Develop the business leadership skills that will make your company great

No team of people, whether they number three or 3 000, can achieve ongoing excellence without proper leadership. As the owner of the business, it’s up to you to ensure you develop the necessary business leadership skills. Here are seven key skills you’ll need to improve and grow your business.

 1.  Lead by Example

‘Do as I do’ is a far better strategy than ‘do as I say’ – and will earn you far greater credibility with your employees. The world is full of wannabe business leaders who can ‘talk the talk’, but the true test of leadership is the ability to ‘walk the walk’. If you expect your staff to work long hours, make sacrifices, or operate in difficult circumstances, then show them you’re prepared to do the same. This is particularly pertinent to small businesses, where owner and staff frequently work side-by-side and his every move is consequently visible to each person in the organisation. Leading by example will earn you a priceless asset – respect.

 2.  Have a Vision

You’re the leader, so if you don’t know where you’re going then you can’t expect anyone else to! Vision gives direction to the organisation and enables it to move forward with a clear sense of purpose and direction. Without it, employees may take on all sorts of tasks, products or marketing activities that can ultimately be irrelevant to where the business should be going, to the kind of market it wants to be in, or the type of image it needs to portray. A formal mission statement – written down simply and coherently to serve as a compass in the leader’s absence – is also useful.

 3.  Be a Good Communicator

A critical business leadership skill is the ability to communicate clearly with everyone in the organisation. After all, the greatest vision in the history of business is utterly useless if the leader is unable to convey it to his followers! Communication, and the ability to inspire, is a priceless asset as it can motivate people to greater effort and higher levels of excellence than they previously thought possible. A perfect example is Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s rousing leadership of Britain when all seemed lost in World War Two. But remember that communication shouldn’t all be one way – true business leaders also know how to listen to their subordinates.

 4.  Have Passion

Passion is that fire in the belly and determination of spirit that keeps you going against all odds, overcoming obstacles and remaining steadfast in your belief and commitment to your business and what it stands for. Through it – and the art of communication – true business leaders will inspire those around them, too. Passion is not hysteria, neither is it fanaticism to the point where logic and reason are forgotten. Rather, it is enthusiasm and dedication on steroids! Without it, a leader is little more than an administrator, a bully, or a time-server.

5.  Be Organised

Out of everyone involved in a company, the leader is the one who can best create organisation out of potential chaos. She’s the one who knows the corporate vision intimately, is privy to all the financial resources and constraints, and has access to the broader picture, rather than the narrow functional silos in which most employees must operate. It needn’t imply micro-managing every aspect of the company, dotting every ‘i’ and checking every stock-count. But it does mean she’s the leader of the orchestra, having carefully planned when to bring in the violins or fade out the bass section, in accordance with the rise and fall of the company’s needs.     

6.  Be Decisive

The buck stops with you, so be decisive. As the boss, everything is your problem and you’ll be called on to make probably thousands of decisions every month that you’re in business. Some of them will be high-level strategic decisions affecting the long-term direction of the entire organisation, others may be as simple as choosing who will supply you toilet paper because the admin assistant can’t decide for herself! Either way, you need to act logically, clearly and quickly – and be prepared to stand by your decision in the face opposition. At times you may be wrong or unpopular, but it’s a better option than a rudderless organisation where indecision and chaos are allowed to become the order of the day.

 7.   Know What You Don’t Know

This is perhaps one of the hardest leadership skills to come to terms with, particularly for a hard-driving entrepreneurial-type personality who has built a successful business from nothing, often with few resources and limited outside expertise. In these circumstances, because he’s had a finger is so many aspects of the organisation, the leader now tends to think he knows best – whether it be finance, sales, logistics, manufacturing, or simply choosing the office furniture. The reality is that, for a business to grow beyond a certain point, staff with specific expertise need to be brought in. The true leader comes to terms with those areas of the business where he can make a real contribution … and those where he should simply step back and ask an expert!