Becoming a business owner and an entrepreneur is deciding to become a leader. As a leader, your actions, behaviours and attitudes decide the ultimate fate of your business.
With leadership being vital, Florian Bay, explores some of the pitfalls leaders can fall into, and the steps you can take to lead your business to success.
1. Have a clear vision
The greatest leaders in the world all share one thing in common. A very powerful vision that animates their actions. This vision is their map and model of their world and provides a blueprint for the future.
However, most leaders lack a powerful sense of vision and don’t seem to stand for anything. I’ve seen this happening plenty of times and it results in a general lack of purpose within organisations.
Another consequence is that leaders lacking a vision tend to react to events instead of shaping them.
If you choose to lead, you must develop a powerful sense of vision for yourself and your business. This vision will be you “why” that wakes you up in the morning. It will also be something that others can latch onto to follow you.
Developing a good vision takes effort and is often overlooked amid day to day tasks and deadlines to meet. However, a powerful and easy to communicate vision is the foundation stone of transformational leadership.
Many of today’s innovations, from bagless vacuum cleaners to electricity to electric cars are the fruit of such visions.
Don’t allow a potential investor to ask him or herself “What’s the point of your business?”. Instead, inspire them with a powerful and unique vision of why you’ve started up your business and the problems you’re seeking to solve.
2. Accept that you won’t please everyone
Decision-making is one of the core facets of leadership. Leaders can be expected to make decisions all the time on all kind of issues affecting their organisations. Some of these decisions might be difficult to make.
Unfortunately, leaders cannot please everybody and there will be times when some close friends or family members might voice their disapproval of your decisions.
I have been in this situation and it is always a challenging one to handle. But handling it you must, especially if your business is now employing others.
Of course, embracing that you won’t be universally liked doesn’t mean becoming callous and insensitive to the thoughts and opinions of others. It means that you will have to develop a lot of emotional resilience for when you’re under fire.
This is where high levels of emotional intelligence and strong interpersonal skills can help you. Developing these will take time and there will be occasions where you will fail to communicate your message to others. Learn the lessons from these failures and incorporate them.
Another painful reality of leadership is that people will notice your failures more than your successes. This is pervasive in every situation and every industry.
Just think about it, we always tend to moan when a train is late. But while doing so, we forget that 90% of the time, trains run on time.
Communicating your successes can help you raise your profile and build a following.
What’s more, success stories from customers are how your business will increase its reach and build-up its brand. These stories are a double edged-sword though as hands will inevitably rise in the air if something goes wrong. You simply can’t please everybody …
3. Build a support network
Life at the top can be very lonely as few people can truly understand the pressures and struggles that leaders face. This will especially be true if your industry is niche, uncommon or difficult to explain.
What I’ve learnt in the last few years, is that only people that have been in similar leadership roles can truly understand what’s it’s like to be in my shoes.
I am lucky not to be completely alone as my leadership team faces similar challenges to mine. I have additionally built a support network of close friends and peers in my organisations across the World.
This network is my sounding board if I need advice and also a place to share what’s on my mind in confidence.
If you don’t have a support network yet, start building it now. Other business owners who are in a similar position to yours on their leadership journey will be strong candidates to join it.
Close friends that understand you and that you can vent with can also provide support, albeit of a slightly different nature. There are times though when you’ll feel like ranting and venting, make some space for it as it’s sometimes needed.
It goes without saying that having the emotional support of your significant other will help immensely too. Especially as embarking on a start-up or expanding an existing small business can create leadership challenges that are very time-consuming.
4. Manage your time, or else …
While leaders can delegate tasks and assignments to team members or others. Delegation implies supervision and communication, two things that can take quite a lot of time with meetings, calls and potentially travel to other locations.
I personally spend a fair bit of time travelling in my leadership role and it has meant weekends away from home or getting home late at night.
What’s more, leaders need to juggle their time between strategic and non-strategic tasks. This is especially true for anybody starting up a new business with limited help.
Strategic tasks such as crafting a vision, developing a product or campaign are some of the most rewarding parts of leadership. However, non-strategic tasks are just as essential, beginning with replying to the emails and communications will inevitably come your way.
Inevitably, problems will occur that will divide your attention and impact the business. Covey’s Matrix will help you understand the tasks you need to prioritise and those that can wait.
Effective time management and assertiveness regarding time are must-have skills in your leadership journey. Both can take various forms but the best way to describe them in a single sentence is “have a diary and learn to say no”.
Strict diary discipline can enable you to carve out some time for family or social activities. Saying no will enable you to preserve time for yourself and may also indirectly empower others to solve problems on their own.
Both are much easier said than done though. There may be occasions where a situation demands significant time investments.
The adage of “what you get out is what you put in” has also proven to be true countless time in my leadership journey so far.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Florian Bay. Florian is District 91 Director of Toastmasters International, a not-for-profit organisation that has provided communication and leadership skills since 1924 through a worldwide network of clubs. With more than 400 clubs and 10,000 members in the UK and Ireland, find your nearest club at www.toastmasters.org
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