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5 Tips For Becoming A Better Leader

Developing leadership skills is crucial to entrepreneurship. Here are 5 tips from leadership expert Holly Landau.
Director, Customer Advocacy, American Express OPEN
September 22, 2011

Once their companies start to grow, many business owners suddenly realize that they’re no longer just entrepreneurs—they’re also leaders.

Developing your abilities as a leader is critical to encouraging growth. At our upcoming Make Mine a Million $ Business (M3) event in Philadelphia on September 25-26, we’ll be uncovering the keys to business growth as we evaluate hundreds of female entrepreneurs who’ll be pitching their businesses to a panel of judges. To help small business owners understand how they can use leadership skills to grow their businesses, local entrepreneur Holly Landau of Landau Leadership will be joining us to address essential leadership techniques and skills.

I recently spoke with Holly to get her advice for avoiding common leadership mistakes. She offered these five ideas to help put business owners on the path to growth.

1. Lead by example

Holly points out that leading isn’t just about telling people what to do; good leaders are also effective role models and teachers. “Remember how ‘do as I say, not as I do’ never seemed like a good idea when you were a kid? It’s definitely no more convincing as an adult,” she cautions. If you want to be taken seriously as a leader, remember that all eyes are on you, and that your actions serve as powerful examples for your team.

2. Communicate your vision

“Entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with new ideas, but sometimes they forget to share them. That can leave them wondering why others aren’t on the same page as they are,” observes Holly. Even the most dedicated and eager employees can become confused and frustrated when they don’t know what the boss is trying to accomplish or why. Sharing your ideas with others not only keeps everyone up to date, but also allows for new ideas to generate.

3. Hire people who complement, not duplicate, you

It’s common for small business owners to hire people who remind them of themselves. That may sound like a case of oversized ego, but it’s more often about gravitating towards what’s familiar. What’s so wrong with hiring another you? You most likely need people who complement your style or skills, not duplicate them. “If you’re a big-picture person, for example, you’ll achieve greater balance with someone who’s great at seeing the details you tend to overlook,” Holly advises. Having clear job descriptions and choosing employees based on desired skills and behaviors makes it easier to break the cycle of hiring another you.

4. Address conflict

Some business owners are so focused on operations that they neglect how their decisions will affect employees. “Where there are people, there is conflict, and part of being a good leader is dealing with it, not ignoring it,” Holly observes. Strong communication is key. She advises remaining conscious of when operational decisions could affect others. And when you foresee conflict arising from your decisions, address the situation head-on. Even unpleasant decisions are made more palatable when employees feel respected and involved.

5. Encourage leadership in others

It’s easy to believe that more control means better leadership, but that thinking can stifle a business. By strategically giving others more responsibility, you’re encouraging employee development. For a growing business, that’s really important, because it creates employees who will be prepared to take on bigger roles to support the business as it expands. It also frees you up to deal with bigger and more important tasks.

Leadership is just one of the important keys to growing your business. I hope you’ll join us at our Make Mine a Million $ Business event in Philadelphia on September 25-26 to learn more about what you can do to help move your business beyond the million-dollar mark.

Image credit: Leah Brown, A10 Clinical Solutions, 2007 M3 Awardee

Director, Customer Advocacy, American Express OPEN