As small business owners, all of us are leaders. When we dissect the definition of leadership, it becomes clear that it applies equally whether we manage a company with 500 employees or one where we are the only employee. It can be argued that leadership is an amalgamation of several characteristics or traits. I could debate either side of that argument if it was preceded by the word "successful," but the bottom line is that leadership can and should stand on its own.
So try this on for size; I borrowed from the standard definition of leadership and made minor modifications.
Leadership: The process of influencing an individual or group of individuals to accomplish an objective.
That's pretty straight forward and very significant. You can see how this can apply regardless of the size of one's organization or whether they have subordinates. As an example, you may influence a financial institution to provide a loan or influence an investor, vendor or customer to invest in your idea, product or service. Each of us have objectives; whether formal or informal they become our bellwether and help us to measure progress or accomplishment and where necessary change course.
When we measure our own leadership ability or methods, we should always come back to the simplest definition and ask ourselves; "Did I influence people to accomplish my objective?" If not, why not? Its easy to point a finger at someone or something that stood in the way. In reality our job as leaders is to help overcome obstacles and accomplish those objectives? We can certainly delegate if we have the resources to do that. But if we delegate to someone who fails then we own that failure. If they succeed then the outcome of our leadership was a success as well as their ability and perhaps leadership as well.
It is important to focus on one other aspect of the definition; influence. Influence comes in many forms and is often used to describe leadership style. Much like a negotiation we may use several different approaches to influence. I practice an adaptive approach. My style is based on the situation I am in and the knowledge and skill-set of the individual I am trying to influence. But make no mistake, if you agree that knowing your objective is step one on a critical path, then how successfully you influence is step two!