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Defining Leadership

The Three Most Important Leadership Qualities for Small Business

Donna Williams asked:

If cash flow is the lifeblood of a business, then effective business leadership has to be the oxygen.  Without it, a company will shrivel up and die. 

The best time to start laying the foundation for the type of leadership that will grow your company for many years to come is while you’re small. 

How?  Through values based on vision, courage, and integrity.   Out of all the necessary leadership qualities, these three are the most critical to the growth and success of your organization.

Vision

A clearly defined company vision is one of the most critical elements in any small business, but is also one of the most neglected.

But most small businesses that become successful small businesses (and sometimes big businesses) have one thing in common:  Vision. 

Your company vision defines who you are as a company, your core values, and your future aspirations.  It truly is your “reason for being.” 

Your vision should also reflect your company’s unique strengths.   What is it about your company that is different than your competitor, or other companies in general? 

Additionally, having a clear, strong vision motivates, inspires, and empowers your employees.  A vision that starts at the top and threads through the organization is an excellent loyalty and retention tool because employees like being part of a company that knows where it’s going and how to get there.  Remember, too, that your employees – more than anyone else – will be the driving forces behind your vision.  They will be the ones to bring your vision to fruition.  They need you to a) have a strong vision, and b) share it with them on a regular basis. 

It isn’t enough to have a vision statement hanging on your break room wall.  It needs to be a foundational part of your business.  In fact, your vision needs be the basis for all your business decisions.

The best small businesses have a clear-cut vision – a vision that effectively drives their companies toward success.  If your small business doesn’t have one, you really should begin developing one.  Today.

Courage

Great business leaders are courageous leaders.

Let’s face it, it takes guts to start a small business.  It takes guts to step out in the first place, and even more guts to take the necessary risks to step up to the next level.

But beyond having the courage to take risks, courage leadership means being able to make tough decisions and take difficult actions -  doing what needs to be done in spite of the consequences, both personal and professional.  And courage in the face of fear is one of the hardest things to do as a business leader.

It isn’t easy to turn down a client because his values are the complete opposite of yours.  It’s hard to confront an employee who’s been caught with his hand in the till, or a receptionist who lives to gossip.  It’s difficult to say no to a potentially lucrative business deal because it might be a bit shady.  Or any number of the thousands of issues business leaders face daily.   However, to leading an organization with courage is one of the most effective

When it comes to courage, we tend to think that it’s a quality we need to exhibit as needed.  In truth, courage leadership needs to be a daily demonstration – walk in courage and you will inspire those around you to walk in courage as well.  Just think what would happen if we all had the courage to act on our convictions! 

There are no shortcuts to courageous leadership.  You either do, or you don’t.  There is no sometimes.  And to start you on your journey, here are a few helpful tips:

Start being deliberately courageous in the decisions you make regarding growth, risk, and day-to-day operations.  The more you practice courage the more courageous you will become.

Resolve to never again “take the easy road.”  Have a clear understanding of your beliefs and core values, so when situations come up, you know where you stand.

Accept personal responsibility for the decisions you make, and encourage those around you to do the same.

Make sure the people you hire and promote are also courageous people.  Surround yourself with people of like mind and you’ll discover what a powerhouse organization you can become.

Don’t compromise.  Again, being consistently courageous is just as important as the quality itself.

Having courage isn’t always the easiest way to go, but it is the best way.  With courage, we can accomplish anything.

Integrity

Most of you have probably met someone in business who always does the right thing, regardless of the cost.  I am blessed to have known several, and the experiences have made me a better individual from both a personal and professional perspective.

Doing the right thing regardless of the consequences is at the heart of business leadership.  When faced with a decision, people of integrity will always do what is right.  And people of integrity tend to build businesses of integrity.

So why does it matter that we have integrity in our business dealings?  There is an unbreakable connection between integrity and trust.  In most peoples’ minds, they go hand-in-hand.  When our employees perceive us to have integrity, they trust us to treat them respectfully and reasonably.  Likewise, when our customers and clients look at us as a company based on integrity, they trust us to be honest, to give them a good product, and to keep our word. 

Think about it…given the choice, wouldn’t you prefer to work for and deal with a company you knew had integrity?  I know I would!

Vision…courage…integrity.  These are three transformational  leadership qualities that will turn your small business into a business powerhouse.

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