A while back I wrote a column that seemed to strike a nerve, called “Top 10 Signs You Are a Good Boss.” As I look at the list, I think I missed the boat a bit on “#3 – You lead.” In that section I said, “You are their boss, not their friend (well, you might be their friend too, but that’s beside the point.) Your job at work is to set an example, have a vision and get people to buy into that vision. You know – be a leader.”
Close, but no cigar.
Yes, your job is to have a vision and get your team to buy into that vision, but what I think now is that being a leader in a small business requires more than just setting the tone. When you run a business, you are a leader in many more ways than that, whether you want to be or not.
Here then are 5 ways to be an effective leader in your organization:
1. Create a positive culture: All small businesses have a culture. Most are by default and only a few are by design. That’s too bad, because of all of the things that you can do to be an effective leader and help your business grow, very few are more powerful than creating a great culture.
Are you a jerk? Then you likely have a jerk culture. Conversely, do you encourage employees to take care of customers, each other and themselves? Then your employees will follow that example. Your culture is the air your company breathes. It is the values you work by. Your culture sets the tone for how things should be done and how you want them done, especially when you are not around.
2. Provide professional development opportunities: People work for many different reasons, and making money is just one of them. Among the most important of the other reasons is training and professional development. Employees really appreciate, and these days, expect, such opportunities.
In the great book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey puts it this way:
“Imagine a woodcutter trying to saw down a tree with a dull blade. A bystander suggests that it would behoove the man to stop and sharpen his saw, but the woodcutter demurs, complaining that he does not have time to do so. By helping your staff take the time to sharpen their saws, you make yourself the leader they need.”
3. Encourage mentorship within your business: There are many ways to offer people the sort of professional development that I just discussed, but one very effective, and equally affordable way, is to encourage mentorship within your organization. Mentors help employees learn not only how to grow professionally, but how to excel at work. That is a win-win.
Another benefit of a mentorship is that the relationship often offers as much value to the mentor as it does to the mentee. For the mentor, it offers the chance to give back and get satisfaction from helping a colleague get ahead.
4. Recognize good work: Aside from financial rewards like raises and bonuses, the other way that employees like to be recognized for a job well done is simply by being acknowledged. Giving credit where credit is due and saying “Thank you” goes a long way. There are many ways to do this: It could be a personal note, a mention in the company newsletter, a special parking spot for a month – you name it. The important thing is that you do, in fact, name it.
5. Have an “open door” policy: Leaders are only leaders if they have willing people to lead. By being a good listener, by getting and giving feedback and by being someone that people trust, you create the sort of bond that enables true leadership (and thus followership) to emerge.
Leadership is one of those oft talked-about virtues, and for a good reason. It allows you to rally the troops and get people working for a cause bigger than their own paycheck. And when that happens, you will have created an exceptional small business.
What attributes do you believe makes a good leader? Share your stories with us below.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest,The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success, visit his new website TheSelfEmployed, and follow him on Twitter. © Steven D. Strauss You can read more articles from Steve Strauss by clicking here.