Management works in the system; Leadership works on the system.
Stephen R. Covey, First Things First
When asked to define or give examples of leadership most individuals will pause because the answer is elusive. We all know good leadership immediately – in many ways, you can physically feel when you are working with a business or organization with strong positive leaders. No words needed to describe or give an example. When we encounter poor leadership, these experiences can immediately invoke vivid memories of stressful situations.
There are hundreds of books written and daily seminars offered to help professionals and business owners improve their leadership skills. Unlike marketing or accounting, leadership involves self-examination and a deeper understanding of who we are as a person. Often this critical view of oneself deters individuals from seeking instruction on how to improve this crucial skill.
The company I founded, Dillon 5 provided consulting services to startups and small businesses. Each time I mentioned leadership, I would hear a list of excuses as to why working on this skill was not important. “We need to ramp the business!” “I am slammed this week!” “We are not reaching our hurdle rate!”
Many of these founders and business owners were too invested in the immediate daily goals without realizing their decisions today would impact the future. I have learned and observed that when we do not include leadership in our overall strategic planning, the business and its employees do not reach their full potential.
In the past, many companies survived and achieved growth with little or no leadership. As advanced technology continues to disrupt and transform every industry, the luxury of skipping leadership as a key component of your business is gone. One of the most difficult tasks for a small business owner is creating a “leadership culture” within a micro-sized company.
Here are six recommendations for strengthening your leadership skills to help drive your business forward.
- Each month schedule an hour in your calendar for leadership building. Protect this time. Seek recommendations from leaders you know and trust. Read books, watch TEDx Talks about different types of leadership, listen to podcasts and then take notes about areas where you can improve.
- Perform a monthly “reality check.” Step back and observe how your business is operating instead of how you wish the company was performing. Taking away the window dressing to gain a realistic view of your business can be difficult. However, to move forward, being able to recognize when adjustments need to be made is crucial.
- Think about the future and the business. Imagine 6-months or 12-months from now. How will the business be growing and evolving? What potential roadblocks could occur and how will these be handled.
- Take time to establish core beliefs that are evident in every action of your businesses.
- Always include the human element. This is more important today with more companies using advanced AI to manage daily tasks. Humans are slow to evolve. Individuals will continue to purchase services and products from companies and people we like. Like an ineffective leader, individuals avoid companies that fail to recognize the human factor.
- Listen to your customers and clients. All of us at one time or another passively listen to our clients. We formulate a response while they are talking. When we shift to auto-pilot we risk missing critical information. Effective leaders understand the value of listening with 100% of the attention.
Remember, regardless of the size of your business, developing strong leadership skills is a necessity to ensure long-term sustainability.