Over the last 30 years, I have studied the art of Leadership from some of the leading experts in the country and, having worked inside both large and small business cultures, I’ve concluded that leaders inside small companies are presented with unique challenges that make their roles no less critical to the success of their businesses as the inspirational leaders that are featured in business school case studies. Small business leaders wear many hats; they often work inside companies with limited resources and have a strong emotional ties to the business that they’ve created. They are passionately connected to their business, so much so that their personal and professional lives are deeply intertwined and often indistinguishable from the other.
Effective leadership inside a small business is seriously hard work and is essential to your success. According to leadership advocate, John Maxwell, “…everything rises and falls on leadership”. Fortunately, you don’t have to be born a great leader. Leadership is a skill that can be learned. For the purpose of developing your leadership skills, I’ve compiled a list of five of the most critical practices of small business leadership that should be mastered to assure greater success in business.
As a small business owner, and as the prime leader inside your company, it is essential to have a clear and inspiring vision; a view of what the future holds for the business. Your public statement of vision should be futuristic, realistic and achievable and, it must inspire hope and motivate others to pursue your cause.
It is equally important to cultivate the second critical aspect of leadership in a business – a culture built on trust. Working effectively in a small business environment can be really challenging and even impossible when trust is not a key component of the culture. To inspire trust, leaders must walk the talk and align their behaviors and actions with the expectations that they have for others.
The third critical aspect of small business leadership is the importance of enlisting the opinions of others. Whether it’s shaping the vision, developing new products and services, dealing with customer issues, or even generating ideas for the next customer appreciation day, by enlisting the opinions of others, leaders keep people engaged which encourages them to take pride and have an active role in the achievement of goals.
The fourth aspect of successful leadership in a small business is empowerment; to inspire people and teams to pursue their goals by acting quickly and efficiently, without fear of reprisal. Empowerment is to give people and teams the freedom to explore new ideas and take risks so long that their actions are aligned with the vision and goals of the business.
The fifth and possibly most critical aspect of small business leadership a willingness to be flexible and open to change. Companies that respond quickly to new ideas, market trends, and customer expectations are likely to maintain a competitive advantage; they will grow faster and be more profitable than their peers. Leaders who demonstrate openness to change will inspire others to find excitement in innovation.
These five practices of leadership are critical to the success of any small business. Leaders must remain conscious of applying these practices consistently in order to sustain a culture which is geared to success.