Becoming a leader is often an afterthought of becoming an entrepreneur. We usually start a business because of a passion we have, a skill we’ve honed, or a certification we’ve completed… not because we consciously choose we want to lead others. If we’re lucky enough to build businesses that grow and warrant the need to hire team members or contractors, we generally find our job description shifting in a direction we may not have prepared for.
Leadership is the side gig that becomes the main gig over time… So it’s no wonder that when the leadership part comes into play, it can be a little tricky and confusing to navigate. Whether or not you have a team in the sense of people who work with you to support your business, you still have a team in your life—those people that help simplify things for you ( i.e. a house cleaner, nanny, food delivery, neighbors, and even your spouse or other family members who may help you out).
And when it comes to producing high-quality results and creating a healthy team culture, we want to do everything in our power to become a more effective leader as an entrepreneur so that our efforts and communication reap the outcomes we desire.
5 ways to be a more effective leader when you run a business
Even if you’re not ready to outsource, expand your team, or hire a support network, it’s important to know what your next step should be so you CAN hire when you feel ready and able. Creating that vision now can help you move in that direction.
So let’s get into the 5 qualities you can foster now in order to be a more effective leader tomorrow.
1. Leaders need to be willing to continuously learn.
Leadership requires consistent growth and analysis of your own abilities. I feel like I am constantly challenged as a leader and want to keep growing, developing, and getting better, which is where self-awareness and personal development comes in.
Leaders have to be willing to show their progress, to fail publicly, and to acknowledge that they may contradict themselves as they learn, grow, and evolve. You, even as a leader, need to continue to remain poised as a student, ready to learn, receptive to feedback, and focused on growing as an individual.
How you invest in yourself is a direct reflection of what you expect of your team: books, courses, leadership podcasts. Invite your team into what you’re learning and share your process and takeaways with them.
2. Leaders need to step back from always being the doer.
Leadership requires vision and that means you can’t always be the one executing (even if that’s what you’ve been used to in the past!) You need to be able to step into the best role that suits your strengths and allow others to take on some of the task management roles so that your brain power can be utilized for growth, progress, and innovation.
According to one of my favorite leadership books, Rocket Fuel (affiliate link), a visionary is defined as the one who ideates and looks for continuous ways to expand. They have limited patience for details, get distracted easily, and want to implement ideas immediately.
HA. Anyone else feeling called out just a tad??? That’s because many entrepreneurs fall into the category of visionary (myself included!) On the flip side, some entrepreneurs are integrators, the definition of which I’ll get into in a sec, or even a combo of both visionary and integrator!
An integrator is the one who thrives on putting systems and processes in place. They are commonly great taskmasters and managers holding people accountable, creating consistency, and bringing together the leadership team.
If you’re a visionary and you don’t already have an integrator, you might want to consider bringing one on board. That way, you can stay in the big-picture ideation mode while you have someone else who is skilled at the execution and organization pieces. Likewise, entrepreneurs who are integrators may need to source another leadership position to help drive innovation and new initiatives.
Rocket Fuel has an assessment within it to help entrepreneurs evaluate where their skills fall to determine, “Am I an integrator, visionary, or both?” and progress forward in building this needle-moving relationship.
3. Leaders have to be able to encourage their team.
(In the right ways!) I saw this study that asked what would be the most important thing a manager or a company could do that would help the employee be successful… And 37 percent—the majority—cited recognition as the most important method of support.
An easy way to improve this? Ask your employees how they want to be recognized! Do they prefer private encouragement? More public applause? Would they like some sort of reward, monetary bonus, or simply words of affirmation?
Get curious about simple ways to make your team feel heard. This is a retention strategy that *anyone* can apply, because all ANY of us wants is to feel seen, heard, understood, and appreciated.
Another way to encourage the team is by providing inspiration by tying their work to a deeper purpose. In fact, in this article 90% of employees said they would trade traditional reward mechanisms—like extra pay—for greater meaning within their work.
4. Leaders should equip & trust the team to perform.
Equip your team (whether it’s your work team or support team in your life) to get started by providing them with any tools or resources they’ll need to succeed. Provide training materials, walk them through important processes, allow space for them to ask questions, and then (and this is the hard part)—step back and allow them to work in a way that best suits their work style and personality.
Actually, I would urge you to encourage them to create their own systems to have that ownership over their responsibilities. Everyone works differently and it’s important to honor and foster different productivity styles so that your team feels trusted with their duties.
When you’re choosing your team, you need to be able to trust them to do their job and trust in their abilities. This means that you shouldn’t hire people you feel like you need to micromanage. Do what you can to vet them as you hire to make sure their experience and skills are the right fit for your needs!
5. Leaders need to know how to handle conflict.
How do you handle conflict, tough conversations, and hold team members accountable? If your answer is running away or totally disengaging, it’s time to start flexing your conflict management muscles. The only way to learn to deal with hard things is to face hard things.
It’s like the old saying, “If you see something, say something” when it comes to someone being hurt or wronged. As leaders, it’s our job to advocate for our businesses, boundaries, and a healthy workplace. That means embracing feedback (both receiving and giving it) and learning how to challenge and be challenged by your team.
Set up natural, no-pressure ways to provide and accept feedback with your team, like quarterly check-ins or even anonymous surveys to allow everyone to feel welcome to speak their mind. Vice versa, make sure you are able to respectfully and kindly bring any issues you might be having to your team in order to alleviate any iffiness head-on.
Easier said than done, I realize, but I can promise that is DOES get easier with time and practice. And, your team will appreciate supporting someone who cares and takes the time to both be honest and receive feedback from them.
And, when all else fails in leadership land… Fake it ‘til you make it. Okay, I’m (mostly) kidding, but for real—I do want you to know that not one leader in the history of ever has had it ALL figured out and gotten everything right. It’s a learn-as-you-go role, and the most important part is to treat your people like, well… people.
Be compassionate, be honest, show them your appreciation, and know that messing up is a part of the job (theirs and yours). We’re all humans just trying to figure things out one day at a time, and that’s a beautiful understanding to lead from in my book!