate with people who have completely contrasting viewpoints to build a coalition of support for their proposals. This should ensure that difficult decisions can still be made without the organisation grinding to a halt.

Ability to be decisive. When the going gets tough, there can sometimes be an inclination to bury your head in the sand and wait for the situation to blow over. One of the key traits possessed by a successful leader is their ability to make the important decisions in a timely manner, after all the buck stops with them.

Ability to inspire others. Employees need to have confidence that the company’s leadership has sound judgement before carrying out their instructions. Any doubts concerning the suitability of the person at the very top of the chain can quickly spread throughout an organisation, no matter how large. It is therefore imperative that directors lead by example to maintain respect and positive control, ensuring the direction of the team is on course to meet the overall objectives of the firm.

Ability to reflect on past successes and failures. Sometimes, when things have gone wrong, an organisation needs to go back to basics to reaffirm what made it successful in the first place. Equally, it is vital that leadership understands the past so that they can avoid making the same mistakes again and avoid any further reputational damage.

While the latest presidential election has clearly not shown us the best and brightest the US has to offer, it has succeeded in generating huge debate and intrigue across the world about what a great leader looks like in 2016.

With numerous blue chip and FTSE-100 listed companies based here on our doorstep, this region has an excellent track record when it comes to producing successful business leaders. People like Sir Ian Wood and Jimmy Milne have demonstrated the abilities outlined above over many years at the helm of their respective organisations, and are positive role-models to all aspiring entrepreneurs.

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