We all know that, as entrepreneurs, we need to wear many hats. We’re often accountable for a wide range of responsibilities, from marketing and business development to accounting and inventory control. As a business grows and begins to see some cash flow, however, I encourage entrepreneurs to get help with the tasks that they either can’t do well or that don’t utilize their core strengths. At that point, having well-developed leadership skills is critical to success.
In each business that my brother Matthew and I have built, we’ve eventually had help from people who were either better at certain tasks than we were or who were passionate about an area of the business where we were not. For example, we’re not developers, so if a project requires software development, we hire for that. Neither of us likes dealing with accounting tasks, so we have people to do that for us as well.
Once you begin hiring, whether you’re working with freelancers or employees, you need to understand the importance of being a good leader. If you nail that, you’ll save tons of time and money rehiring and retraining for the same positions, and you’ll create a culture where people always want to do their best. Here are my tips for becoming a well-rounded leader:
1. Work with your team, not just over them.
The best leaders work alongside those they lead -- if not always, then periodically. In an entrepreneurial context, this means getting your hands dirty by taking over the social media now and then, helping to produce content for your business’s blog, answering some customer service requests yourself, or speaking with customers about what they love (or don’t love) about your product or service. To fully understand the people you lead and how you should lead them, you need to do the work they do.
2. Be humble.
No one wants to work for somebody who’s stuck up and full of themselves. Instead, it’s beneficial for all parties if a leader can acknowledge when they make a mistake, then allow their team to learn from the mistake instead of sweeping it under the rug. Great leaders aren’t afraid to admit they aren’t perfect. When you’re humble enough to share your obstacles -- and the ways in which you’ve overcome those obstacles -- with your team, you’ll strengthen the business and build a more cohesive culture.
3. Understand that no one is perfect.
An effective leader pushes their team to strive for greatness, but isn’t quick to judge or berate if that greatness isn’t immediately achieved. Instead, the leader helps their team build upon existing skills and create new ones. When someone makes a mistake, help that person learn from said mistake instead of scolding them for messing up. Progress takes patience, and a good leader understands that.
4. Inspire people.
Why should anyone follow what you do or say? If your answer is just “Because I said so,” you’re a manager (and not a very good one), not a leader. People should follow you because they believe in your mission. To be a well-rounded leader, you need to share that mission clearly, concisely and in a way that inspires people to work toward similar goals.
5. Keep learning.
For the sake of your team and your entire business, don’t become the outdated type of leader whose knowledge no longer has a practical application. Instead, strive to learn more about your industry, your team, and the world every day. Your overall perspective should expand to make room for new people and innovation. Those you lead will be more confident in someone who acknowledges that they don’t know everything but continues to learn.
6. Assess how people perceive you.
Your leadership style and reputation should suit your business and your goals. Do you run a website that helps local babysitters find families who need childcare? A compassionate, people-first attitude will make your team and the public more comfortable with your business. If you locate affordable insurance quotes without hidden costs for middle-class individuals, you may want to be known as the quick, reliable, no-nonsense type.
Your reputation in your community and at your own place of work can affect the way your team operates, so check in every now and then to make sure your perception matches your goals. Be yourself, but be aware of how your team’s and the public’s perceptions of you affect your business.
7. Don’t waste people’s time.
Long, drawn-out meetings are a thing of the past. Today’s workforce appreciates leaders who respect their time. Holding an hour-long huddle at the beginning of every work day will probably prove the opposite. Find ways to communicate with your team that are fast and effortless. Allow your employees to work the ways they find most efficient, whether that means alone, in teams or even at home. The more you show that you respect others’ time, the more your team will strive to meet your common goals -- and the faster you’ll all get there.