Leading a small business is a complex job, and it’s doubtful anyone is born with all the necessary skills to be successful.
That means you can learn to be a top-notch leader but it entails a lot of work and time to get those lessons down. But there are also ways to improve your leadership skills right now. Here are three ways you can become the leader you are meant to be.
Evaluate Your Skills
Be open to assessing your leadership skills. While it can be tough to see your faults, there is no other way to improve if you don’t understand your weaknesses.
If you are having trouble getting started, many organizations offer online quizzes to evaluate your skills. Among them is Harvard Business School’s free abbreviated eight-minute test to provide an initial sense of your leadership skills and a comparison to your peers. You can sign up for the test here.
After taking an online test, you’ll have something to go on, but a true evaluation requires input from others. The best evaluation, includes your views along with those of former bosses, your employees, colleagues and others whom you’ve worked with over the years.
In order to get the feedback from your peers and others, send a brief email explaining that you are interested in improving your leadership skills and would appreciate honest feedback. Here are some areas you can ask people to rank you from 1-10.
Communication and Interpersonal
Upon receiving feedback, don’t forget to send a thank you note for taking the time to help you. Once you review the responses, see how they gel with your own perspective. It should give you a starting place to work on becoming a better leader.
Communicate with your entire staff. You can start with weekly meetings this week. Then make sure you also include individual conversations, try launching an online newsletter and other ways you can come up with. Remember to have a two-way conversation, not a monologue. That means you need to talk and really listen to what people are saying. Study after study have shown that people want to work where they are treated fairly and opinions are valued.
A good leader creates an atmosphere where employees are not afraid to provide bad news, such as not meeting sales goals for the quarter. It’s better to know sooner rather than later so you can take quick action to improve the situation. But if employees are worried more about your emotional reaction, they may try to avoid being the one to deliver the bad news. Even though it can be an extremely difficult to control your emotions, a true leader knows how to not let feelings take over in the workplace.
Your time and money are limited as a small business owner. But you need to make it a priority to sharpen your leadership skills. New theories and methodologies are always emerging so you need to keep up to date to make sure you are evolving. While you should make it a point to read the latest books and articles about the topic, it also helps immensely to attend professional seminars and other events.
There are a lot of quality online courses as well. Here are some of the best free online courses that you can take on your own schedule:
Level 5 Leadership: This one-hour course provides an overview of how to become a Level 5 Leader and is based on the Ann Arbor SPARK Entrepreneurial Boot Camp Program. The concept was created by business author Jim Collins and is based on the idea that people who lead with personal humility and professionalism will achieve superior results.
MIT Management Executive Education Webinars offer free sessions on a variety of topics from many leading professors at the renowned MIT Sloan business school, and they often focus on leadership. You can learn about the latest theories and concepts in leadership.
Alison.com is a web site that offers free courses targeting entrepreneurs. There are many leadership courses including “Leadership Skills in Business.”