You may not have started out as a business leader when you opened your small business, but it is probably a skill you will need to develop as you move forward. Without business leadership, your small business ship will circle aimlessly and eventually run out of power.
Effective business leadership demands a captain of the ship, not just someone who's standing by the helm. Leadership is active, not passive.
Traits of a Business Leader
Cool-headed, farseeing, visionary, courageous, a good communicator, inspiring—whichever adjectives you choose, leadership is a winning combination of personal traits and the ability to think and act as a leader. Leaders are people who direct the activities of others for the good of all. Anyone can be a leader, even if the only person they're leading is themselves.
But you can't be a leader just by saying you are one. Leadership needs to be worked at. Transform yourself into the kind of leader your small business needs with these five keys to business leadership.
Business Leaders Plan
The core of business leadership is being proactive rather than reactive. Sure, leaders are good in crises—but that doesn't mean they sit around letting crises develop.
Leadership involves identifying potential problems and solving them before they reach crisis proportions—and the ability to identify and reap potential windfalls. So good leaders analyze and plan, and adapt their plans to new circumstances and opportunities. Need a framework to get you going? A SWOT analysis is a useful tool for tackling any business decision.
Have a Vision
Vision is essential to good leadership. Vision provides direction and without direction, there’s not much point to all that planning; your small business will still flail about. So if you don’t have one already, take your first step by creating a vision statement for your business.
Because it embodies your dreams and your passions, a vision statement will also serve as a leadership vision.
Share Your Vision
Sharing your leadership vision helps your vision grow and your business leadership develop. As you tell your leadership vision to others, you will strengthen your own belief in your vision and strengthen your determination to make your leadership vision become reality. And other people will start to see you as a person who's "going places" and recognize you as a person with leadership potential.
At this stage of business leadership, you put together your planning and your leadership vision and take action. Whether it's implementing a specific plan to improve your business's bottom line or responding to a crisis, you, as the leader, are the one who makes the decisions and sees that the appropriate actions are carried out.
You can't just "talk a good game" to be a leader; you need to act and to be seen as taking effective action for the good of your small business.
Inspire Through Example
If asked, you could easily name three people whose leadership qualities inspire you. If asked why, you’d tell me about the things these inspiring people did or are doing. Leadership is defined through action. Therefore, in developing your own skills, you have to act in ways that are fitting to your leadership vision and your self—all the time. We can all name many actions of other people whom we admire, but what inspires us is the integrity that gives these actions meaning.
Leadership Can Be Learned
Learning to be a leader isn't easy because it takes a conscious commitment and consistent effort to develop one's business leadership skills. But on the positive side, anyone who is willing to make the effort can become a good leader.
And as good business leadership is critical to business success, your efforts to improve your leadership skills will be amply rewarded. By working on these five keys to business leadership, you can be the leader your small business needs.