Steve Strauss Headshot.pngMy worst boss ever once threatened to put his cigarette out on my forehead.


Let’s just say he wasn’t what you’d call a great leader (although, irony of ironies, we worked for a leadership development company).


Yes, we have all had really, really bad bosses at some point in our life. You know the type: Bosses who schedule you on days you can’t work, who berate you, who are unorganized, who take credit for your work, who don’t communicate well, assign you massive projects with very little time, make you work late, etc. The list goes on and on.


It is no fun to work for a bad boss.


While bad boss stories make great fodder for stories at parties, tales among friends or intros to blogs, in the actual workplace, bad leadership is no joke. Every team needs a leader, and this is especially true in small business, where so much depends upon the style, vision and abilities of the leader/owner.




So what makes for a good small business leader? It is not enough for a leader to be not terrible. A good leader should make you feel comfortable and at ease, excited and inspired. A good leader should not be okay with sticking with the same-old, same-old. The leader should be constantly looking for new ways to lead and engage, to discover and invent.


Although it is difficult to boil it down to a sentence or a definition, there certainly are traits that all great small business leaders share:


Passion: Entrepreneurs start businesses because they are passionate about an idea. But great entrepreneurs become great leaders when they enroll other people in that vision. Getting people excited about the business is fundamental to being a team leader. It is the passionate leader who is a great leader; their dedication to the goal shines through and percolates into all of their interactions and decisions. That type of passion is infectious.




Excellent communication skills: Good leadership means making a habit of asking your employees how they’re feeling, what they are thinking, what’s working, what’s not, and what they need help with. It means sharing the vision. It also means listening.


Playing fair: A bad boss is the one who always seems to be on a power trip, using their title to justify their bad behavior or poor decision making. Great bosses and great small business leaders inspire confidence because they have little interest in their own ego, and are much more focused on making sure that the team succeeds. For this boss, the welfare of the company is much more important than their own pride.


Positive attitude: A great leader inspires those around him or her with his or her positivity. Their belief in a better future, in the mission, vision and business, enables others to dream and think big too.


Creativity: A small business leader must be adaptable and creative, especially because there is often a shortage of money or time. Some of their new ideas work, others don’t, but that doesn’t stop them.


Integrity: Last but certainly not least, a great leader must have integrity within himself and those around him. It is through hard work, dedication, vision, honesty, and smarts that the leader leads effectively.


Walking the talk creates the context for excellence, and that truly is what makes for a great small business leader. (And let’s just say that it helps if they don’t want to use your head for an ashtray!)


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 also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business SuccessSteven D. Strauss.


Web: or Twitter: @SteveStrauss

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