There’s been a long-running conversation about leadership. A sort of "chicken before the egg" type debate. Are people born with it (leadership) or is it a trait that can be learned?
For entrepreneurs, this question is incredibly important. After all, just because you start a company doesn’t mean that you’re fit in the areas that are needed to lead it.
But, that doesn’t mean that you can’t study and learn how to run your company. If you follow the nine techniques below, you may become a better leader at your startup.
“Successful entrepreneurs know how to master who they are and harness their inner power, instincts and intuition,” writes psychologist and author Sherrie Campbell. “Knowing themselves with clarity leads them to the right deals and business ventures. If they do not have acute self-awareness, they will come up against the counterforce of out-of-control emotions, leading to their downfall.”
To master your self-awareness Campbell recommends that you take the following seven steps;
- Be inwardly directed. “Successful leaders are inwardly motivated by a drive or force that propels and motivates them to work hard to master their skills,” Campbell writes. This means that you need to know who you are, how you make decisions, and using this inner self to guide you in reaching your goals.
- Learn the ropes. Entrepreneurs should learn everything about their business they can to build their confidence in their skills and understand the work that their colleagues are doing.
- Control their emotions. Entrepreneurs don’t let their emotions control them because this leads to irrational decision making.
- Take risks. Campbell adds that, “Accomplished leaders understand that self-awareness brings a sense of certainty in tough decision-making situations. This self-awareness enables them to make quicker and more efficient assessments in tough moments.”
- Be patient. Being patient allows leaders to “look beyond what's before them and wait as the chips fall into place without lashing out impulsively in a negative way and destroying the opportunity.”
- Cultivate wisdom. Successful leaders learn from their mistakes and use that knowledge to become persistent.
- Exhibit curiosity. The greatest ability of entrepreneurs is that they are curious. The reason? It sparks creativity and the drive to achieve more than imagined.
“If you make a mistake, readily admit to your error. Apologize when needed and admit when you do not have the solution to a problem,” says Murray Newlands in Entrepreneur. “Demonstrate the willingness to seek answers from other sources. Such actions show your human side and help you gain the respect of employees and customers alike.”
Newlands goes on to say that “When you admit a mistake your employees feel safe admitting their mistakes, instead of playing the ‘blame game.’ Accepting that individuals make mistakes will create a more cooperative atmosphere in your company.”
In fact, a study from the University of Washington Foster School of Business found that “humble people tend to make the most effective leaders and are more likely to be high performers in both individual and team settings.”
Ask the Right Questions
Successful leaders have realized that they need to ask questions about others and not themselves.
Miranda Marquit says that there are five questions leaders should ask others. These question include;
- Where do you want to go?
- How can we do this differently?
- What are people worried about, but not saying?
- What do you think?
- What kind of leader do you want to be?
Work on Your Communication Skills
Daniel Kehrer, Founder & Managing Director of BizBest Media Corp., says that “Great leaders stay in constant touch with the people they lead. They don’t just check in with an email request from time to time, or wait for others to come to them.” He adds, “They provide information, ask questions and seek opinions. It doesn’t require endless meetings, but it does require a measure of skill to make communications clear, understandable and free of business buzzwords and technical jargon.”
Skip Weisman, a leadership and workplace communication expert, adds that every leader should work on the following three communication skills;
- Self-communication skills. These are the internal conversations that we have with ourselves all day. They help improve and self-esteem and confidence.
- Private, one-on-one communication skills. When talking to someone one-on-one, make sure that the communication is “prompt, direct, and respectful.”
- Public/group communication skills. The greatest public speakers “use powerful body language, add value to the audience, and are great story tellers.”
“Your likeability as an entrepreneur goes beyond words. People will judge you according to your actions, and will judge accordingly if your actions don't match up to your word,” writes Tom Popomaronis, founder and CEO of OpiaTalk.
“Don't make promises you can't keep, even if it'll stop the complaints for a time. People remember promises, and they'll take note if you don't live up to them. Assure them and say what you need to say, but if you promise anything, be prepared to follow through.”
Renowned salesmen Brian Tracey adds that integrity and honesty leads to success because it allows them to never compromise about what they believe in, doing the right thing because it is the right thing to do, and allows them to tell the truth.
“If you compromise your integrity in small situations with little consequence, then it becomes very easy to compromise on the small situations,” Tracey says.
“It is very easy to build a feature that is needed for Facebook as a separate app, or something that possibly Apple could do as a separate app, but it has to make people's lives easier — give them time, basically, in their life,” says Matt Hudson, founder of Lynergy, Inc. and Startup Lab mentor. “If you can find the person that will tell you this isn't something that will benefit him or her on an everyday basis, that ultimately is the feedback that you will need to guide you.”
“You have to find somebody willing to tell you whether or not they will buy your product and your idea. And that is probably the key to determining whether or not you will be successful.”
Besides feedback on your product or service, gather feedback from your team to find out what could be improved in both your business and your leadership skills. If you’re afraid they won’t be honest, have a system in place where they can share this information with you anonymously.
You may not want to hear this feedback from your team or customers, but this type of constructive criticism should be used to grow your business and as a leader. Remember to not take it personally, ask for specifics, and share any progress that you’ve made.
Delegate and Empower Your Team
BDC Business Consultant, Rony Israel says that entrepreneurs are known to have a healthy ego. “When it comes to their company, almost all entrepreneurs will say: Nobody can do it better than me.”
However, the most successful entrepreneurs realize that they can’t launch and run a startup on their own. Because of this, they are willing to share, delegate, and empower their teams.
To achieve this "letting go of some power" though, make sure that you trust your team members by knowing their strengths and weaknesses, encouraging them to be creative, and challenge them to be the best that they can be.
Learn From the Best
Why wouldn’t you want to seek advice from individuals who have found success. Whether it’s reading Richard Branson’s latest book or asking a fellow entrepreneur who just sold their startup to become your mentor, you can learn how to become a better leader by following the advice, inspiration, mistakes, and triumphs from those who have been there before.
Show Passion for a Bigger Purpose
“Entrepreneurs rarely lack passion, as their belief in their idea often adds a natural fuel to their daily duties. But when your passion is about something bigger than yourself—a vision many other people find fulfilling to contribute to as well—your influence can extend far and wide,” says Lynne Coté, CEO of Cabi. “People are eager to follow the leader making a positive impact in the world.”
This explains why we’re so fascinated by entrepreneurs who give back to the community or strive to make a difference in the world - whether it’s Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, or the latest startup vowing to end hunger.