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What Makes An Amazing Business Leader?

What Makes An Amazing Business Leader?
The most effective business leaders demonstrate real leadership instead of just talking about it. ()

These days, the hallmarks and benchmarks of leadership get bandied about like so many trite speeches at those convention banquets that serve rubbery chicken. But those who really run the show share one crucial trait: They know how to show leadership, as opposed to tell others what it is. 

One superstar from the worlds of manufacturing and entrepreneurship is Howard Leonhardt of Leonhardt Ventures. This inventor holds 21 U.S. patents for fighting heart and cardiovascular disease, and his ingenious creations have helped more than 300,000 patients—generating more than $3 billion in revenues. He serves as a board advisor for the UCLA Extension's Bioengineering programs and a judge for the UCLA Business of Science Center's Inventathon.

Here, Leonhardt shares some of qualities he considers critical to be an amazing business leader:

Open up to the media. Leonhardt doesn't just enjoy innovating in his field and energizing employees: He tells stories, and in so doing grows his enterprises exponentially. "Whether we like it or not, all companies are media companies," he notes. "No matter how great a product you have, if the story doesn't get heard by the people who need to hear it, it doesn't get traction and off the ground." He adds: "There's no better place to craft stories in the modern media world than Los Angeles." 

Close the customer loop. Leonhardt lives and leads by the principle that peerless manufacturing means forming a tight circle between consumers and the company. A vital link, he stresses, is his American plant operations. "We manufacture in the U.S. because our innovation change loops are so short that communication between the customer input, the engineers, the company management and the production floor must be as tight, clear and concise as can be," he says.

Inspire your people. Here Leonhardt points to the wisdom of Robin Sharma, author of "The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari" and founder of the global consultancy Sharma Leadership International. "The job of a leader is to unleash the power of good in people," Leonhardt says, adding this quote from Sharma as a lesson to both live and pass on to your team: "Millions and millions of peopled are standing up for their best lives. So many people are refusing to play the victim . … So many people are going deep within themselves to visit and conquer their fears."

Share major victories with your team. Leonhardt recalls the incredible story of creating a stent graft (a mesh tube used to reinforce an artery) on the fly, and personally delivering it to a patient dying of a cardiac aneurism—in Vienna. The overseas delivery was made, the patient's heart was repaired, and when Leonhardt returned from Vienna, he temporarily shut down his plant to extend the immense gratitude of the patient's family to his workers. "Celebrating these special moments with shared due credit is what leadership is all about," he says.

— Lou Carlozo for UCLA Extension