A few days ago a Found|READer introduced me to Ben Yoskovitz and his Instigator Blog. It’s awesome. I had other plans for posting to the site today, but then I found Ben’s piece on the defining factors of a leader, entitled: 10 Essential Business Leadership Skills. Everyone can benefit from reading this. As Ben says,
Truth be told, not everyone is a leader. It’s just not meant for everyone. And that’s OK.
But more people are leaders than they realize. Leadership takes on many different faces; it’s just a question of understanding how you lead and why.
Then Ben offers 10 key skills you’ll need to succeed as a leader. We share them here, abridged:
- Lead By Example. … One of the best ways to lead is by example – pitching in where needed, lending a helping hand, and making sure that the work you do is clearly understood by your team.
- Passion. [This] doesn’t mean you have to be constantly cheery, it means you’ve got to believe in what you’re doing and what your company is doing.
- Be Organized. … If you’re frazzled and messy, your team will be too. When you’re organized you’ll be much more productive and so will everyone else.
Delegate. A great leader needs to be able to delegate effectively. The key [in the words of 2 great minds]
- “Don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” – George S. Patton.
- “Delegating work works, provided the one delegating works, too.” – Robert Half
- Take Ownership and Responsibility. Although you’ve just delegated work and truly given your team ownership, you also have to take ownership and responsibility at all times.
- Communicate Effectively. Communicate to employees how their work matters in the bigger picture [and] communicate success … people need affirmation. Be precise. Insecure leaders will often ramble. Whether you’re giving praise, providing constructive criticism, or defining goals … figure out how much to say and in what order. Get to the point.
- Be Brave and Honest. The project your team has worked on for 6 months just got shelved. Now what? You have to talk to someone about their lack of effort recently… Tell it like it is. Don’t sugarcoat, don’t obfuscate. Don’t be a jerk either. You have to learn how to present things to your team in an honest but balanced manner.
- Great Listener. If all you want to do is talk, you’re not a leader…When you listen more, you can respond more effectively and get to the heart of things much faster.
- Know Your People. You do have to know what makes them tick…Keep track of simple things: birthdays, marriages, children, etc. The more you know your people the more common ground you’re likely to find, the more you’ll be able to connect.
- Be a Follower. Benjamin Disraeli said, “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?”… Being a leader-follower means finding value in your team, getting inspired by your team, encouraging your team to communicate, brainstorm and be open.
You’ll definitely want to read Ben’s entire post. There much more great advice in it.
But remember, as Ben points out in his conclusion,
“Very few people are great leaders overnight. It takes time and practice. As long as you’re open about learning along the way and working with your team on leadership versus dictating to them, most people will be happy to go on the journey with you.”
Print out our summary and paste it to your wall. Or put it in your wallet. Or commit it to memory. (I have done just this.) Re-reading it periodically will help you keep tabs on your progress as a leader, as well as help you measure the quality of the “buy-in” you have from your staff at different stages. That “buy-in” is equally important; whether your team is “on the journey with you” will be a huge determinant of the ultimate success of your business — not merely your success as a leader.
In other words, if you find, through Ben’s test, that you’re not a good leader, that’s OK. But then find someone who is a good leader to head-up your company.
If you can do that, you’ll stand an equally good chance of being successful with your business. You don’t have to be the leader to be successful as a founder. You do need to know what good leadership is.