You worked your tail off to launch your small business, but now that it is a well-oiled machine, your team doesn’t need you to be a hands-off business owner — your employees need you to step up as a business leader.
You might use the terms interchangeably, but in fact there is a significant difference between how business owners and business leaders act. If you want to improve your business’s productivity, profitably and performance, you need to make the following changes to your leadership style and become the leader your team desperately needs.
If you don’t know where your business is going, you can’t lead your team there. Every successful business leader has a plan for their business — both short- and long-term. Your more attainable goals might be to expand into new locations, add product lines, grow your workforce or something else. Meanwhile, your reach goals might be to make it on the Fortune 500 list or earn a featured spot in Forbes. Whatever your ambitions for your business, big or small, you need to communicate that with your team and take steps to get them there.
A leader cannot be afraid of confrontation and decision-making. Though taking charge can be daunting, it is absolutely necessary for you to step up and assume responsibility for your business — because no one else will. Instead of wavering or hedging about certain issues, you need to show your team strength and certainty, which will give them more trust in your leadership abilities and prompt them to work harder for your cause.
Inspire Through Example
Of course, authoritarian direction isn’t the only way to lead; it isn’t even the best way. While exhibiting strength is important, it is more important that you show people how you want them to behave through your own conduct in the workplace. When you serve as an inspiration to those around you, they will naturally want to impress you with their own words and actions. Then, you can more easily lead them toward business success.
One of the best ways to lead by inspiration is to exhibit a commitment to continuous learning. Even business owners don’t know it all — and business leaders accept that and take steps to improve their knowledge and skill. You can do this in various ways. For instance, you might:
- Start a book club within your business to read new literature about your industry or business efforts.
- Invite experts and professional speakers to give presentations to your workforce on crucial topics.
- Offer tuition assistance for related academic programs, and you might use this yourself to enroll in a convenient MBA online program to enhance your leadership ability.
You should also pay attention to advice and guidance given by your peers, your mentors and even your friends and family. There are millions of ways to learn — and through learning you will become a better leader.
Every day, your employees tell you how they want to be treated — you just have to pay closer attention. In the way they communicate with you, such as their chosen communication method, their tone, body language and more, they are expressing preferences for treatment and their needs for your time and attention. Even if they aren’t direct in their feedback, you can learn much about what they think and feel by paying attention to your staff. Then, you can adapt your leadership style to them and become a great leader.
You can go from a business owner to an ex–business owner in a heartbeat. Just because you are top-dog now doesn’t mean you will remain so forever; many of your current employees could well become your boss if your business plans don’t go well. Thus, it is incredibly important that you avoid resting on your laurels or being full of yourself in any way. You aren’t perfect, and you should admit that freely and openly — without allowing it to be an excuse for poor leadership ability.
Finally, you can’t forget to be grateful to your employees. They are working hard to make your dream a reality, and most of them could easily work anywhere else. The more you build gratitude into your leadership strategy, the more your workforce will appreciate you, and your workplace culture will become one of positivity and support. Saying “thank you” doesn’t show weakness; it demonstrates your awareness of your employees’ efforts and boosts their confidence to do even more.
You launched your startup and you run your small business — but you won’t earn the title of leader until you develop the habits listed above. When you become a leader, your business will run more smoothly — so you shouldn’t hesitate to develop the traits and actions of a leader today.