5 Leadership Skills for Business Owners
Not everyone who starts a business is a natural born leader. It takes innovation, resourcefulness, and determination to create a new company, but successfully running the business after it is launched requires a completely different skill set. Many business owners do not have a clear understanding of how to fill a leadership role, but a lack of effective leadership can undermine the confidence of the team and damage the business.
Great leaders are passionately dedicated to their goals, clearly communicate how these goals can be reached, and provide all of the tools necessary for doing so. Instead of thinking like an authority figure who is in a position of power, business owners should think of themselves as a valuable member of their team. The most influential leaders have a vision that is not only conveyed through their words, but is also demonstrated through their actions.
Effective leadership is particularly critical to the success of a small business. In this setting, the owner must create an engaging, supportive environment without losing focus on the company’s core objectives. While every business owner will have a unique management style, there are certain leadership traits that are universally important. The following five skills are mandatory for business owners who want to become successful leaders.
One of the biggest complaints among employees is that they do not feel their concerns and frustrations are truly heard. Empathy, or the ability to understand and share the feelings of others, is often underestimated in the workplace. Any boss can listen, but empathetic leaders stand out by making an effort to look at situations from the perspectives of their employees. If a manager has the capacity to empathize, they can anticipate how their team members will be affected by various changes and events.
A boss who is lacking in empathy may come across as indifferent and unapproachable. When employees feel that their needs are being made a priority, they will communicate more openly, work harder, and have more confidence in their ability. Ultimately, leaders must show a sincere regard for the overall well-being of their employees if they want to be surrounded by a productive and loyal team.
A leader must be able to think critically so that decisions can be made very quickly. Decisive leaders are not only more confident, but are also better understood by their team. It is inevitable that some mistakes will be made. New information will always come along that would have led to better decisions. Regardless, decisiveness is an important ability for leaders who wish to gain the support of their staff.
When employees are questioning the logic behind a new change, and leaders are struggling to help them understand, this is an indication that a better decision could have been made. Good decisions make sense. They are easily understood and are widely supported. A leader is responsible for making all decisions, whether they are good or bad. The best solution will not always be available for every problem, but employees should not have to put their jobs on hold while waiting for decisions to be made.
The most effective leaders keep their staff members informed of why certain decisions are made, which builds trust among the team. The ultimate goal is for the staff to automatically understand why decisions are made without even needing to ask. When leaders clearly articulate the reasons for their decisions, employees will gain more confidence in the decision-making process. Team members will also be more accepting of changes if they trust that their supervisor is capable of making decisions.
Many leaders are reluctant to share information across company divisions, which is a very inefficient strategy that isolates employees and limits their ability to collaborate. An open line of communication is critical to the success of any type of business, and the best companies have a huge amount of collective brainpower. For example, an employee in accounting may pick up on a lucrative sales trend that is overlooked on the sales floor.
Organizational silos that restrict communication also lower the morale of the team. On the other hand, leaders who encourage collaboration create a company culture that values team achievements and boosts innovation. A collaborative workplace culture is key to creating a productive team.
This is because employees working in a collaborative environment are more likely to share the mentality that what is best for one team member is also what is best for the whole team.
When team members are working in isolation, they tend to be slow and inefficient, which is very bad for business. Collaboration empowers employees and gives them more confidence in their abilities. Employees who are separated may find their jobs to be more difficult, while those collaborating as a team will execute a task quickly and easily. For example, groups can usually solve problems much faster than individuals who are working alone.
Leaders that allow their staff members to collaborate are also building trust by showing employees that they are valued enough to make contributions beyond their individual roles. Furthermore, the performance of each team member affects the entire team, and an engaging staff that enjoys working together will thrive. The best ideas do not come from an individual, but from a group of individuals who are working toward a common goal.
The best leaders have a strong ability to anticipate the far-reaching consequences of their actions through planning. They use past experiences to guide their plans without holding them back from trying out new tactics. Strategy and vision are often emphasized as being the top two attributes of a successful leader, but even the greatest schemes are worthless without a feasible action plan. A leader must have the vision to conceive of new ideas along with the ability to follow through with their execution.
Teams are set up for success when there is an established process or timeline to guide them. Vision and high-level strategies are often way too vague to inform employees of daily expectations and tasks. Leaders must be able to create a clear set of short-term objectives that will steer the company toward its ultimate goal. These objectives can be translated into daily tasks and responsibilities that staff members are entrusted with.
Leaders should be open to refining their plans by taking advantage of the collective brainpower of their staff. Under some circumstances, team members may be the best resource for creating a feasible action plan to reach a company’s extended goals. Furthermore, team members involved in the planning process will develop a better understanding of their everyday roles.
Through planning, one large goal can be broken down into 100 smaller targets, which will make the end goal seem much more attainable. Employees who help to develop the company’s action plan will have a much stronger grasp on what they should be doing and why. As targets are reached, the team members will see firsthand that the plan is achievable and will gain a more satisfying sense of progress and motivation.
All of the previously mentioned skills can help a business owner to become a supportive leader. These leaders are empathetic, encourage collaboration and teamwork, explain their decisions, and plan well. The greatest leaders make themselves emotionally available to their employees through active listening and genuine concern. They show commitment to helping employees cope with the stress of the work environment. By doing so, these managers are building trust and giving their team members the kind of confidence that will optimize their job performance.
Supportive actions can be as simple as offering words of encouragement or showing interest in the daily lives of employees. Obstacles in the workplace lower morale. Leaders can use support as a way to reinforce optimism and enthusiasm among their staff. Supportive leaders are also committed to minimizing obstacles, and to helping team members overcome any challenges that may be holding them back. Ultimately, support shows that a leader is personally invested in the team and in the success of each individual team member.