Running a successful business requires more than just having a great idea. It requires leadership. And let’s face it—not all of us are natural born leaders. That’s okay. The good news is that leadership skills are something you can learn. They’re something you have to learn if you want to build a successful company, whether you have 1 employee or 75 employees.
So, what does it take to be an effective small business leader? You need to possess these 7 important traits:
1. Be a good listener – There’s a thin line between being a leader and being a dictator. The difference is that great leaders listen to those “below” them. Listen to your employees and customers, and I guarantee you’ll find some great ideas that help you improve your business. Oh, and when you get those ideas from someone else, show them a little love by thanking them and giving them credit.
2. Communicate with your team – One of the best ways to avoid disgruntled employees and a dysfunctional team is to communicate clearly with everyone. Always let your workers know what’s going on and what you expect out of them. Also, give them insight into the bigger picture so they know your company’s overall goals and vision.
3. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – You aren’t perfect. Nobody is. It’s impossible to run a business without making mistakes, but great leaders understand that mistakes will be made. That’s just part of being an entrepreneur. It’s how you rebound from those mistakes that really count.
4. Surround yourself with smart, talented people – Advertising legend David Ogilvy once said, “If you ever find a man who is better than you are, hire him.” As a business leader, it’s important that you build a well-rounded team. You should understand your own abilities—your strengths, your weaknesses—and surround yourself with talented individuals who possess the skills you lack.
5. Be willing to delegate – One of the first things I learned in my Dale Carnegie leadership training course was to delegate work. It only makes sense to do so, because surrounding yourself with smart and talented people is pointless if you don’t let them do their jobs. I get it; your business is your baby. But if you’re never willing to give up any control, your company will never grow to its full potential. There’s only so much you can do on your own. You have to let your team do the things they do best. You hired them for a reason, after all.
6. Always be looking forward – Where do you want your company to be 5 years from now? A good leader is always visualizing the future. You need to think about what you want for your company and create a plan that helps you achieve that. If you’re not looking forward, you’ll get stuck exactly where you are today, and stagnation has no place in small business. According to the Forbes.com article “The Three Strengths of a True Strategic Leader”, statistics show that fewer than 10% of leaders exhibit strategic skills, which is a scary number, considering how important strategy is to moving your business forward.
7. Hold yourself and others accountable – Accountability is important in all companies. You need to set clear expectations for what you want out of your employees and yourself, and you have to hold everyone (yourself included) for the results they produce. That also means admitting when you make a mistake.
So, do you think you have what it takes to be a successful small business leader? What are some other important leadership traits you think should have made this list?
Share your thoughts by commenting below.