Most of the entrepreneurs and business owners I work with recognize that they must occupy and practice a primary leadership position, but many will admit that they are not thriving in this role.
I've never had a definitive list of recommendations to overcome these qualms, so I was pleased to see the insights in the new book Arrive and Thrive, by Susan MacKenty Brady, Janet Foutty, and Lynn Perry Wooten. Although their focus is primarily on women leaders in business, I'm convinced that the same insights and recommendations apply to all aspiring business leaders.
These authors bring a broad range of experience and practice in business leadership, as executives, consultants in the real world, and academic researchers. They assure us that your fears and qualms are normal, but the next step in your journey is more than possible if you focus on this key set of practices with full intention, awareness, and agility in action.
1. Capitalize on your best talents and strengths.
We all know our own strengths and weaknesses, and too many of you spend too much energy bemoaning weaknesses, rather than leveraging strengths. The power of strength is the positive impact on everything you say and do, the increase in your well-being, and lasting resilience.
At the same time, but as a second priority, I find that it pays to mitigate key weaknesses. Even though you will never be great at all tasks, some are important enough that it's worth the extra effort to learn more, practice, and achieve minimal competence.
2. Embrace the real you as your competitive advantage.
Accept the fact that authenticity is necessary for leadership effectiveness. The willingness to share yourself in appropriate and honest ways builds trust, respect, and followers. If you make a mistake, own it and work to make things better. Enlist trusted relationships for feedback and guidance.
In my experience, the values that represent the real you can, and should, change as you learn then react and adapt to real world situations. Your team will quickly sense your insights and sincerity, leading to greater impact and satisfaction by everyone.
3. Cultivate the courage to do honest introspection.
The support currently provided by product service can become inadequate to satisfy new customers, as your growth and image becomes better known. Be prepared to create and train a dedicated support group that can keep up with your now larger and growing install base of demanding customers.
Also be aware that customers today are looking for a total memorable experience in dealing with your company, rather than just product support. You need the courage and introspection to lead your team to this new level of expectation, despite the challenges.
4. Proactively prepare for the unexpected in business.
To thrive as a business leader, you need to assume there will be change and crises, and develop resilience to bounce back and adapt. Let business changes give you practice in self-empowerment, self-assurance, and alignment. Form collaborative relationships to help and support you.
5. Engage others in inspiring a bold vision of change.
Inspiring vision means taking note of what needs to change, and what you yourself believe in. Establish trust and enroll others in that vision. During times of crisis, that vision will be seen as leadership, and people will follow you and think about what's next, resulting in the progress you desire.
6. Create a healthy, safe, and low-risk team environment.
Sincerity and empathy are essential to establishing the trust and respect of team members, leading to engagement, real communication, and commitment to the leader. Practice collaborating and supporting your team, to make them feel safe and appreciated, and bond to you and the business.
7. Commit to being an inclusive leader, an ally for all.
Be aware and fight the biases that may show up in any environment, or may come from your personal background. Counter group-think by hearing from a variety of diverse voices. Partner with colleagues from underrepresented groups, support their success, and allow them to arrive and thrive.
As you find yourself in positions of greater responsibility, risk, and reward, the practices outlined here offer you the groundwork for making more effective, as well as more fulfilling, choices for yourself, your team, and even your community.
It's up to you to keep up with the pace of change all around you and in business today, and thrive while bringing your team along, as well.