Alexandra Suchman Barometer XP
Entrepreneurship involves a steep learning curve, says Alexandra Suchman, founder of Barometer XP, which specializes in workplace culture. Curiosity is a key quality for a CEO. (Credit: Melissa Demple Photography)

The start of a calendar year always seems to invite an air of reflection. Perhaps you’re thinking back to whatever big events may have transpired for you in 2022, reminiscing about a holiday well spent, or maybe you’re making a mental list of all the things you don’t want to repeat in the new year. 

Taking stock of time passed inevitably leads to thoughts about the future. For entrepreneurs and CEOs, January is a particularly ripe time to get ideas in order for 2023 – whether those are financial targets, plans for a new project, or thoughts on better managing your team. 

In that vein, we decided to ask a mix of entrepreneurs from our 1000+ Stories project about  leadership qualities they think business owners should strive for in the new year. 

Their thoughtful responses reflect the integrity with which we’ve seen so many female business owners lead recently. There’s also clearly a value for honesty at play in the zeitgeist, along with a need for mission-driven businesses and CEOs to embody the principles they purport to represent. 

As 2023 stretches in front of us, here are some qualities to consider bringing with you.

1. Authenticity 

The quality of being genuine or real is essential in today’s climate, says Lauren Caggiano, the founder of New Heights Fitness, a gym that caters to beginners in Fort Wayne, Indiana.  Authenticity means “showing up as a whole human —not compartmentalizing —  and being honest about your struggles,” she adds.

Caggiano recently battled cancer, and decided to be open about her fight as she ran her business. “I found sharing this aspect of my life has borne fruits in terms of deepening relationships with clients and partners,” she says. 

2. Compassion

Understanding and appreciating others – especially your employees and colleagues – makes compassion an important quality for a founder. Brittany Coleman, the Austin, Texas-based CEO of Tough Cutie, a line of hiking socks designed for women, shares that “there is nothing more humbling than being an entrepreneur.”

As Coleman started up her business in 2019, she learned that it didn’t matter how many hours she logged on her own – she needed help to get the business growing. “You need others to get to where you want to be, and with that comes the need to work with and appreciate others, so they show up for you when it counts.” 

3. Curiosity 

Entrepreneurship involves a steep learning curve, so curiosity and a desire to learn are key qualities for a CEO to possess. Alexandra Schuman, the founder of Barometer XP, a Washington, D.C., company that uses games and play to build stronger workplace cultures, sees that firsthand. “So much of leadership involves having to navigate situations that are completely new to you, and remaining confident and effective while doing so,” she says. 

The quality also comes in handy when you literally don’t know what to do. “Curiosity helps leaders acknowledge what she/he does not already know, and then drives the search for information,” Schuman says. “Curiosity also inspires creative thinking about how to leverage other people and resources in new ways.”

4. Grace

Sometimes a bit of kindness, understanding and general goodwill will go a long way. “We live in a noisy and increasingly demanding world,” says Lauren D’Souza, founder of Ujjo, a line of hot sauces for coffee and other beverages. “That makes it easy to fall into the mindset that we’re constantly not doing enough.”

Which is why the leadership quality that comes to mind for the Columbus, Ohio-based entrepreneur is, “Grace.” She says, “By showing ourselves some grace, we can grow without grasping at perfection, which pays dividends for our businesses, our customers and ourselves.” ◼