Every entrepreneur is a leader. You might not have a staff right now, but you could in the future. Furthermore, as a business owner you are a community leader as well. So even if you’re still a “solopreneur” and focused on keeping your head above water, it’s time to develop some serious leadership skills…and in fact, it might be those very leadership skills that help your business get past the startup stage and into growth more quickly.
Listening is a key ingredient to being a strong leader. Leaders need to be able to listen to staff members and people who are on the “front lines” and doing the work that is impacted by top level decisions. Leaders also need to be able to listen to experts, so as to make the most of their knowledge and experience, especially when their expertise is in areas where the leader is lacking.
Development Tip: To develop your listening skills, spend a full day focusing on what other people are saying. Specifically, listen carefully and focus only on the other person in each conversation. Turn down the dialogue in your head that helps you formulate a response and wait until you’ve heard everything to decide how to respond. This is a great exercise to do every day, in each conversation, but start slowly and build up.
Each leader must be forward-thinking. The organization’s strategic plan should always be in the forefront of the leader’s mind, but thinking even past the long-term strategic plan enables the leader to see a lengthier future to the business and organization.
Development Tip: To develop your forward-thinking skills, carve out time every day to focus on your industry. Study up and gather data. Try to identify trends and patterns, and envision what might be ahead for your industry and your company. What might be coming in the next five or ten years? What might be on the way in twenty?
Leaders must be adept at making decisions. A true leader is willing to make the hard decisions, even the ones that ultimately hurt feelings. It’s not easy to do, but tough decisions are a natural part of any leader’s life. Further, if you struggle to make even small decisions, you may find your business lagging behind and moving very slowly.
Development Tip: To improve your decision-making ability, start by reducing the number of decisions you have to make each day. The research shows that the more decisions we have to make, the harder it is to make bigger decisions—it’s almost as if making tons of little decisions takes up so much bandwidth that there just isn’t enough left to make big decisions. That’s one of the reasons that Steve Jobs wore the same clothes every day, by the way.
You’ll also want to improve your confidence—lack of decision-making skill is often the result of low levels of confidence and belief in oneself. You can work with a coach to improve your confidence levels so you have more faith in yourself to make the right decisions.
You’re going to fail. That’s just a truth of being in business. We all fail. How big and how often, well, that varies. But every entrepreneur and business owner will fail. So given that, plan ahead to fail forward. Be prepared to learn from your failures. Celebrate what went right and learn from what went wrong. Failure doesn’t have to be a dirty word!
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