The world is ultra-competitive today and being on the helm of a business can be particularly challenging. There are financial calls to be made, hiring decisions to be made, sales turnover or market share-related targets to be met. But the hardest and the most important part of running a business is leading the organization. We don’t talk about it often, but leadership can be a decisive factor in making or breaking an organization.
It could be your leadership as an individual – leading a particular team or department, leading a project or a plan, leading a combination of human and material resources through a crisis. It could also be leading the organization to the largest market share or establish the brand as a leader in the market.
You will not find a quick-fix or a hack for getting this right, but it will help immensely to stick to certain governing principles.
Here’s everything you need to know…
1. Be Decisive
What separates a leader from a follower is that a leader is able to think quick on his/her feet and take prompt decisions. This does not mean that the decisions are reckless, impulsive or hasty. Instead, they are timely, judicious and swift. If there is an opportunity to market your product or to invest in a technology or tool that will reap benefits in the long run, make sure you know what you are getting into. But once you are convinced, do not delay acting upon it. People look up to you, you have certain expectations to live up to, so act accordingly.
2. Don’t Lose Sight of the Fundamentals
In a world where change is the only constant and uncertainty is off the charts, it helps to stay rooted in the fundamentals. What does that mean? Simply put, you need to stick to the basics and make the foundation of the building as strong and enduring as possible.
American researcher and author of Good to Great Jim Collins thinks so too. According to him, your products and processes need to exhibit endurance and sustained performance. Even when everything changes, the timeless fundamentals will sail you through uncertain times.
3. Have a Plan to Act in a Crisis
Following from the previous point, it is clear that some crises are unavoidable. There are elements of the external business environment that are outside your control. Fortunately, what is still in your control is how you react to it. When faced with an unprecedented or adverse situation, it is incumbent upon the leader to find opportunities in all places. Employee morale can take a hit during such times, so leaders and executives need to manage the uncertainty and create a plan of action to deal with it, even if it is just the plan for a rebound after the crisis. The bottom line is that your employees need some source of hope and realistic optimism to hold on to. For that, you need to show resilience, or else things could turn catastrophic!
4. Take Risks
When it comes to dealing with uncertainties, it is worth mentioning that any and every business operates with some measure of unpredictability at all times. Employees can be afraid of going out-of-the-box. So leaders need to create a culture where calculates risks are taken. Even if there are hits and misses, eventually we will find out what works and what doesn’t. Remember, great businesses don’t stick to the status quo.
5. Share Your Vision with Employees
Communicate with your employees. You may be steering the vehicle of your business but they are providing the fuel, too! Their motivation will see a positive change if you share the vision and mission with them. Discuss your goals and they will feel like they are truly a part of making those goals and dreams come true. If you withhold your trust, it will limit your influence as a leader. Let go a little!
Knowing the right people is an understated skill. You should focus on networking, especially if you are a woman in a leadership position. It is easy to get busy with the so-called housekeeping and operational tidbits, but networking can provide you with a fresh perspective to look at your business. Talk to your suppliers, competitors, partners, clients, mentors, investors, potential customers. Expand beyond your comfort zone and put yourself out there, professionally, but remember to bring your personality to such events, not just your business cards.
7. Set High Standards for Yourself
Set your standards high enough that reaching your goals requires relentless efforts, but not too high that you set yourself up for failure. As a leader, you will be responsible to commit to delivery of high quality work, products, services and processes. This commitment will trickle down to every level in the organization. The impact of this is amplified if you are a small team! To emphasize on efficiency as well as effectiveness. Push your teams to be more resourceful, self-sufficient and productive.
8. Don’t Build a Company, Build a Legacy
Continuing from the above point, if you set high standards, deliver high quality and do so consistently, you will establish a reputation for yourself, your brand and/or your company. In the long-run, this plays a crucial role. Some leaders leave behind a legacy, some don’t. As a result, we see companies that are just there versus companies that leave a mark. If you want to be the latter, you need to set your priorities accordingly. If done right, both you and your company will emerge as great leaders.
The art of leadership cannot be taught. After all, each organization and each project is unique to its context and demands a unique set of resources. Yet, having a guidebook helps you focus on the larger picture and take timely action to ensure that the business is headed in the right direction.
About the Author
Samantha Johnson is a project manager at office.eco, where she builds, nurtures and grows the company. Leading the employees, resources and the product to eventual success is a major part of her job!