BusinessBecause spoke with Alex Hadjipateras and Ilda Metani, both business leaders and participants at the HEC Paris Executive MBA, to identify three key elements that successful business leaders have in common.
1. Successful business leaders have a clear vision
Many of the world’s greatest business leaders have been visionaries. Steve Jobs, for example, had creative ideas that reshaped the way we use computers, listen to music, and interact with our phones.
Being able to see—and plan for—the future is something that unites successful business leaders, whether they’re a project manager imagining the final iteration of a product, or a CEO planning the long-term future of their company.
“It’s fun because you’re moving from point A to point B, so you get to craft a vision,” says Alex. In his executive role at Dorian LPG, a petroleum gas shipping company, Alex directs business development and leads several teams across several countries.
“One of the reasons that I went to HEC Paris is to look a bit more at the strategic big picture and work on crafting that vision of where you want to go,” he adds.
But is having a vision enough? Successful business leaders also have the ambition to bring their ideas to life. They’re determined and resilient to setbacks—even the co-founders of Google were rejected before receiving their first round of funding.
Patience is arguably even more important, as rushing things can lead to disaster. “It’s challenging,” says Alex, “it’s fulfilling when you see results, but you have to be patient for them.”
2. Successful business leaders are decisive
After introducing a vision and establishing their goal, the daily life of a leader is typically defined by a series of key decisions that guide their organization’s path.
Which supplier to sign with? What operating system will run most efficiently? Who are the members of staff that are capable of leading their own teams?
Consistently making the right decision is by no means an easy task; you need to be decisive, cautious, and ready to take risks—all at the same time, says Alex.
“You can't just be impulsive, but at the same time if you're too rigid and you never allow yourself to be impulsive or a bit spontaneous, that can have a negative effect,” he says.
“It’s about considering different options, thinking about the kind of directions you might take, and then using that to make a final decision.” If you need to take your time, then sleep on it, he adds.
Above all, successful business leaders need to be accountable for the choices they make and prepared to change course if a decision hasn’t gone as planned. A recent study found 72% of business and HR professionals feel accountability is critical within an organization.
But still the old cliche about ‘going with your gut’ remains. Successful business leaders should be prepared to stick with an idea if they believe it’s the right thing to do.
“You can’t make the popular decision every time, you’re always going to make someone upset,” Alex explains. “If you take a decision and your team supports you, then leave it like water under the bridge and move forward.”
3. Successful business leaders are personable
While leaders are important figures within a company, the most important component of any organization is its people.
For Ilda, who leads a team of marketing and sales professionals in her role as sales director at Danaher Corporation in Paris, a leader’s job is to support and motivate the people who work for them.
“I think leadership should be about providing inspiration to teams and empowering people,” she says.
That means having strong people skills: great leaders are approachable, charismatic, and good listeners. As CEO of Google, Sundar Pichai is described as ‘unfalteringly polite’, with one employee calling him ‘a deeply thoughtful, caring human person.’
Underpinning all of this is an ability to have empathy towards others, says Ilda. “Being empathetic towards your team is really critical. It’s the capacity to listen to their needs, understand how they feel, and how they would like to bring value to the team.”
And, while cultivating relationships is important to get the best out of people, successful business leaders also know the importance of maintaining professionalism.
“It can be lonely because you have to keep a healthy distance sometimes from your team, for everyone’s benefit,” says Alex. “Your team is looking to you as a manager or as an employer—someone to grow their career—not as a friend.”
While everyone has their own unique approach, and styles can vary between companies, these key characteristics are often what unite the most successful business leaders.
Adopting them can have a great impact on your leadership ability: “I don’t think these are things that you’re born with,” says Ilda. “I think you can learn these skills, and that’s the great thing about them.”
I have met the most competent and diverse batch in this school. These people not only thrive on their own but also makes sure that you are doing it with them. The professors will take your had and walk you through all milestones and make sure you are not left behind. I have found their extracurriculars extremely engaging. There was always a room to have social life after academic life. The only hindrance is the location of the school, it is slightly outside city and living in city is expensive.
Internationality and diversity of opportunities
About my programme I would say it is very international and flexible: we have the opportunity to choose exactly the courses we want. But at the same time, the frame of the campus is crucial in students' life and enable us to create friendships.
Great selection of people
While HEC's MBA is highly selective, I really enjoy the type of people HEC's selects to make sure everybody gets the best out of their MBA experience and networking opportunities. Not only it's an incredibly diverse pool of people (~60 nationalities) but most importantly they make sure to let in friendly empathic and curious people.
Best in France for Grande ecole
A prestigious business school. Languages are important. It is better to have a scientific baccalaureate with excellent grades in high school and good assessments. The courses are well designed as per the latest trends and practicality of learning in stressed upon. Overall, a very good experience.
Diversity and quality of fellow students
Very international and interesting place to be and opens a lot of opportunities, however the administration is very french and facilities are subpar (gym, classrooms) meaning the academic affairs is pretty much useless and lastly we are graded on a curve which can create a toxic environment because of the competition. With that being said the pros outweighs the cons by far.
The quality of the teachers, the campus, the clubs
The school is very international indeed, we have courses with international students and share things with them within the extra academic life (in the social clubs especially). We have great career prospects if we prepare ourselves well - however, the global curriculum is still very finance-oriented, which is a pity for other interesting domains of the company world, which does not rely on finance only. The social clubs are good practice for the management and for now, are quite independent.
HEC Paris awaits you
HEC Paris is really a nice place to do a master's in business. Many classes are useful and interesting (corporate finance, financial accounting, contract law…), some are less - but the curriculum is to be reviewed in the year to come. Regarding the student life, it is incredible, with about 130 clubs, lots of great parties with even greater people. The Jouy campus offers a lot of opportunities to do sports, and you can breathe fresh air every day. HEC also helps a great deal to find an internship or a job.
A dream institute
Enrolling in the HEC MBA was by far the best decision I made for myself. The people and faculty are great, with lots of opportunities to meet people and expand your horizons. Very nice campus where I have had some good running sessions. The alumni network is superb and very helpful. It also has a good support system for entrepreneurs. Would definitely recommend it!