Owning a business takes moxie. It requires grit, resourcefulness, and a strategic vision. Most important, effective leadership — and effective leadership requires a delicate balance of a unique set of key skills.
We’ve all encountered that manager at least once in our lives. The one who needs to prove they are the smartest and most capable individual in the room. Their leadership style seems to suck all the air out of the room, ultimately stifling creativity and draining their teams.
Hopefully, you’ve also encountered a leader at the opposite end of the spectrum. One whose main leadership traits involve fostering a positive and innovative culture. These leaders are often called “multipliers,” because they multiply intelligence across their workforce, rather than diminishing it.
They bring together individuals with a diverse set of talents and empower them by encouraging collaboration. The result is a more engaged and productive workforce.
A good leader has a deep commitment to the organization’s vision, whether they’re large corporations or small businesses. They can effectively communicate the overarching goals of the company, as well as those of the individual employee, in achieving that vision. Though every great leader has their own specific traits, these strategies and soft skills are critical.
Plan and execute strategically
Great leadership requires you get out of your comfort zone and bring big ideas to life. The best way to do this is to develop a strategy of small, actionable goals. Each step serves as a building block, working towards long-term goals. Leadership monitors progress using KPIs and adjusts the strategy when necessary.
Developing and executing a plan is critical to an organization’s success. Yet, less than 10% of business leaders are effective at both strategy and execution. Following these steps will keep you in that 10%: :
- Analyze your strategic position in the market: Identify your business’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats.
- Develop a vision: Use the information you gathered in the previous step to create a roadmap for the future.
- Create a mission statement: Your mission statement should identify the purpose of your business.
- Establish organizational values: Core values are what you consider important in terms of business culture; these are whatefine your organization.
- Assess risk: Assessing the possible risks for your strategic plan allows you to be proactive and act quickly to solve any problems.
- Develop the plan: Use your values, vision, mission, and potential risks to determine the best strategy to achieve organizational success.
- Communicate: Give your team a clear outline of the plan tso everyone is on the same page.
- Execute: Set up necessary teams, organize and allocate resources, motivate employees, and keep track of progress.
- Review strategy: Review the performance of your plan on an ongoing basis, making changes as needed.
Research from Gallup shows that employees are 3.5 times more engaged if they understand their role in meeting organizational goals. Employee engagement shifts the mindset of the entire workforce. It leads to increased productivity, reduced employee churn, and an enhanced customer experience. This powerful combination helps boost profits and meet or exceed business goals.
Good leadership involves strategically communicating with your team and clearly and consistently conveying a set of objectives that unifies them. Each accomplished task brings the organization closer to its goal and gives team members a sense of progress. It challenges individuals to push themselves, continually growing for the greater good. This progress strengthens your leadership vision.
Lead by example
Your role in small business leadership positions you at the head of the table. But, it’s important to remember that you are an integral part of the team.
Honest work at every level helps build mutual trust and respect. Getting your hands dirty and working in the trenches signals to your team that you are on their side.
There are a few easy ways to lead by example:
- Do the work: Show that you know your own trade and have an in-depth understanding of what it takes to run your business.
- Be careful what you say: Keep morale high by speaking positively, supporting your team members, and providing guidance when needed behind closed doors.
- Listen: Get feedback from your team on a regular basis.
- Take responsibility: Know when to accept that you made a mistake, and fix it.
- Avoid micromanaging: As long as you’ve relayed your mission, values, and goals, give your team a chance to prove they can get it done on their own.
Provide constructive criticism
Let’s face it: No one really enjoys hearing what they’ve done wrong. Constructive criticism, however, is essential for growth and improvement. Strong leaders approach employee evaluations with empathy and tact. They bring positivity to the conversation.
To ensure a positive workplace culture, recognize the individual’s accomplishments. Then, you can discuss what areas need improvement. Successful leaders take on the role of coach, not tyrant.
Regular performance reviews provide a useful opportunity to both highlight an employee’s strengths and accomplishments and relay feedback on how they can improve.
It’s important to remember that communication goes both ways. A leader values the ideas and opinions of both their workforce and their customers. Listening fosters a collaborative and positive workplace environment. It helps resolve conflicts and fortifies the team.
Effective listening reinforces the notion that you are part of the team. Ultimately, it positions you as a supportive leader, there to help each individual be the best version of themselves.
Recognize that you’re human, too
None of us have all the answers. No matter how much experience you have under your belt, there is always room for growth. Self-awareness and not being afraid to make mistakes is the mark of a great leader.
Every multi-million dollar company climbs its way to the top through both successes and failures—no one is immune. It’s what you do with those losses that defines you as a leader. If your employees see you take responsibility, ask for input, and solve the problem, they will follow your lead.
One of the many hats you must wear as a business owner is that of the decision-maker. Problem solving is part of your everyday routine and leadership role, and there will always be more information coming at you from all directions..
Continually waiting for more information before making a decision, however, can keep you in a holding pattern. If you wait too long before making a decision, nothing will get accomplished. Sometimes you’ll need to make a bold move based on what you currently know.
Decisiveness builds confidence, and communicating your reasoning behind a decision is even better. If you cannot explain how you arrived at a decision, your employees may find it difficult to put the plan into action.
Build a talented team
This trait is a reminder to recognize that no one has all the answers. Effective leaders acknowledge their strengths and identify where they could use help when building a team.
Hire employees that complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. Value what each person brings to the table. View their strengths as an opportunity to challenge yourself and grow.
Collaboration has become an essential tool for businesses in today’s world. In fact, 52% of U.S. employees consider collaboration and teamwork a priority in the workplace.
We’ve all heard the old adage, “two heads are better than one.” Imagine what your team could accomplish with their collective brainpower. Collaboration doesn’t just lead to innovation and problem solving—it empowers the workforce. It also creates a culture that celebrates team achievements and reinforces the idea that what is good for one is good for all.
An easy way to encourage collaboration is to create projects that require employees with different skill sets to build something innovative together.
It is often difficult for people in leadership positions to give up control. You elected to hire employees because you recognized you cannot handle everything yourself. Hopefully, you hired talented and intelligent team members.
CEO Bill Gates said that while he learned this lesson the hard way, he soon realized it’s the key to achieving every goal you set for yourself. Take a page out of his book by trusting in your team and relinquishing some control. Let them do the jobs you hired them to do!
Effective leadership means arming your team with the tools that support the workplace culture you are trying to build. From hiring and HR compliance to maintaining a happy workplace, Homebase can set your team up for success.