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Are You Really a Good Leader?
A knee jerk reaction would be, "Of course, I'm a good leader." But what is good leadership? There are a diversity of books describing long-held theories on the dynamics and styles of leadership. Writers have analyzed leaders as righteous as Jesus and Moses and as despicable as Hitler and Attila the Hun. We can learn from successful business giants such as Jack Welch, Mary Kay and Sam Walton. All of their insights can open your mind to new ideas, but all the rules these mega-leaders followed are not necessarily applicable to small business. My intention is to make leadership concepts clear for you and useful for your business.
Here are some questions you can use to assess your leadership skill:
- Do you have a vision for your business or are you running on automatic?
- Are you decisive or do you defer to group consensus to make decisions?
- Do you delegate as much of the execution as possible or do you do everything yourself?
- Is your team empowered to make decisions or does everything have to pass by you?
- Do you encourage creativity and problem solving in your staff or do you want them to totally focus on execution?
- Are you the chief motivator or do you leave that to others?
- Do you demand integrity first and foremost or do you accept whatever will win business?
- Are you comfortable with risk and change or do you prefer the status quo?
- Do you communicate your goals, successes and challenges regularly to all your employees or just to the ones you feel need to know?
- Does your culture dictate decisions or do decisions dictate your culture?
- Do you hold your employees accountable or prefer not to ruffle any feathers?
- Do you hire people who are smarter and more experienced in some areas than you are, or do you hire people just like you?
Answering yes to the first half of each question demonstrates great leadership qualities. Responding yes to the second half means you need work on your leadership skills. Most likely, you were not 100 percent one way or another. To improve your business, you need to develop yourself. Your ability to lead well will ensure the success and sustainability of your business.
Here are some hints to make leadership easy and comfortable:
- Set the vision and develop the roadmap for your employees to follow. You need to provide the strategy for your employees to execute. Communicating where you are in the process will keep everyone on track.
- Lead by doing, not just telling. As leader, be the role model and mentor for your employees. Treat employees the way you want them to treat your customers.
- Listen intently to your customers, employees, prospects, and vendors. Strong leaders ask probing questions and pay attention to industry trends, market needs and employee issues.
- Develop a culture that is full of integrity, creativity and shared responsibility for problems and successes. It will create a respectful environment that promotes innovation.
- Take risks and make changes. Staying the same does not serve your business, your customers or your employees. Change can be hard. Test your changes to make sure they are the right ones. Take only calculated risks.
- Hire smartly. Train, motivate and develop your staff. Quickly weed out those who are not working out. It can be demoralizing to others to have a weak link on their team.
Some believe leaders are born and not created. The truth is leaders are developed. It is more about knowing what you don't know than having all the answers. Surround yourself with smart, insightful, creative people. That includes employees, colleagues and advisors. Most of all never stop learning and growing. New challenges are never-ending. People who merely react are not leaders; the ones who keep a few steps ahead of the game are the winners.