Lead, Follow or Get Out of the Way
Are you a leader?
Before you answer that question, consider … there’s a big difference between management and workplace leadership. Try this quote on for size:
“Management is efficiency in climbing the ladder of success; leadership determines whether the ladder is leaning against the right wall.” – Stephen Covey
Michael Gerber used different words in his classic business book, The E-Myth Revisited. (If you’re among the dozen or so remaining entrepreneurs who haven’t read it, do yourself a favor and read it soon.) In it, he distinguishes between the three roles that small business owners fill: the Technician, the Manager and the Entrepreneur, with the latter handling the strategic work. You could easily substitute the word “leader” for “entrepreneur” without detracting from E-Myth’s wisdom or message. Leadership is indeed strategic work.
There are dozens – heck, hundreds – of definitions of leadership. I suggest that the following 3 skills deserve a place in any discussion of great leadership:
- Create a Vision
- Think strategically
- Inspire action
Create a Vision
One of my favorite sayings is, “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.” In business, this applies both to concrete, easy-to-measure goals such as revenue and to more fuzzy objectives: What kind of company do we want to be? What sort of people will we let in? What are our values?
Creating and communicating your vision is your business’s roadmap to the future. Creating a vision for your business three or more years out can be a powerful experience. It can re-energize the owner and the employees. I’ve seen this first hand and strongly recommend it.
Have you created a vision for your business?
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren G. Bennis
Okay, so you now have a destination in mind. Now, how do you get there?
Strategic thinking is a fancy way of saying you’ll look at the desired outcome – the big picture – and figure out the best use of limited time and resources to help you get there.
How much time do you spend each month thinking about your long-range goals and what you should be doing now to keep you moving in the right direction?
Knowing what to do is good, but without action you’re going nowhere fast. It’s the leader’s job to get everyone excited and mobilized. Communicate – communicate – communicate. Tell ‘em where you’re going, the path you’re taking, and what’s in it for them. If you believe in your vision and there truly is something in it for your employees, then you are serving them by achieving it.
How much time and effort do you devote to this sort of inspirational communication with your troops? And, do you set a good example?
“Leadership is defined by results.” - Peter Drucker
Be a leader
Being an entrepreneur and a small business leader is much more than an occupation. It’s a calling. Wall Street, Big Business and Washington have all dropped the ball. It’s up to us to keep the American Dream alive. Take time to lead.
Bill Collier is the St. Louis area coach for The Great Game of Business. He helps businesses improve results by teaching their employees to think and act like owners. He is the author of “How to Succeed as a Small Business Owner … and Still Have a Life” Bill can be reached at 314-221-8558 or firstname.lastname@example.org.