Many times I’ve had business owners say something like, ‘If only we could go back to working from the garage, just the four of us. We were happy then!’ That’s because, while some business owners are natural communicators and leaders, many others find ‘people’ the most difficult and stressful part of running a business.
Natural or not, leadership skills are a vital part of being a successful business owner. Especially as the business grows, your people will be looking to someone to articulate the company’s purpose, direction, values, and so on. The person they’ll look to is you.
You’re the boss
Here’s the good news and the bad news. You can develop your ability to be a leader without having to spend all day talking to people, but you can’t completely delegate leadership. Your role as a business owner, unless you have stepped out of active involvement, includes leadership. It’s part of the job description.
If you’re not articulating and reinforcing key messages about the purpose of your business, the performance you expect, and the values and behaviours you wish to encourage, people will come to their own conclusions. Like it or not, people are looking to you for clues – if you don’t consciously send the right signals, they may interpret those clues in unintended ways.
One client was frustrated that the office was so quiet, to the point that not many in the team even said ‘hello’ in the morning. On further exploration, it turned out that the business owner got to the office first, went straight to his office, closed the door and stayed working in isolation for most of the day. In the absence of him setting the tone for the office, his team picked up his quiet, isolationist behaviour as the model for their own behaviour.
Finding a way forward
Some business owners choose to recruit a senior manager to be the ‘leader’. This can certainly help, as long as you are both fully in agreement about the business and the direction it is taking. If you’re sending conflicting signals, it may make the situation worse.
Even with a senior manager in place, you can’t delegate leadership altogether. Ultimately, if you’re the owner and active in the day-to-day life of the business, it’s you that people will seek direction from. So can you improve your leadership skills? Almost certainly yes, with some self-awareness and a little expert guidance.
You don’t have to be a tub-thumping extrovert if that’s not your natural self. Look at today’s best-known leaders and you will see many introverts, like Mark Zuckerberg, James Dyson, apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, and even Barack Obama and J. K. Rowling. The key to being a better leader is not to adopt a persona that isn’t you, but to root your leadership in being authentic to yourself and to the values and purpose of your business.
Sounds difficult? The first step, seeking leadership advice and support, is easy enough. From there, with a little conscious focus, you’ll see noticeable results, quickly. Talk to Henchards about boosting your leadership skills today.