• Susanne Birgersdotter

Many say that leadership is a natural trait. Some are good at it, while others suck. Does that also mean that those who aren’t natural leaders won’t make it as entrepreneurs or succeed in business? You see, to be a business owner, you first have to be a leader.

When the subject of a business leader comes to mind, we think of someone firm, likable, confident, popular, objective and inspiring. The figurehead of the enterprise has to be one who can issue orders unflinchingly and decide decisively and promptly.

I know a lot of women, shy and introvert women, who also dream of one day starting a business and being successful at it. They rarely are conversation starters and will rather agree to disagree than engage in a heated discussion. They are not natural leaders; they prefer their own company instead of mingling with people. Can I tell them to forget about their dreams?

How about those who are too emotional and empathetic? Can they be the rational and objective enough to lead organizations and businesses? I believe, just like any other skills, leadership can be learned. While some of us are lucky enough to be born with natural leadership flair, those who aren’t can always learn the art of leading people. And the best way to do it is by starting a small business.

I developed what leadership skills I have right now through business. When I started my first venture, it didn’t dawn on me that I would have to be a leader. I was only focused on the business and in running it. It was a great misstep for me. I took a stumble because of it, learned my lesson, and got back up a leader.

Unfortunately, not everyone realizes that the reason for their failures is their lack of leadership. This is very common to startups and first-time entrepreneurs. We are so focused on perfecting the product, getting the funding, and launching the business that we forgot about being a leader.

Here are some tips to help you start developing your leadership skills;

Active Listening – Do not listen so that you can formulate a good retort. Listen to understand and listen to the things that aren’t being said. If your assistant keeps suggesting a new supplier, dig deeper. If you don’t get a resounding approval of your idea, ask for alternative suggestions. And if a team member comes forward with a suggestion, don’t shoot it down. Take it into consideration and if it won’t work, explain to him/her frankly why. Your team will only share and volunteer with ideas and suggestions if they are listened to.

Delegating – This is a hard lesson to learn, but one that is essential if you are to grow your business and grow as a leader. As startup entrepreneurs, we tend to do everything and do things our way. That is perfectly fine as you are starting, but when you start growing, tasks also grow. You’ll have to take in people to help you. The secret to successful delegation is in providing thorough training. Once the employee knows what her/his job is, leave them and trust them to do their job. Avoid micromanagement at all costs.

Smart Hiring – Creating a team and fostering teamwork starts with hiring the right people. Most entrepreneurs will start their business with just one or two employees. The first being herself or himself and the second her/his partner. At first, you try to do everything, and when the business start growing, you hire people to work with you. The key to finding and choosing the best people for your business is to first identify the person you need. Based on the set of tasks that the new team member will be doing, create a profile of the person that will include his/her skills, experience and personality. When in doubt, hire for attitude. Skills can be taught and learned, not one’s attitude.

Develop the WE – Create an inclusive workplace. Develop the WE culture of working. It is the sharing of responsibilities, achievements, and challenges. It is as simple as letting employees know of the company’s problems and circumstances, conducting open forums to discuss company matters, and celebrating milestones together. Employees are more engaged and positive when they are included in the company’s decision-making, planning, and celebrations. It creates a sense of community and develops relationships and stronger teamwork.

Lead by Example – Walk the talk, show then how it is done, or how you want it done. If you want efficient meetings, come to the meeting on time and prepared. If you want great customer service, take some calls or man the tills for a spell. If you want a positive workplace, don’t shout at people and don’t walk around the office morose and grumpy. If you want on-time reports, beat your employees to it. As the leader, your employees are looking at you for cues and inspiration. Give them the right ones.

I would welcome your thoughts and comments. Send me a message here. I will read them all. I invite you to join me on my entrepreneurial and success journey, and for you to let me join yours. You can get the paperback copy of my business inspirational book, Pivotal Moments, here. It is also available in Kindle from this link.