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Have You Got What It Takes To Be A Leader

By Jon Sawyer on 31/07/2017 - 0 Comments

Facing up to the demands of current markets can be challenging and places significant pressure on the business owner to continually make the right decision. The ultimate objective of achieving sustainable, profitable growth is beyond the reach of many business owners and many fall by the wayside as evidenced by the high rates of business failure. 

So, what do companies have that succeed that their counterparts do not? One of the answers lies in leadership from the business owner. This article will examine the lessons that can be learned.

What is Leadership?

This can be defined as the person who creates an inspiring vision of the future and then motivates and inspires people to engage with that vision. As Jack Welch (ex CEO of General Electric) in his book ‘Winning’ describes leaders as the people that “make sure people not only see the vision, they live and breathe it.” He adds to this by saying “Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself.

When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” Leadership is one of the key aspects that enable sustainability of the business as it requires long-term strategy to be effectively communicated to all stakeholders, and the influence of their behaviour toward these shared goals.

The first step in this process is to develop the long term plan and then it’s time for the qualities of leadership to kick in.

Who are the Proven Leaders – who can we learn from?

Jeremy Boudinet (12th. May 2016) in his article ‘Successful Business Leaders To Follow in 2016’, identified the following:

Mary Barra - Chairman and CEO of General Motors Company. She has held the CEO
position since January 15,2014, and she is the first female CEO of a major global automaker.

Marc Benioff - He is the founder, chairman and CEO of Salesforce, a large enterprise cloud computing

Jeff Bezos  - Founder of Amazon

Warren Buffett - American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist. He is considered by some to be one of the most successful investors in the world

Ursula Burns - Chairwoman (since May 2010) of Xerox and was the CEO of the company from July 2009 to December 2016. As such, she was the first African-American woman CEO to head a Fortune 500 company

Stewart Butterfield - Co-founder of the photo sharing website Flickr

Grant Cardone - American author, motivational speaker, real estate investor, and sales trainer

Brian Chesky - American Internet entrepreneur who co-founded the hospitality exchange service Airbnb. Chesky is the CEO of the company and was named one of Time's "100 Most Influential People of 2015”
 
There are plenty more examples of individuals with strong leadership skills such as Sir John Harvey Jones, Richard Branson, Alan Sugar and outside of business, probably one of the greatest of them all – Winston Churchill.  In his book ‘The Churchill Factor’, 

Boris Johnson defines his leadership in the following way:

Britain = greatest empire on earth
Churchill = greatest man in the British Empire
Therefore Churchill – greatest man on earth

Churchill was able to make leadership an art form and he became synonymous with this as his 2 finger salute became part of his brand. What is clear is that the list of business leaders are all very different, but one thing unites them all - they each possess the skills with which to get their teams to follow.

What are the Core Leadership Skills?

What do these leaders possess that others do not, and what can we learn from them? No one is a born leader—everyone can develop leadership skills and everyone can benefit from using them.

Leadership skills are an essential component in positioning executives to make thoughtful decisions about their company’s mission and goals, and properly allocate resources to achieve those directives. Valuable leadership skills include the ability to delegate, inspire and communicate effectively.

Some will place greater emphasis on the type of approach such as Steve Jobs (founder of Apple) who said that “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower”.

The skills these leaders possess can be summarised as follows

1. Leading by example. Any attempt to rule with an iron fist will go down like a lead balloon – after all, your co-workers don't report to you, and make sure you do your fair share of the work.
2. Talking less, listening more – this is a much under-utilised skill and ensures you will really understand what is being said.
3. Don't play favourites – focus on being fair and equitable and try to avoid mixing business and pleasure. At some point this may compromise your decision making.
4. Being yourself – be honest with people. If you try to be something you are not people will see through the insincerity.
5. Taking responsibility – take account and show you are in charge
6. Being able to direct and motivate others – be clear on what you want your team to do and identify appropriate approach for motivating your staff. Remember that motivating staff is not always linked to financial reward, but instead acknowledgement can be a powerful tool.
7. Be aware of your own weaknesses – ensure these don’t impact the business.
8. Being prepared to take the tough decisions – steering a business is not easy and may require taking tough decisions such as redundancy. Don’t avoid making the call as the problem will only amplify further down the track.

A truism that exists in business is that the challenges faced by most companies do not differ significantly as they grow, the challenges are a result of the scale, and the complexity often comes from employing more people.

This places a preeminent requirement on good, sound leadership. Understanding that running a company requires leadership and the skills with which to demonstrate this can be learned is vital as it raises the next question…..


How can you improve your leadership skills?

The following represents a 10 point guide:

1. Have a clear vision – this is an area of immense opportunity as failure to articulate a clear vision will result in lack of direction for your team and difficulty to communicate a proposition to your customers.
2. Act as a role model – demonstrate by doing and don’t be prepared to ask someone to do something you would not do yourself.
3. Be present and visible – if you’re needed make sure you are there. In management parlance this was often referred to as ‘management by walking around’ (MBWA).
4. Be Passionate – show that you care about your team and your customers and all other stakeholders. Truly taking time to do this will reap rewards not least in terms of loyalty.
5. Set definitive goals and follow concrete action plans – and communicate these effectively to your team
6. Be flexible – a hard lined boss can come across as autocratic and intransigent, and will not get the best from the team. Be prepared to compromise.
7. Always be fair – in your treatment of staff and customers
8. Invest in yourself – be aware of your own weaknesses and develop your own skills and, if required, seek help to do this.
9. Be positive – this can be difficult to manage in the face of adversity, but a positive attitude and approach becomes infectious.
10. Always persevere – in the face of continued challenges on cash-flow and negative customer feedback, the pressure can build, leading to stress and often, ill health.

Find ways to work through this as very often the turning point is just round the corner.

Find below a useful leadership map developed by University of Kent:

Effective leadership essentially provides the bridge between surviving and thriving – moving the business toward sustainability. As markets become increasingly more competitive and pressures on business increase, make sure your leadership skills are well honed.

The next step? Speak to your local Business Advisor - If you do not know who they are - check here

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