Why does one company thrive and another fail? What is the difference between an inspirational manager and a bad one? Taking our cue from Aristotle (“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit”), we decided that success had its roots in habits driven by ambition. The habits that work for large companies also work for individual managers and small businesses.

  1.  Inspirational managers have big ideas

They have a clear, plausible, optimistic vision of the future. They can articulate this vision clearly in a way that earns the allegiance of their staff. They set big, ambitious goals and help their people to achieve them. They thrive on change but stay true to their purpose. They use technology to help them communicate and share their ideas.

  1.  Inspirational managers stay focused

They are flexible about means but constant about objectives. They have a bias for action, for analysis without paralysis, for delegation. This means having the right tools for the job. For example, good business notebooks give smart managers the basic tools of their trade. Designed for business and portability, they let managers carry all the information they need, work wherever they want and concentrate on the task at hand.

  1.  Inspirational managers build momentum

They make smart, timely decisions. They remove obstacles to productivity and have fewer, shorter meetings. They don’t let the impossible interfere with the possible. Inspirational managers automate the routine tasks and make sure that everyone in their team knows exactly what’s going on while working through the important tasks.

  1.  Inspirational managers put people first

They are unapologetic about going after the best talent available. They maximise their return on people with training, meritocracy, flexible working and respect. Technology can play a role here too. IT can help managers coordinate their team, improve teamwork and provide training for their staff. Good small business leaders have an advantage because they are not bound by convention or restrictive bureaucracy.

  1.  Inspirational managers encourage communication

Communication is at the heart of effective management. Inspirational managers listen well, build consensus and communicate decisions. This means using every possible line of communication possible. This is where new communication technology comes in. Examples include Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), instant messaging, intranets, blogs, Wikis, social networking, desktop video conferencing etc. Small companies can deploy new technology quicker and get a bigger payback from small investments in IT than their larger competitors – indeed the internet enables the smallest firms to compete on equal terms with many larger businesses.

  1.  Inspirational managers manage innovation

Inspirational managers try new things, mixing the safe with the revolutionary. They don’t punish failure to succeed, only failure to try. Smaller companies find it easier to roll out new technology fast. They don’t have the bureaucracy of their larger competitors so they can try new technology and see if it enhances their operations.

  1.  Inspirational managers listen to their conscience

They have an environmental and social conscience and listen to it. Not just because they have to, but because it is the right thing to do and because it makes good business sense.