“What does it take to be a good leader?”
Leadership is the most common concern of the business owner, no matter if they have one employee or a thousand. However, the scope, span and ways in which leadership tactics are applied differ between a Fortune 500 CEO and small business owner. After 25 years of teaching, coaching, speaking and engaging audiences with the question of what it takes to be a good leader, I’ve found the answers to fit into five simple words—the 5 P’s.
Leaders look at different things than managers. As one coaching client told me, her business is her baby. Thus how the business is marketed, the type of clients she serves and who she surrounds herself with are personal decisions. Clients become friends and the decision to no longer utilize one’s services can be taken personally. Maintaining perspective is essential. Very few decisions in business are personal. Rarely are budgets personal and when selling your services, it’s important to remember some will want them, some won’t.
What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of perspective? Fill your days with so many sales calls and marketing efforts that you lose track of who said “no” and focus only on those who say “yes” to you and your business.
In a small business, the potential of the people you might hire or systems you might use, has a cost. If your instincts are right, that potential pays for itself. If your instincts are wrong, that lack of potential could create problems and cost you a bundle. As a result, many small business owners lead themselves to follow the actions of those they trust, but when overwhelmed (as many consistently are) the urge to get something done can mask the signals that would normally prevent the mistakes of a myriad of rapid decisions.
What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of potential? Lean on the old Ronald Reagan saying: “Trust, then verify.” Take smaller risks to build your confidence. Hire a business coach for a short time period and measure the results. Determine the worst possible outcome, decide what you could financially handle if it happened, and then pull the trigger. Potential can pay off if you pay attention.
Small business leaders sometimes create powerful titles for themselves because they don’t believe they have the power to compete in the larger market without them. Power is an internal element and not a function of your title. Power comes from believing in yourself, doing those things about which you have passion, and setting up your business so you can delegate the things for which you have little or no interest. Instead, small business leaders try to do it all. They fake a skill level or a desire because they believe they should. Shoulds rob you of your power to build your business.
What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of power? Remind yourself customers like real people, not those who fake it. They are attracted to power and those who do as they say. Get out of your own way and surround yourself with those who can help. In other words, find talented…
Since 2001, when I wrote the first edition of Contagious Leadership, I’ve espoused leadership is contagious. Everything you do, see, say, think, believe and how you behave rubs off on those you lead. Of course, you first have to have people to lead. Sure, you can do everything—except not at the same time and usually not all by yourself.
What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of people? Find other people to help you. Go to Elance or Guru to find inexpensive contractors. Engage a service like Ruby Receptionists to make sure your phones are answered and create great first impressions of your business. Avoid the need to employ everyone just so you look bigger than you are. Test your trust in their skills and don’t give away too much at first. Guide them, teach them and hold them responsible. Hire slowly and fire fast, no matter how much you think it will mean they don’t like you.
The toughest period for a small business is the first five years. Persist. You had a goal when you opened this business. You had a passion that drove you day and night to do what you felt was right in serving your customers. You found some people who worked well and some who made you want to read Make Difficult People Disappear. You found some customers you could serve and a few who said “No thank you.” Persist.
What does this mean you do to improve your leadership skills in the area of persistence? Keep going in the direction that gives you the greatest positive feedback and results.
There is a Native American story that was likely not intended to be about leadership, but nevertheless feels appropriate. The story goes that a group of Native Americans were observing a herd of buffalo and cows. A storm approached the two herds. As the clouds moved closer, the buffalo ran INTO the storm, escaping its wrath faster. The cows, on the other hand, ran AWAY from the storm, prolonging their exposure.
The moral of the story? Led by fear, the cows persisted in the wrong direction and gave up their power. By running head into the storm, the buffalo maintained their power of escape, were faced with less time needed to persist in a struggle, gained the clarity of perspective from the other side more quickly, and earned the respect of the Native American people.
Do your actions as a leader earn you the respect of those you lead, who observe your every move? Your employees watch your use of the 5 P’s, and how you use these strategies rubs off on them. Use your power to change what’s not working. Find people to help you and persist through the storms that are inherent to business ownership, knowing that the potential you saw when you first opened your doors, still exists if you simply persist, and lead.
Monica Wofford, CSP is a leadership development expert. As the CEO of Contagious Companies she develops leaders through coaching, consulting and training. As a professional speaker, she entertains audiences with a compelling leadership message. Author of Contagious Leadership and Make Difficult People Disappear, Monica is also a ten year Ruby Receptionist’s customers and a firm believer that THIS was one of the best business decisions she’s ever made!