Like it or not, you’re a leader. Not because you are “the boss”, but, more importantly, because you have committed yourself to creating a company and realizing your vision. Leadership means more than managing; it means communicating, inspiring, empowering and nurturing those who are in fact delivering your mission.
For your leadership to have a positive impact, you must embrace your role and work to become the leader your business deserves. But, this may create a bit of a conundrum. Being the leader makes you not only a vital asset but also a liability if the company cannot operate without you. So I challenge you to do three things: conduct a self-assessment, never stop learning, and finally, delegate and let go.
- Conduct a Self-Assessment: Start by answering some basic questions: What are you really great at? What do you like doing? Conversely, what are your areas of weakness? What do you most dislike doing? Tasks you dislike are probably the ones you do least well. Once you have an assessment of your strengths and weaknesses, you can consciously hire people who complement your strengths. Love selling? Hire a numbers guru. Are you the creative visionary? Hire a structured operations person. Look for someone with skills different from your own. Their unique strengths and fresh perspective can make a positive impact on your business.
- Never Stop Learning: Managing the day-to-day mechanics of your business can start to feel like you’re on a treadmill. Like Michael Gerber suggests in his book, The E-Myth Revisited, work on your business, not in it. Working “on” your business means establishing and refining your business vision by constantly learning and searching for new ideas and ways to respond to challenges. Keep your mind fresh by reading articles and blogs, meeting people, and attending events. There is a world of creative ideas just outside your door. But if you’re going to get out in front, you’ve got to get off the treadmill.
- Delegate and Let Go: Whether your company is two people or 2,000, the truest test of leadership is how well the business runs without you. This requires delegation, and delegation requires clear and careful communication. Communicate and involve others in your vision and empower them with the tools and support they need to make it come to life. Remember to always communicate the “why” rather than the “how.” As Jack Welch says in his book, Winning, “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Practice letting go by assessing the risks and benefits of doing so at every opportunity. Take small risks, and the big ones become less risky!
There are so many ways to grow as a leader, and so many opportunities to lead, rather than manage. I hope this inspires you to see each day as an opportunity to try something new and to experiment with your leadership. I encourage you to read OPEN Book: Leadership, which includes additional articles on leadership. And I hope you’ll look to OPEN as a source of continued support as you build upon your strengths and inspiration.
This article has been excerpted from OPEN Book: Leadership. Find more information and resources from OPEN at openforum.com/leadership. And share your leadership stories and tips below or via e-mail to susan @ openforum.com.