New Survey Exposes Common Leadership Weakness Entrepreneurs Share

Accomplishing goals is the most essential function of running a company, according to 46% of entrepreneurs polled by The Alternative Board. By comparison, 38% place more importance on providing a vision for their business. Despite acknowledging how crucial that vision is to the company’s success, most leaders need help communicating it: participants averaged just 7.1 out of 10 when grading themselves on how effectively they expressed their vision to their team.

“It’s important that the leader establishes and communicates a vision. But it’s even more important that they accomplish goals,” says Paul Dickinson, Managing Director of TAB (UK). “One without the other has little value.”

After surveying 336 small business owners and leaders worldwide (roughly 70% of whom have companies earning over £600k a year), a common profile of the modern business leader emerged from TAB’s study. Key findings show that today’s leaders:

● Take risks. In fact, 90% say pursuing opportunities (even those with high levels of risk) is more important than simply reducing risks -- a task better suited for traditional suits.

● Seek respect. An overwhelming 65% of leaders feel that earning the respect of their team is preferable to being understood (33%), liked (3%) or feared (0%).

● Inspire action. Delegation and talent selection is key because 63% of the leaders surveyed believe inspiring action is their primary objective with employees, versus the traditional managerial roles of solving problems (16%) and coordinating tasks (15%).

Contemporary leaders favour direct communication and corporate transparency. When asked how they communicate with employees, the majority of business leaders (61%) say they most often speak to their staff face-to-face or in company meetings (27%). By contrast, 9% admit to communicating through managers and only 4% resort to email as the first line of communication with their staff.

Prepping their ‘second-in-command’ is vital to a business owner’s strategy for a number of reasons, including succession planning, selling the company or handling emergency scenarios. When asked how well their best available replacement would run the company if they had to step into the top role for the next year, only 30% of leaders say this person would be very effective. This is another sign that delegation and communication skills need to improve.

In TAB’s poll, 62% of participants said that when faced with serious business obstacles, their first course of action is to seek input from those around them. This advice may come from trusted employees, freelance consultants or, possibly, a structured peer board -- all of which can improve a leader’s vision.

“Often when we think of ‘visionary leadership’ we think of someone who initiated a great change, like a skyrocketing start-up or the amazing turnaround of a struggling company. However, visionary leadership is just as important in the ongoing management of our businesses,” says Jason Zickerman, TAB President.

NOTES: For a copy of the accompanying infographic, please email

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About The Alternative Board

The Alternative Board brings together owners of non-competing SME businesses in a group setting where they bring challenges that they are facing in their business and help each other deal those opportunities and issues using their years of business experience. The Alternative Board is a 'peer board' and 'coaching' franchise which started in the US in 1990 and the UK operation started in 2009.