Leadership is an essential skill for a business owner, yet not many entrepreneurs are considered great leaders. Many of them have amazing technical management skills but fall short on people management, which is the key ingredient to achieving goals.
A great manager can have sharp foresight and grit to pivot strategy to stay resilient amid change, but a good leader ensures you have a team that will stand by you and takes ownership of the company’s failures and successes.
The biggest companies in the world may have come from the innovation, creativity, or entrepreneurial spirit of their founder, but it is their CEOs and execs who steered them to where they are now. This is why founders of big companies choose other, more qualified people to lead their companies, as not everyone can rally people behind common objectives and inspire them to do their best.
But just like any skill, good leadership can be learned and mastered over time. You can start by working on these essential qualities:
The Traits of a Great Leader
A leader must have the ability to understand and share the feelings and needs of others to get their buy-in. Empathy is a crucial part of building trusting and interpersonal relationships, eventually resulting in better collaboration and buy-in.
The traditional, bureaucratic way of pointing fingers no longer works in today’s competitive business landscape. A good leader takes full responsibility for everyone under him, down to the rank-and-file employee. This top-down approach basically means that the mistakes and inefficiencies of employees all boil down to management issues.
An effective leader must be proficient in communicating in any context. Additionally, a good leader always finds a way to be available and present. A company where there’s a wide disconnect between regular employees and top management will find it hard to achieve a position of shared ownership and transparency.
Another important competency is the ability to effect change without forcing it to happen. Simply put, your employees will continue to do their best even if you’re not in the room because they share your vision and want the company to succeed.
They say that if a company can function effectively even without a leader, the leader has done a great job. This means that you’ve empowered your team members to fulfill their role, you’ve to build mutual trust, and big responsibilities are not siloed to a select few.
It goes without saying that a leader should be confident in his abilities, qualifications, and ideas. If you don’t trust your ideas and can’t stand behind them, you can’t expect others to do so. If, say, public speaking is not your strong suit, but you need to address your people during an event, consider getting a lively, empathic professional speaker such as Debbie Scheer Speaks so that you’d feel more at ease and ready to face the crowd.
Influential people gain the respect and loyalty of their followers because they have strong moral principles and are honest and sincere. In fact, we have seen many famous, influential people fall from grace after breaking away from these moral standards. So you must stick to your code consistently.
Another key trait to have as a leader is to have the foresight of what you want your business to achieve. Having a clear mission and vision is good to have for a company, and you must communicate these in a way that your employees will understand and see themselves being part of.
There is no such thing as a perfect leader, but those who can power through difficulties, learn from and rise above failures, and move forward amid setbacks can expect people to rally behind your cause. In fact, a sign of being a great leader is when people look to you as some strong foundation when everything seems to fall apart.
The reality is that not many people can be both great managers and leaders as these two things tend to have different approaches and objectives. Management involves optimizing processes and systems to ensure maximum efficiency and quality, while leadership focuses mainly on the human aspect of running a business. Managers would seek lower costs, expand their profit margins, and deliver a better product or service. At the same time, leaders would focus on equally important things like employee satisfaction, career development, customer care, brand loyalty, and corporate responsibility.
But if you look at the bigger picture, both approaches are ultimately anchored on a common goal. To stay agile and resilient, businesses must learn to make the best of both worlds and pivot their strategy towards the triple bottom line of people, profit, and planet.