One of the most important roles a business owner can play is that of a leader. Yet it is one of the roles that as a business coach I hear many business owners say they are not good at, don’t believe they can do or just don’t want to do. However, the good news is that leadership is a skill that can be learnt and developed with time and commitment.
The Definition of Leadership
According to Wikipedia, Leadership is the ‘process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task’. Another definition is ‘leadership is ultimately about creating a way for people to contribute to making something extraordinary happen’. The latter being a goal that the most successful business owners achieve.
I think a lot of people don’t see themselves as a leader because they relate being a leader to being ‘the boss’. Often the reason they quit working for ‘the boss’ and set up their own business was because they wanted to get away from all the negative connotations that go with that term. One of the first things to do is come up with a definition of the type of leader you want to be.
What Makes a Good Leader?
In my role as the producer of the Channel Nine television series, Your Business Success, I had the opportunity to interview General Peter Cosgrove about leadership in business and he made some really interesting observations.
Commit to Being a Leader.
Cosgrove says you can learn to be a leader if you first of all commit to it. He said that there is no hierarchy of leadership. Everyone who is leading is undergoing the same pressures, whether it is the woman that organises all the volunteers at the local charity, the person who organises Sunday morning’s U10 soccer match, the owner of a small business or the leader of the country.
Model Yourself on Leaders You Admire
As a business owner you have already taken on the role of leader whether you realise it or not. Your customers, suppliers and employees all look to you for advice/direction i.e. leadership.
Cosgrove believes you can be a good leader if you focus on the core components of integrity, courage, compassion, humility and a willingness to communicate. He suggests that you should identify the characteristics of leaders you admire and use those characteristics as the building blocks for your own leadership style.
A Commitment to Learning
One comment I often hear from business owners is that they don’t feel they are a good leader because they don’t know enough about business and with that comes a lack of confidence.
John F. Kennedy said that “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”.
One of the characteristics of many of the successful business owners that I interviewed for the television series is that they had an ongoing commitment to learning about all aspects of business. The seemed to know just enough about every part of their business to ask the right questions and direct people to make sure things got done the best way possible. They made lots of mistakes along the way but kept going until they built extraordinary businesses like Flight Centre, Sydney Bridge Climb, Dominos Pizza and MYOB just to name a few.
A commitment to improving your business knowledge will lead to an increase in confidence and willingness to lead your team to success.
Time and time again I have seen business owners become better leaders by doing simple things like sharing the vision for the business or holding a meeting to give an update of how the business is going and thanking the team for a great job.
Leadership is not a popularity contest. I have also seen people gain a new level of respect from their employees for saying things were not going so well or counselling poor performing employees.
The most successful businesses are those that make ‘something extraordinary happen’. These businesses are lead by business owner that is prepared to commit to a vision for the business and create a way people can work together to achieve that vision. The first question to ask yourself is does your business, team, club, family have a vision or plan or goal? Once you know the answer to this question then you know where to lead the team.
General Cosgrove also said that the first step to being better leader is to just take on the role of leader whenever the opportunity presents itself. The more you practice leadership, the more you can hone your skills and become the type of leader you want to be.
Andrew Vincent is a business coach and creator of the Channel 9 television series Your Business Success. Over 80 of the best episodes have been re-edited into a step by step business improvement program that is supported by FREE business coaching. Go to www.yourbusinesssuccess.com.au/db to find out more and access FREE video clips to improve your business skills.