As a hard-driving entrepreneur, you naturally want to get things done. You wouldn’t be a success if you didn’t have that talent. But if you are like I used to be, you probably spend the majority of your time moving forward, even if it means rolling over others in the process. What I learned over the years of successfully growing multiple companies is following this path might be great at the start of your business, but it can kill your organization in the long run. As your business grows, you need much more than tactical talents. You have to become an effective leader
So, what makes a great leader? It isn’t about ordering people around or a title. It’s being someone others will follow. A great leader is a chief motivator, getting people to come together and follow, so everyone can work toward a common goal. So how do you grow your leadership skills? Listed below are six habits I had to develop to make me much better at being the head of my organization.
Becoming a great leader starts by growing you. It’s like leadership expert John Maxwell says, “We cannot become what we need by remaining who we are.” The most successful entrepreneurs I know take this lesson to heart. They never stop learning because they know that their businesses can never outgrow them. And here’s the thing: It doesn’t matter how much experience you have. Growing yourself is a life-long endeavor. There is no stopping point, no matter how long you’ve been in business. So, you need to carve out the time to continue building yourself, as well as your company. The good news is there are thousands of ways to achieve this goal—live events, books and periodicals, digital platforms, podcasts, webinars, mentors, mastermind groups—many focused on how to become a better leader. Never in any time in history has there been so many ways to educate yourself. Here’s even better news. What I’ve noticed through the years is growing myself has given my team permission to seek growth on their own. And it can become the same for your people. By continuing to learn and improve, you become a beacon of hope for your employees. You will be setting an example of excellence.
Become More Self-Aware
The first step in growing yourself is to become self-aware. But this trait is so critical to your success, it deserves a mention on its own. Did you know that 95 percent of people feel they are self-aware, but only 10-15 percent actually are? That’s from a study by Dr. Tasha Eurich, a psychologist, researcher and author who studied self-awareness in 2014. To be a good leader, you have to know who you are: your strengths, your weaknesses and your blind spots. You can’t fix anything if you don’t recognize where you shine and where you need help. When you know these things about yourself, you can focus on what you do best and hire in areas where you are weak. One great way to improve your self-awareness is to have your team—especially your leaders—hold you accountable. You can’t go around like the Lion King’s Scar, letting everyone know, ““I am the king, I can do whatever I want.” Give your employees permission to let you know when something is wrong.
Own Your Mistakes
Your team will feel safer, more vulnerable and they will trust you more when you own up to your mistakes. When I first started in business, I wasn’t a champ at letting others know I screwed up. Instead of owning up to what I did wrong, I got defensive. The result was adding more conflict to an already tense situation. But once I realized the power of this habit, I began utilizing it. I started by grabbing my team together and sincerely apologizing for my shortcomings. And then, I told them I would be working to improve myself. They didn’t trust me right away. But eventually, it began to work as I continued to practice what I preached It’s a habit I continue to this day. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend all day profusely apologizing to everyone around me. But I am consistent in holding myself accountable when I act like a bonehead. And I own up to any missteps immediately. Because of this policy, I find people are more apt to forgive. Instead of getting mad, they’re more likely to say, “OK, that’s cool,” and just move on.
Leaning is a super uncomplicated concept, which is why it’s so surprising how many leaders don’t use this practice to gain trust and build relationships with their teams. What it simply means is spending however much time and energy you must in order to fully understand another person’s perspective. You are completely withholding judgment until you really hear where they’re coming from. This doesn’t mean you agree with them, but it does mean you really see through their eyes. Great leaders are less concerned with being right than they are with bringing a positive outcome to others. They aren’t fighting to save face. They check their egos at the door and are open to having their minds changed.
What is one of the biggest mistakes a small-business owner can make? Trying to manage it all by yourself. I can tell you the more I try to control things as a leader, the more dysfunctional they become. Why? Because the things you’re trying to handle are often not part of your gifts or strength set. This means you are operating in your weaknesses or your struggles, rather than focusing on working in your strengths. Like I said earlier, I’ve learned to hire people for specific strategic and tactical strengths. But that’s the first step. Hiring the perfect team member is not enough. You also have to create a culture of empowering your employees, as well as them being encouraged to empower others. When you empower your team and let them know you trust them, they start actually feeling like they’re part of something bigger than themselves.
Develop Other Leaders
As part of letting go, you need to develop other leaders in your business. You can’t scale your company without this step. Your arms are only so wide, which means your companies progress will only be the same width. If you don’t develop your leaders on a regular basis, your company will stall. Today, I spend the majority of my time hiring, coaching, and mentoring the leaders around me pouring myself into them, so they make better decisions. Next, these new leaders must have the freedom to “do it on their own.” Let them make mistakes. If they passionately believe that a path should be taken—and unless it’s going to be totally disruptive to the business—let them try. The worst-case scenario? They bomb and it’s a teachable moment. The best-case scenario? You’re wrong and something amazing happens.
Becoming a super-effective leader isn’t an overnight process. It takes time and a commitment from you to do your best. But when you start practicing the habits above, you’ll be amazed at the outcome for you and your team as you watch your company grow and your business becomes fun again.
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