This Is the Path to Being a Great Leader

June 26, 2016, 11:00 PM UTC
Photograph by Hero Images Inc. via Getty Images

The Entrepreneur Insiders network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in America’s startup scene contribute answers to timely questions about entrepreneurship and careers. Today’s answer to the question “What leadership style should every entrepreneur try to adopt?” is written by Brett Brinton, CEO and co-founder of Zonar Systems.


There are two basic ways to lead. You can lead by leveraging the earned respect of your colleagues and employees, or you can lead by fear. This sentiment is not to be confused with Machiavelli’s “It is better to be feared than loved” tenant. First, love is not what you are looking for in a business environment, and secondly, it is fickle and can come and go. Respect is the path to successful long-term leadership.

Leading by respect comes when the four primary character principles of integrity, hard work, leading by example and doing the right thing, inspire your co-workers and employees to follow you. When you hear someone say, “He has my back, and I feel like I’m heard and part of the team. I will follow him happily into unchartered waters,” they are talking about a person who leads with respect. These colleagues can be asked to do a lot, and they will be on board to not only do it, but they will embrace being part of the ride.

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Contrast the above sentiment with a work environment of uncertainty or fear, where employees feel the need to fall in line or be cut out of the line. Fear-based leadership is the easy way out. It can be a more predictable style, but it is likely only going to work in the short term. Your troops will quickly lose morale and soon after you may be left with no one to lead. You also may be seen as someone that people will hesitate in picking to lead again.

So now that I’ve got you thinking about leading by the respect you’ve earned, the next step is to understand and harness the simple-yet-crucial principles that make a great leader. If you ask five people how to do this, you will get five different opinions. However, most of them will center on the following:

  • Passion for what you do
  • Business execution
  • The ability to inspire others, make decisions (lots of them, including tough calls)
  • Are you a dreamer (the vision followed by positive actions or energy).

So, what is the right leadership style for you? It’s very simple. Chose to lead by respect and blaze your trail through your good character, and the leadership qualities within you will start to shine. Some aspects of your leadership style will be natural, and some may take work and personal development. When you have those qualities, instilling the principles of integrity, hard work, leading by example and doing the right thing becomes natural. Be patient and be prepared to analyze your situation. And choose when and where the above qualities of leadership will apply maximize your team’s success. The right leadership style you adopt will ultimately be YOUR leadership style.