Being a manager doesn’t necessarily mean that you are a leader and vice versa, being a leader doesn’t mean that you necessarily hold a managerial position. However, when you run your own business, being a leader is really important because this is what inspires the people you work with to do their best, and ultimately drives your business to success.
A leader is the glue that holds everything together, a sign post, someone that gives people a sense of purpose and a sense of belonging. A leader motivates us all to perform at our best but also to grow both professionally and personally.
Being a leader could be a challenge and the truth is, not everybody is naturally cut out for the job. Some people are natural at it. They have a talent to inspire others simply by being as they are. These are the people that everybody follows, even if they are not formal leaders, because people feel optimistic, confident and able around them. These are the people that make you feel you can do just about anything and everything. They make you believe in yourself. Natural leaders are probably the best leaders out there because it is effortless to them.
While it is a great gift being a leader, especially if you are a business owner, not everybody is born this way. I do believe, in spite of this, that this is something that one can learn by getting into certain habits and practicing behaviors that great leaders demonstrate. It mightn’t feel as natural as it is for a born leader, but I know anyone can become an excellent leader if they behave a certain way and acquire the right skills.
First of all, I think it is important to comprehend what being a leader essentially means. Being a leader is about two things mainly: a vision (an idea, a goal that people follow which gives them a feeling of sense) and admiration (a leader is somebody who people look up to and want to be like). So your efforts should be put towards building a reputation for somebody who, through their work, gives meaning but also inspires people to dream and empowers them to go after their dreams.
I have observed and worked with some incredible leaders and there are a few prerequisites, habits and behaviors that I have noticed all these people share:
If you want to get the minds inspired, you need to get the hearts passionate. There’s no way to do that unless you know not only where you are going, but what this place looks and feels like. In other words, you need to have a crystal clear vision for your business and more importantly its mission – what is it going to do for whom and how this is to be achieved. Get that straight in your head first of all, because remember – a leader is somebody with a vision, a long term idea of how things should play out. Unless you have that, you are merely a manager – somebody coordinating resources and effort.
Excellent rhetorical skills might be the most important prerequisite for a leader. Having a clear vision is nothing without being able to articulate what it is to your employees. Don’t assume that people understand your ideas and goals, take the time to explain openly and honestly. Don’t just talk about all the effort that needs to be put into getting where you want to get. Try to get across how great it will feel and how important it is to be in this place. It is in our nature to aspire to feeling that we are a part of something bigger, something meaningful and that being said, once you can get across that meaning, you can be sure that people will be motivated to do whatever it takes.
There’s nothing more motivating for people than seeing their leader put in as much work into the common goals as they do. Be ready to support and encourage employees by providing whatever is needed so they can do their jobs at their best. You can’t expect from people to be committed and excited unless you demonstrate the same in your own work.
There are a lot of small details in your behavior and attitude that can make people feel that you truly are a part of the team and this in itself is motivating. First of all, don’t put unnecessary boundaries between you and your employees. That way people feel that you are accessible and they can rely on you. Secondly, be open and honest with them so they know they can trust you and they can turn to you if any doubts or problems arise. Next, and this is very important, be down to earth, demonstrating that you don’t feel superior to them. Last but not least, show interest in people, ask them about their kids, pay them a compliment about their new tie or hair style, check how they are if you know they’ve been sick, etc. People notice and admire all these details and qualities and admiration is the single most important factor for any leader.
Don’t have the ‘I can do it best’ attitude. Demonstrate that you trust people, that you know they can do great. Delegate, give them responsibility and when they come through don’t forget to praise them for it. Show appreciation. People will be eager to give more and take on more responsibility when they know it won’t go unnoticed. This goes hand in hand with what I mentioned earlier about people needing to feel part of something bigger and thus feel important.
Learn to make decisions without hesitation and demonstrate confidence about the decisions being made. This in turn translates into confidence in yourself and your vision. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes, acknowledging that you are only human, but also to forgive yourself and others for their mistakes. On the other hand, learn to exhibit self-control when required. A leader who rants and raves will not inspire their staff members to give the best of their talents and skills but will instead instil a sense of “why bother”. In addition, being able to stay calm in situations of panic really impresses and inspires people to act the same way.
Different organisations and different jobs require and attract different types of personalities. We as people are all different, with different expectations, needs and aspirations. While some people need order and structure to function well, others are more creative and scattered and thus need freedom to work at their best. A good leader understands and respects those differences and creates an environment that is nurturing for all types of people – providing structure and guidance to some, and giving freedom and space to others.
Being a good leader is about inspiring and empowering people to grow. And not only as professionals but as people too. In order to do that, all you really need to do is lead by example. Once people admire what you’re trying to achieve, they will strive to make your vision become reality. Remember, when people feel fulfilled, they feel motivated; and motivation and dedication equal success.