Founders Need to Focus on These 4 Leadership Essentials
Many entrepreneurial efforts are the result of introspection, at least initially. A brilliant idea sure to change the world -- or the kernel of one -- is largely the result of the founder's hours of consideration and early work.
Other entrepreneurial ventures are borne of a need to change unfavorable circumstances. More individuals are growing dissatisfied with the working world and looking to create value for themselves. Recent data indicates that Canada ranks second in the world for entrepreneurial activity, with 13 percent of the working-age population involved in early-stage businesses. Only the United States reports a greater rate.
Whatever the primary driver, every newbie entrepreneur must undergo a dramatic transformation as his or her fledgling business begins to grow. To bring an idea or skill set to market, entrepreneurs must become advocates for their businesses. They also need to learn how to influence people in a way that goes beyond the excitement of the inventor and the drive of the traditional employee.
You must evolve into an effective leader if you are to survive. As I've learned in my property-management business, this is easier said than done. The Toronto real-estate market is highly competitive. I've needed to grow into a leadership role very quickly to keep ahead of others in my field.
These four essentials have proved crucial on my my journey thus far. I believe they can help any entrepreneur working to build a business.
1. Adopt a learning mindset.
Whether you're creating a new idea, drawing on a lifetime of experience or refining a specific skill set, it's easy to get caught up in your own expertise. Entrepreneurs inevitably discover that running a business requires knowledge of many things that fall outside their initial comfort zone.
In his book "Good Leaders Learn," Gerard Seijts notes that while some leadership abilities come naturally to some people, stronger leadership can develop over time through continued exposure to uncomfortable, difficult situations. This unfamiliar feeling stretches an individual’s thinking about his or her own behaviors and how they relate to others, particularly in uncharted territory.
Being open to learning new things allows you to manage your business through its early stages of development. This mindset also better positions you to recognize in others the knowledge and skills you will need to move forward. As your team grows, maintain a perspective that values high-quality collaboration. Your team will follow your lead and stay attuned to emerging opportunities and challenges in your market.
2. Become a more effective communicator.
Real estate is a people-focused business. Effective communication is an absolute must when it comes to client interactions. Of course, this is true for many types of businesses -- and for internal as well as external messages. Leaders must establish a compelling vision upon which their business activity is based. Clear communication ensures the right messages are delivered to the right people, establishing dedicated buy-in from employees, customers and other key stakeholders.
3. Become more physically fit.
Especially in its early stages, an entrepreneurial effort can feel like an all-consuming monster that requires longer hours, frequent travel, physical stress and energy expenditure. Eating right and maintaining a regular exercise program -- even in the face of a demanding schedule -- is the only way to develop the endurance and focus you'll need to scale your business smartly.
This is particularly true as the average entrepreneur's age continues to rise. A greater number of people are staying in the workforce later in life, and more people are making the transition to entrepreneur after they reach age 45. In fact, a 2012 study from the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce showed baby boomers to be the fastest-growing segment of entrepreneurs in Canada.
4. Be more mindful.
Just as physical fitness helps keep your body and mind functioning at peak performance, your mental well-being helps you manage psychological stressors. An alarming majority (72 percent) of entrepreneurs report mental health concerns, compared to 7 percent of the general public.
Mindfulness and other stress-relieving techniques can be extremely valuable practices for defusing interpersonal tension and fostering personal growth over the long term. Remaining aware of each moment and acknowledging the emotions surrounding it better equip an entrepreneur to lead people through setbacks. These leaders understand the importance of celebrating and leveraging short-term successes.