Thanks in large part to Hollywood stereotypes, the images conjured up regarding successful business leaders is somewhere in the realm of Mr. Burns from The Simpsons meets Miranda Priestly from The Devil Wears Prada. But, as most entrepreneurs can attest to, running a business is largely a labor of love with endless hours, little personal time (sometimes, none!) and where you get paid last, after all of your vendors, employees and the government all get paid before you even see a dime. So, what are the real keys to being a successful business leader? Here are a few important ones:
I have often said that there is a “Rule of 3” in business: everything takes 3 times longer, is 3 times as costly and is 3 times more difficult than you expect it to be. With that being said, real successful business leaders persevere through the Rule of 3 and the frustrations that go along with it. They don’t get consumed by the setbacks, hardships and mistakes along the way; instead, they keep plugging away with their big picture goals in mind.
Use negativity as fuel.
It can be discouraging when you are just starting out, or have a new product or service, and as you share your excitement with friends, family, potential customers, investors or service providers, you are met with disinterest, rejection, or even straight up haters, who rain on your parade. But, negativity and rejection are an inevitable part of entrepreneurship. Successful business leaders use that negativity as fuel to keep them moving forward, rather than getting dejected, defeated and using it as an excuse to throw in the towel. Having that type of winning mindset will allow you to brush off the negativity on your path towards success.
Lead by example.
As the leader, you set the tone, culture and expectations for the entire business. You’ll never be a successful leader if you have a “Do as I say, not as I do” mentality. So, if you’re strolling in late every day, berating employees in front of the staff or customers, texting on your phone all day or lack work ethic, your team will, too. Be the living embodiment of what you want to see from your employees and your team will reflect that back to you. This is a major factor in successful leadership.
Set your staff up for success.
The best leaders put policies and systems in place to empower, motivate and set up their employees for success. Make sure that employees are properly (and continuously!) trained and have set systems with easy-to-follow guidelines for tasks that you want done in a particular way. And, reward your staff when work is done well- even a sincere verbal acknowledgement can go a long way to making staff feel valued.
And, one of the most important keys to being a successful leader is the ability to listen, whether it’s to staff, customers, prospects or even vendors. Avoid jumping to conclusions, keep an open mind and truly listen, rather than planning what you are going to say while the other person is talking.
Leading with an open-door policy helps ensure that employees aren’t intimidated to come to you with their issues, comments or concerns. Be flexible and give your employees the freedom to work in the way that they are most comfortable, acknowledging that not all people and personalities work or handle things in the same way.
Adopting the above will make sure that your business leadership skills are, as Mr. Burns would say as he was tapping his fingers together, “Excellent”!