4 Hidden Elements of Leadership to Learn Before Starting Up
Conjuring up a new business idea is usually the first thing that entrepreneurial aspirants think of when looking to start a company. After all, a business has to come from somewhere, right?
However, discovering opportunity and sustaining it are two different things. While bringing an idea to fruition may be half the battle, the larger and more challenging struggle is ensuring that your idea stays relevant.
While the daily tactics of running a business may be clearly defined, such as managing profit and loss or counting inventory, the one area of an enterprise that doesn’t "speak" those neatly defined ones and zeroes is leadership. So, before setting out on your next business venture, do a personal inventory of yourself to see where you stand on the following intangible elements of entrepreneurship:
Related: The 5 Secrets of Great Bosses
1. Communicate, don’t speak. If you look at effective leaders throughout history, one common denominator you’ll find is skillful oration. Leaders may speak to the masses but they communicate with individuals.
The difference between speaking and communicating with people is that the former tells people what to think and how to feel, whereas the latter creates meaning through self-discovery. If you want to sustain your value both as a leader and as a founder, you must be able to communicate -- and instill -- value.
2. The “wow” factor. Physical appearance isn’t just what you wear -- it’s how you carry yourself, and people will judge you the moment you enter a room. They “thin slice” your facial expressions, body language and overall personal appearance and assimilate you into one of three categories: someone they want to meet, someone they don’t want to meet or someone they don't care if they meet or not.
Studies have shown that physically fit people attract more attention than their non-fit counterparts. If you want to be “that guy” (or gal) that exudes charisma and therefore builds opportunities through relationships, it pays to stay in shape.
3. Small talk. There is an art to making conversation, so if you’re not a talker, don’t fret, because the social butterfly inside you can -- and should -- be developed. As a leader, people expect you to always be prepared, to offer guidance, words of wisdom or a story to share. Having a few one-liners or opening lines in your back pocket as icebreakers ensures that you’ll be the one to save the social setting from an ill-fated “weirdness.”
4. Thought leadership. The term “thought leader” connotes a level of publicity attained by those people who are willing to go against the industry grain, assume calculated risk and thrive in their newfound success. Being a thought leader isn’t easy as it requires a strong openness to new ideas, the courage to say “go” when others say “no,” and the perseverance to create something from nothing.
In other words, thought leaders create value in peoples’ lives with a steady stream of eureka! moments, and the benefits of being considered a thought leader abound as you and your company are positioned as the “go-to” providers in your market.
If starting up a new business wasn’t enough to think about already, then the above list probably doesn’t help. But knowing is half the battle, and when you're armed with information about a potential challenge, you're also armed with the awareness to fix it. The better prepared you are for those encounters that often arise out of nowhere, the longer your leadership brand will sustain its value.