What do you think differentiates small businesses from large corporations? It is the funding, the financials, the market share, and the reach of course, but what apart from all those things? Those things are not primary differentiators. They’re instead the effect of the primary differentiator. After all, even large corporations began as small businesses at some time. The primary differentiator is the boss and the boss’s behaviour. People such as Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, Indra Nooyi Warren Buffet, and Sir Richard Branson are not only loved in their respective organisations but actually respected all over the world. While a lot of the attention they get is due to their professional brilliance, their professional brilliance is a direct result of their leadership skills.
The point we’re trying to make here is that your small business will live or die on the back of your leadership skills. Small business leadership, unfortunately, is rarely ever handled properly by business owners. Small business leadership can be best described as a treading on a tightrope. It’s a balancing act between getting close and remaining distant because overfamiliarity and isolation both will affect your teams’ productivity. So, what can you do to take control of your small business leadership in a way that provides your company with a new impetus? Read on.
First And Foremost, Forget About Being the Cool Boss
Bosses are not supposed to be cool. Cool bosses are rarely ever taken seriously because cool bosses are usually dumb bosses. The reasoning is simple here. “Cool” is subjective. So, if you’re cool for someone, you’re definitely an idiot for someone else. For example, if your employees think you’re cool because you party with them, then your serious employees will see you as irresponsible.
Many leaders also confuse being cool as being friendly and “chilled”. That too can send the wrong message. Similarly, some leaders associate being cool with perks and privileges such as designation parking spots and fancy clothes. Those are pointless trappings as well. Being cool for all means being appealing to everyone. It’s never going to happen, so stop trying.
Small Business Leadership Is About Guiding Without Wrangling and Smothering
This is also a tightrope. Some business owners start treating their employees as family by enforcing their rules and principles on them. In contrast, others start viewing them as opponents who will refuse to work unless pushed and forced. Neither is the right small business leadership methodology. Both are extremes.
The right way is the midway i.e. giving them your principles and allowing them to choose whether to adopt them or not. The midway is also giving your team the freedom to be responsible and self-disciplined. In a nutshell, neither wrangling nor smothering will work. You’ll need to guide them.
Leading Is As Much About Following as Anything Else
The individuals we mentioned above come across as people who know a lot. While they are all geniuses in their own right, they don’t know everything. Despite this, though, they seem to have an answer for everything. They seemed to have taken all the right decisions for their businesses and careers. You would think that they go about telling everyone on their team what to do and how to do it.
Their secret, however, is the opposite. They listen a lot. Those individuals understand that leading is a lot about following. They have surrounded themselves with highly talented, knowledgeable, and experienced advisors and employees. Every time, they run into a problem, hit a wall, or are planning something new, all these geniuses get together to formulate a strategy.
Virtually every high-profile business owner even has special communication experts who tell them what to expect in public appearances. Knowing when to listen to the people around you is one of the secrets of being a good leader which is why you should make it a major component of your small business leadership philosophy.
Don’t Be Afraid To Be Publically Fallible
It is very common for small business owners to be insecure and overly defensive. This is because they’re new to the business world and feel the pressure of leading their workforce. They feel that their authority is tied to how right they are and how much they know. We’ve already talked about knowledge levels in the previous section.
Because business owners want to be right all the time, they often try to bury instance where they’re wrong. This can create resentment in the workforce and also result in the boss being viewed as unfair and egotistical. When small business leadership gets connected to such impressions, the workforce and senior management disconnect on the ground.
Such disconnect usually manifests itself in the form of passivity from the workforce. If the workforce becomes passive, then they start waiting for clear instructions from the leaders in the firm and stop taking initiatives. This slows down the decision-making process for the entire business and the firm loses the benefit of the experience of its employees.
This entire situation and the domino effect described can be countered simply by the small business leadership not being afraid of being publically fallible. If a leader is secure enough to admit when he’s wrong, it results in two things. The first is that the situation of resentment never occurs and the other is that the staff connects with the leader more.
Motivation Can Be Internal As Well As External
There are various ways of motivating employees. There are the usual negative motivation elements falling under the heading of fear of repercussions where the individual feels the need to work harder to avoid a scolding or loss of employment. Then, there are the positive motivation elements revolving around improving oneself or doing well for the team and company. In the majority of organisations, you’ll find either of these two. All of these motivational elements are internal in nature.
The really good leaders, however, use competitors to motivate employees. Whether there’s goodwill amongst the workforce or resentment, it can usually be directed productively with the catalyst being the competitors. This form of motivation is external in nature where you tap into the competitive streaks of your employees. You can utilise this by setting targets with respect to what your competitors are doing.
If you’re going to launch new products then doing this becomes even easier. Nowhere is motivation more important than in small business leadership scenario because motivational changes in productivity are the most significant with small workforces.
Connect On Out-Of-The-Way Subjects
It is an accepted fact that leaders need to maintain a level of distance with their teams lest they lose their impact. However, it is also a fact that you can’t be completely detached from your team. Your team needs to form an emotional bond amongst themselves as well as with you. This emotional bond will encourage them to work harder for each other and you.
The challenge is to make that emotional connection without losing your significance and impact. While you can’t really drop in for a chat with your employees whenever you want, it isn’t a bad idea to find something outside of the professional sphere to bond on. You can do so while maintaining your distance. For example, if one of your employees is a football fan, you can bond over a game between your teams. If someone else likes to eat out, you can bond over sharing of the names of your favourite locations.
Similarly, there are many other things you can connect on with your employees. Typically, these should fall under the category of hobbies or avocations.