Business Leadership NOW

Are you the owner of a small business? A professional in private practice? Or an executive in a small company? If you are any of these and you don’t think of yourself as a “business leader”, shame on you.

By default, when you have decision-making responsibility and authority, you are the leader.

In its March 2003 issue, Entrepreneur Magazine focuses on Leadership. Their cover text reads “Who are America’s future business leaders? You are. So what does it take to succeed? The best leaders combine bold new strategies with time-tested values. Are you up to the task?”

I couldn’t have said it better myself. This is the message I continue to communicate. NOW is the time to accept the role. Allow it to challenge and motivate you.

Entrepreneur’s article, “Lead the Way”, by Joshua Kurlantzick identifies some of the key qualities for the redefined role of leader. The leader’s old role of charismatic superstar has been redefined as a dedicated team leader with a mission. Recent spectacular business failures such as Enron, Tyco and others, have shown that short term glory is short sighted and will eventually come back to haunt you.

Here are some of the tactics and qualities of great leaders as highlighted in the article.

Recession Response: Use the recession as a time to reassess how you want to lead (and where you want to go). Prepare yourself to start the next phase of your business on a stronger foundation.

Grassroots Strength: A leader gathers the strength of the group. Great leaders are able to attract followers within in their company, their community and their industry.

Make Tough Decisions: Real leadership means making tough decisions and getting them carried out. Take a stand and back it up. This requires accurate information and input from trusted resources.

Good of Company First: Builders of strong and profitable businesses make decisions based on long term benefit to their company, not the short term benefits for themselves. This mindset is what’s termed a level 5 leader in Jim Collins’ book, “Good to Great”, published by Harper Business. Jim’s book is a great leadership reference even though the research is based on findings from large corporations.

Develop Leadership from Within: Joshua Kurlantzdick says the courage and freedom to “Try and Fail” is important. Great things come from trial and error. Of course, it’s important to try on a small scale to limit damage from failure. Analyze it? Learn from it! Leadership requires courage – the courage of one’s convictions. Jim Collins reiterates this in his strategy of getting the right people on board first, then allowing them to learn how to lead through trial and error in their own area of expertise.

To follow the footsteps of Great Leaders, here are the four steps listed in Kurlantzick’s article.

Be able to communicate with a wide audience.
Be willing to make unpopular decisions. (Take a stand!)
Be determined to make sure your message gets through.
Create and implement quality systems and methods that will survive (after you’re gone).

Some of these may not be your natural behavior. Coaching is certainly a great way to develop courage, communication skills and perspective. You can also add these to your capabilities through affiliations and networking. It’s more important than ever to have an active network that can be tapped for its expertise, new business potential and reinforcement of leadership skills.

I believe (yes, I’m taking a stand) that by small business leaders coming together to learn from each other, each will gain in their own leadership skills. As a result their business will be the direct beneficiary, becoming stronger and more valuable.

Final words for the leaders of tomorrow’s strong and profitable businesses: recognize that you are the leader of your business. As such you must make good business decisions, take effective actions and get what you need to follow through.