What are the basic components of leadership in a small business?
If you pay any attention to politics, the debate about the success or failure of President Obama seems to be coming down to issues of his leadership style. This raises a great question for you in your position as owner, (or maybe future owner). Are you a natural born leader? Or have you been thrust into the position with no experience, skills, or training? Do you like leading? Are you currently reading books or watching videos on leadership?
If you feel like you could really use a course in leadership, allow the following to be a brief outline of what makes for great leaders. You can use it as a jumping off point to finding other resources that will give you more depth in the areas you need work.
The basics are these:
1. Have a vision
2. Be able to communicate Your vision
3. Have followers buy into or take ownership of the vision
4. Execute faithfully on your part of the job
5. Care About Your Team Mebers
Have a Vision
It is possible to run a small company without a vision. It is also possible to take a vacation with no destination in mind. It might feel spontaneous and would delight some, but it will usually be a huge waste of time compared to one that has a vision.
The idea of a "vision" comes from the Biblical idea of a vision from God; something supernatural that isn't necessarily arrived at by logic. Like many creative aspects of life, the vision might come to the entrepreneur like a dream or during a time of meditation.
Vision is different from goals and plans, however. Goals are a subset of Vision. Plans a subset of Goals. The vision is more esoteric and includes both tangible and intangible expectations. Your vision might be to have the best reputation in the Promo business for on-time and perfectly executed promotions. The goal might be $10,000,000 in sales with 6 reps and 2 customer service people at the end of 10 years. A part of the plan might be to grow at a rate of 30% per year for the first five years and then level off at 20% per year.
A vision might have to do with niche selection, new inventions, a new way of doing things, or a clear cut methodology. At Bike 'n Safety, the vision is to create great bicycle related items that can be imprinted, a niche that is almost vacant.
Be Able to Communicate Your Vision
It is one thing to have a vision. It is something else altogether to be able to communicate it to those you want to join you. The reality is that no one is going to be able to get your vision completely. That is why you are in charge. You are the only one who can keep the troops on track to reach your vision. A slight deviation could result in much less of a success, or even an utter failure.
But it is critical that you hone your vision into a clear statement that makes sense to an average worker. Each employee, supplier, and even customer should understand what you are hoping to accomplish in partnership with them. They need to understand how it is going to benefit them. And the way you tell them your vision must be understandable through their personal lens. When the vision is clear to everyone, you and they can establish tracking and data points that will let everyone know if they are on the right track.
Have Followers Buy Into or Take Ownership of the Vision
The last thing you want your team members to think is "yeah, right." If the vision is fully explained, and the team member indicates that they understand the vision and their role in execution, most of your job is done. However, if they are only giving lip service, you are going to get less than optimum performance.
You can get buy in by involving them in the design of their job, brainstorming on how to improve processes or methods, and providing them with positive feedback when they are showing they get it (this is completely different from positive feedback for excellent work.)
This is not to say that top down dictatorships don't work in small business. However, you will have a happier, healthier work force if they feel that they are participating with more than their backs.
Execute Faithfully on Your Part of the Job
These last two points have to do with trust. If you want your people to be excited about and work hard to achieve your vision, it is critical that they see you are also excited and working hard. This can be difficult for some visionaries as it is all too common for that type of personality to have a new vision that distracts them from the earlier vision.
The way to avoid letting folks down is to make sure that whatever you commit to do in your role with the company, you execute faithfully, on time, and with excellence. If you are distracted by other opportunities or outside issues, reduce your commitment to something you can handle. You are watched at all times, and your drive, determination, style, and the quality of your work will filter down, whether positive or negative.
Care About Your Team Members
Have you ever had a boss or a leader where it was all about them? They got the credit, the financial rewards, and the applause, and they didn't know your name, anything about you, or even how you were doing on the job. If anything went wrong, it wasn't their fault, you got hours cut or worse, and they copped an attitude.
That is an extreme example, although there are plenty of owners like that. But your goal should be to do the exact opposite. If you are in business to serve, you will be successful. You are there to serve clients, suppliers, and employees. If everyone believes that you care more about their success than your own, are happy to share the applause and the financial rewards with them, and will take the blame when things go wrong, while attempting to save as many jobs as possible, you will have a hard working and loyal team. You may be amazed at what customers, suppliers, and employees will do for you when you are struggling.
Are you this kind of leader? If not, what do you think is keeping you from adopting these ideas? Let me hear from you in the comments below.