I believe that if you want to succeed in running your own business you have to be a leader. You are going to work with people. You are going to have to positively influence them if you want to succeed.
I also believe however, that real leadership doesn’t happen by nature of a “title” – think about your own experience in life. How many people have held a position of authority over you, but you didn’t respect as a leader? In other words, they had “positional authority” over you, but they didn’t have “positive influence” with you.
True leadership is influence, not authority
And in order to have positive influence with people THEY HAVE TO CHOOSE TO FOLLOW YOU. This means that they have the power, not you (if you are the positional leader).
You can’t force your influence on people by virtue of your position. You can use fear, or offer rewards – two effective short-term, but ultimately flawed long-term, strategies. However, if you use fear, or rewards, to get people to follow you, you are not a real leader. You are a title holder using the system that you operate in for your own good. The real leaders in life are able to get people to follow them without having to resort to fear, or offering rewards.
For many people, including us, you have to learn how to positively influence others. That is why the #9 most important thing we’ve done in our business is to study leadership.
As we’ve studied leadership over the years, here are the top 5 leadership principles that we’ve embraced in our business:
1. Leaders don’t whine and complain, rather they accept personal responsibility: A real leader doesn’t look to blame others, or external circumstances, when things get tough, or don’t go as they had planned. They look inward. They ask themselves, “how can I change what I am doing in order to produce better results”. This is a powerful leadership principle, and if you do this on a consistent basis people will see, and follow your example.
2. Leaders look for the good in others: Leaders focus on the unique strengths of those who they work with. They help others to see their strengths and develop them. They are secure enough in themselves to give praise to others liberally and often. They don’t see life in zero sum – meaning, if someone else wins, I must lose. They see abundance and room for everyone to succeed.
3. Leaders give public praise, but use private moments for constructive critique: There is often nothing more deflating to a person than getting critiqued in public, but people genuinely like being recognized in public. Leaders understand this, and use public settings for praise, and private settings for constructive critique. However whatever critiques are offered are done with a genuine sense of care, that you want them to get better.
4. A leader can “confront the brutal facts” and deal appropriately with reality: Hope and optimism are critical to the successful establishment of a new venture. However, it is also equally important to “confront the brutal facts of your reality”. What hurdles stand in your way? What will you have to do to get your goal? A good leader sees reality for what it is, they don’t gloss over it, however they don’t lose hope either. They are able to balance the two principles: confront the brutal facts, but still move forward with hope and optimism.
5. A leader understands that positive results and change takes time and consistently applied effort: A leader doesn’t look for shortcuts, because they don’t exist, and a leader helps those they lead to understand that anything worth having often takes a long time to get, but not to lose hope because the journey can be rewarding in terms of the character that it develops in people.
If you want to develop your business, you need to look inward first. Leadership has been described by author John Maxwell as the “Law of The Lid”, in that your ability to grow is contingent on your ability to lead.
If you want to grow, you need to be a better leader. If you want to be a better leader you need to study leadership. You need to study leaders who have gone before you. You need to study current leaders. See the patterns of behaviour that work, and those that don’t, and model them appropriately.
Everything starts with you. Look inward. It doesn’t matter if you have never been a leader before, or if you think that you don’t have “leadership abilities”. That term is non-sense. Sure, some people may have genetic predispositions to leadership (such as the ability to communicate fluently); however, leadership is a learned trait. You can learn it too, and if you are in business, or hope to go into business, you need to learn it.
Do not think that what is hard for you to master is humanly impossible, and if it is humanly possible, consider it to be within your reach (Marcus Aurelius)