When you contemplate great leadership, what comes to mind? Many of us tend to become sidetracked with the qualities of the followers — their faithfulness, productivity, efficiency, and so forth. But great leadership has more to do with bringing those qualities out of others, inspiring them to not only follow you but to be and do more than they might otherwise.
In other words, it begins with you.
What’s Your Story?
In the business world, you can sometimes point to tangible events and statistics that tell much of your leadership story. Perhaps you have a high number of return clients or your business regularly wins community service awards. Maybe you’re routinely asked to speak at industry-related events, which, as Fierce Electronics points out, is not only a feather in your cap, but it’s also a chance to woo new clientele.
While those are all good things, becoming intimately familiar with your personal leadership story and the example you set means learning how to improve yourself — and ultimately, your bottom line. Look closely at your leadership role and how it influences those around you, and that will tell you much about the direction your business is going and where there is room to improve.
For example, if a client leaves and you’re laissez-faire about it, your apathy will be contagious. On the flip side, if you follow American Express’s advice and thank that client for their business, keep the door open to them, and ask if you can touch base with them later, you convey to the client how important they are to you and how much their business matters — and you send your team members the same message.
Look closely at your story and determine what it says about who you are as a leader. Then let that tell you where you want to improve so that you can further your venture’s success.
Mad Leadership Skills
What does your personal definition of leadership sound like? Do some brainstorming and reflect on the important attributes that are linked with leadership. Contemplate how you embody those, and what they mean in your everyday life.
For example, vigilance is a must-have in a good leader. You want to be intimately aware of your company’s details so you can respond to both positive and negative influences. Are the marketing strategies you used two years ago still hitting your target demographic? Are you still seeing the same demand for your products and services, or is it time to reframe your niche? Your vigilance will keep you abreast of matters and help you make informed decisions.
Courage is another absolute essential. If you aren’t ready to take risks, to rethink your strategies, and to step out on proverbial limbs, you are doomed to stay where you are, without growth, without expansion, and without change, effectively stunting your company’s future.
These last two critical qualities — openness and integrity — are closely linked. If you take them at face value, you might think they are old-fashioned and outdated concepts. However, the truth is just the opposite. Being open with your team and colleagues encourages them to trust you. Bringing integrity to the table says their trust is not misplaced. And without those “old school” essentials, you will fail as a leader.
Is There Room for Improvement?
The answer to that question is always yes. Your bottom line could be more comfortable. You could expand your share of the market. Your people could do more with less. But the real focus should be on you, because your leadership is at the root of your business as a whole.
Knowing you could work on some things is one thing, finding ways to do it is another. Thankfully, this isn’t a DIY-type of proposition; there are plenty of courses and learning opportunities out there for those people who are willing to learn and grow, and you can tailor your choices to your weak spots. For instance, earning a Master of Business Administration online could improve your communication, marketing, management, and decision making skills. From improving how your company navigates change to learning about new products and ideas in project management, you can devise a program that helps you to blossom — and seeing your growth will bring a trickle-down effect you can look forward to.
About the Author
Vanessa Holwell and her husband, Rick, created HiringSquad.net after losing their jobs during the financial crisis in 2008. The site is designed to be a forum for people to share advice on how to get hired, provide job search resources, and give you the tools you need to get the job you want.