Leadership is a hot topic these days. But is leadership overrated, or is it important to your business?
Leadership is incredibly complex, because it involves leaders, followers and the situation in which they find themselves. Even many experts don’t agree on what leadership really is. Some say that leadership is both art and science, and a little Kentucky windage thrown in for good luck. It's such a broad and deep subject, that we could continue to cover it for months.
President Eisenhower said, "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it."
It's often said that leaders are born, not made, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some leaders have a natural charisma that helps draw people to them, but leaders are ultimately made.
Some people aspire to leadership positions, they study leadership, and they learn leadership techniques. Others became leaders because circumstances required them to step up and accept the mantle of leadership.
The military is great at forging leaders, and so are organizations we joined in our youth, such as the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, and school sports teams.
But while many people learn leadership skills while growing up, those skills can lie dormant until circumstances require them. The question that only you can answer is, are you a leader?
As a business owner, you're naturally designated as the leader, but do you really lead? Do you motivate your employees to follow you, or do you have trouble getting employees to do what you ask of them?
Leadership is a process. No one waves a magic wand and makes you a leader. You started your business, inherited it, or purchased it from a previous owner. You had to learn how to lead, motivate, and build a team.
Some Trial and Error
Leadership involves trial and error, education, and if you're fortunate, you will find a mentor who can show you the ropes. As the leader, you get to make the tough decisions; the tougher the decisions that you make the more your team will respect you for them. General George S. Patton said, “Be willing to make decisions. That's the most important quality in a good leader.”
It's important to remember that "management" isn’t leadership. Managers and leaders have different functions and focus. A manager typically has a short term focus three to six months outlook, whereas a leader focuses on the long-term view. Leaders are looking out two to five years and they think about how to inspire their followers. A manager tries to keep things going and maintain the status quo. Leaders challenge the status quo and develop new ideas. A leader isn’t better than a manager is or vice versa, both are necessary functions in a business; are you a manager or are you a leader?
An effective leader has to have credibility. You have to mean what you say and you have to follow through with your plans. That is not to say that plans can’t change because of circumstances, but you can’t make it a habit or your followers will begin to discount what you say because they will know that you will ultimately change your mind. It comes down to a matter of trust. Do your employees trust you? If they don’t trust you, they will not follow you, simple as that.
Effective communication is another key trait for leaders. You must be able to convey your plans to your employees, sure, you pay their salaries, but if they don’t understand, what you want them to do, they will not be very effective in achieving it, and you will just get frustrated. Make sure that you clearly signal your intentions, just like your wouldn’t intentional smile when you were disciplining an employee, you want to makes sure you nonverbal or body language matches your verbal’s. Ask for feedback to ensure that your employees know what you expect.
As a leader, you must be an active listener. When an employee comes to you with a problem, set aside time to speak with them without interruptions. Listen to what they have to say. Pause before you reply to make sure that they have finished speaking. Ask questions, to clarify what you think they said so that you completely understand. Then paraphrase what you heard them say and watch for signals (facial expressions, head nods, etc.) to ensure that you understand. If you have done it correctly the will say, “Exactly, or that’s right!” Once you know what is on their minds, you can then solve the correct problem.
Be assertive, and don’t be ineffective. No one likes working for a leader who doesn’t know his or her own mind. Say what you mean, let people know what you need, and learn to say no. You can’t be all things to all people, and if you spread yourself too thin, you'll be ineffective as a leader. Gen. Omar Bradley said, "The greatness of a leader is measured by the achievements of the led. This is the ultimate test of his effectiveness."
Andy Fracica is the author of Navigating the Marketing Maze, he is, a speaker, a marketing coach, and president and CEO of Fracica Enterprises, Inc., a consulting firm specializing in marketing, and social media strategy. He has over 30 years of sales, marketing, and product management experience in the heating ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) industry. He concentrates on helping companies deliver their message in an ever increasingly crowded market by helping HVAC dealers more effectively market their businesses without breaking their budgets. Contact him at 260-338-4554, [email protected] or visit the Fracica Enterprises, Inc., website.
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