Do an internet search on “leadership” and you’ll find no shortage of articles, books, and quotes about what it takes to be a successful leader.
That’s because no two leaders, or leadership situations, are alike. Each of us brings different skills, talents, and experiences to the table. How we apply them depends very much on the circumstances at hand. So while people like Theodore Roosevelt, General George Marshall, or Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates are all considered great leaders, their respective approaches to particular problems might have been quite different.
Still, there are skills shared by all successful leaders, including those at the helm of small businesses. Most are developed through experience and education (“born leaders” are few and far between). Business writer and IT consultant Susan Ward has identified five keys to business leadership. You may not fully develop them all, and have to compensate in other ways. But simply being familiar with them will make it easier to engage your employees, partners, vendors, customers, and associates.
- Plan. “Leadership involves identifying potential problems and solving them before they reach crisis proportions,” Ward says. As such, leaders are continually analyzing new data and adjusting their plans to conform to the changing landscape.
- Have a vision. “Vision provides direction and without direction, there’s not much point to all that planning,” Ward says. That makes it critical to develop a vision statement that defines your business, and what you want it to achieve.
- Tell them about it. Sharing that vision with others starts the cycle of getting them to believe in you, which reinforces your own belief in what you want to accomplish, and your ability to do it.
- Take charge. This is when all those thoughts and ideas are turned into decisive actions. “You can’t just ‘talk a good game’ to be a leader,” Ward says.
- Inspire through example. Your role as leader doesn’t end at 5:00 pm, or when you step outside for lunch. People won’t respond to your leadership unless they know you are fully committed to those objectives. As Ward puts it, “you have to act in ways that are fitting to your leadership vision and yourself—all the time.”
Another great source for small business expertise is SCORE “For the Life of Your Business.” SCORE is a non-profit organization of more than 12,000 volunteers who provide free, confidential business mentoring and training workshops to small business owners.
To learn more about the local chapters of SCORE, visit www.thevillagesocala.score.org or www.lakesumter.score.org