When the topics of entrepreneurship and small business management are raised, the topic of leadership is either not discussed, or identified as a secondary issue for small business owners. This is not due to a lack of interest, or a perception that leadership is not a priority for business owners -- the opposite is often true, especially for entrepreneurs. That said, it is also important to recognize the reality that, in almost all circumstances, focusing on client issues and bringing in new business to the firm simply have to take priority over other issues. Balancing these varying goals and objectives can be challenging even for experienced entrepreneurs, but can seem nearly impossible for entrepreneurs just starting out.
The reality is, however, that for small businesses and entrepreneurial ventures, leadership can be the secret sauce that sets you and your organization apart.
Leadership comes in many forms, and I am sure that you have seen and watched any number of Ted talks, read articles focusing on leadership, and possibly even attended seminars focus on how to better lead your team and organization. The ability to successfully lead an organization can, and often does, mean the difference between sustainable business success and an organization that struggles to keep pace with the competition. As you well know, the tone of the leader or founder, especially in a smaller or newer organization, can have a profound impact on employee morale and organizational performance.
Just because leadership is important does not mean that it has to be expensive, nor does it mean that you have to take time away from your business to attend leadership classes. There are questions you can ask yourself, concepts to keep in mind, and ideas that you can implement right now to help improve both the quality of your leadership and the performance of your organization.
1. Know your leadership style.
Just like not everyone learns the same way, there is no one single leadership style, and if you are trying to lead like someone you have seen on T.V., you are most likely setting yourself up for failure. The first step toward true leadership is understanding where you excel, and then amplifying those strengths to help others accomplish their objectives.
2. Ask the right questions.
No business is perfect, and this includes the businesses that you are either leading or are otherwise involved with, so the true question is how do you fix these issues? You and I both know that asking questions is almost always the best way to get to the bottom of an issue, but how do you know what questions to ask? I don't have the answer here, but this is something you should think about it as it pertains to your business. The ability to drill down to the core drivers and components of business challenges is a hallmark of a true leader.
3. Realizing what to delegate.
No one can do everything themselves, but as I am sure you know that is something easier to say than to actually put into practice at your organization. Learning to trust your team, empower your colleagues and employees to take charge, and having the confidence in them to do their jobs, frees you up to participate in higher level activities. Taking this one step at a time might work the best for you and your organization -- the most important step is to get this process started.
4. Continuously learning.
Leadership, learning how to lead, and making the most of your leadership skills is never something that goes out of style, but nor is it something that you ever actually finish. Making sure to keep yourself relevant, whether that means taking MOOCs or attending networking events, will keep you and your ideas sharp, refreshing, and relevant for your business.
Leading an organization means that you are leading people, which is inherently a difficult and complicated task. For small businesses and entrepreneurial startups, although not always the focus of traditional leadership training, the ability to develop effective leadership skills can be a differentiating factor for your business. Taking it one step at a time, developing a leadership style that is unique to you and your skills, and making sure to keep yourself current can help you and your organization for proactive leadership moving forward.