The main distinction between success and failure in business is strong leadership. Business owners who are strong leaders will more likely have successful businesses than business owners who don’t have these skills. Leadership is the key to business success. I’ve seen this in the results that the business owners obtain once they go through a leadership program that I have taught, specifically designed for small business owners to help become better leaders.
Leadership can be measured by the level of influence that you have over people. It is not based on position or title; it is voluntary. Following a leader is a voluntary act. You follow a leader because you want to, not because you have to. So if you want to have a business where people are banging down the door to get in, you need to have strong leadership qualities. Many people get confused between the traits of a manager and the traits of a leader. A manager will require you to do things right, whereas a leader influences you to do the right thing. Managers are very task-oriented, whereas leaders are more inspirational and motivational.
When I am speaking to business owners about their leadership skills, I ask them to rate out of ten their leadership capabilities, one being poor and ten being the best leader that could not be improved upon. Whilst this measure is very subjective because it is based on self-assessment, it is usually a fairly accurate reflection of their abilities (unless of course the business owner is delusional). Most business owners will rate themselves between three and eight. The important point to note about this is that none of us are tens. The beginning of a great leader is knowing they can improve on their leadership capabilities.
What makes a good leader? There is an argument that great leaders are born, meaning it is part of their DNA. Whilst I agree that some people are born with leadership skills and instincts, I do not believe that this means they will be the best leaders. Some of us are lucky enough to be born with such skills, but what about the rest? Based on my experience, it seems that whether you were blessed with leadership skills or not, you can always improve. The natural born leaders still need to learn and develop their skills just like people that were not blessed with the same. I also do not believe that it’s that black and white that you either have leadership skills or you don’t. Like any human traits, there are degrees of abilities. So even if your leadership skills are not natural, you can improve them and become a leader.
You may already find that you are a leader of sorts. Leadership comes in many different shapes and sizes. You may be a father or mother and therefore leading your children to live a full life. You may be a coach of a child’s sporting team, which shapes the lives of many. You may be a volunteer supporting and guiding the people around you. Leadership is not just confined to business. Remember, leadership is about influence. Think about whom you influence and what skills you are demonstrating and putting into practice from a leadership perspective. Ask yourself, what are your strengths with regards to your leadership capabilities, and what challenges do you have and how do you think that you can overcome them? Do you need to overcome them? Can you use resources to fill the gap with your challenges?
Think about the people you admire as a leader. From the first moment that you open the front door of your business until you close it up for the day, ask yourself the following questions:
• Do I look like a leader?
• Do I act like a leader?
• Do I talk like a leader?
• Do I walk like a leader?
I am in the fortunate position of being able to go into businesses and observe their cultures. When I am sitting in reception before I meet with the owners, I make it a point to observe everything. It is amazing how much you learn about a business sitting in reception. After about five minutes, I am able to pick up what is going on in the business from a cultural perspective watching people’s interactions. You have heard the saying ‘fish stink from the head’? Well, never a truer statement was made with respect to a business. The business owner is responsible for setting the culture of the business.
About the Author
Matt Murphy is the Managing Director – Business Strategy & Accounting and plays an important role as a member of Prime’s Leadership Team, continuing to build the Accounting & Business Advisory division of Prime whilst assisting other Prime investees to transition to next generation advisory firms.
Don’t forget to join our second Business By Design workshop hosted by Matt for Prime Financial.