Some entrepreneurs are thought of as natural born leaders. Perhaps you have someone in mind who effortlessly leads a well-balanced team? Reality check: not all good leaders start out that way. In fact, that person has likely put in some heavy work and self-reflection to get there, making plenty of mistakes along the way.
Entrepreneurs are used to being everything to everyone, but as your business grows, it’s essential to step back and loosen the reins, bringing in a team you can trust to help build you up to that next level. Whether you’re born with leadership skills or not, creating strong systems and processes will set your team up for success. In this blog, we’ll cover the simplest ways to help entrepreneurs like you to become better leaders.
There are many definitions of a good leader, but if we’re getting back to basics, a good leader is someone who shows up, is responsive and reactive and avoids a fight or flight response. They sell (or maybe live) the vision and core values of their organization and create a performance culture that focuses on growth, profitability, stability.
Solopreneurs wear every hat going - executing tactical decisions, multitasking and driving results. But true leaders recognise the strategic benefits of delegating to a team with clarity and consistency. You might be making steady growth alone, but with a good team, you will transition from startup to serious long-term scaling. It can’t be said enough; your company’s growth is dependent on your ability to lead.
The vast majority of people will strive to do well at work. After all, you spend most of your time working, why would you want to screw it up? Hire well, and your team will have your back, ready to deliver. But if you lack clarity with your objectives and expectations from the beginning, you’re already setting them up to fail.
Avoid being the bottleneck to progress within your team - by setting up these structures and routines you’ll avoid unproductive micromanagement, the hallmark of ineffective leadership.
If you’ve been running a successful business alone, delegating tasks you feel that only you can complete will feel unnatural, and perhaps even counterproductive. After all, you’ve driven the success so far. But ask yourself at what cost?
Working tirelessly on a neverending to-do list is unsustainable and ultimately unproductive. What would happen if you didn’t own the quarterly targets, but instead focused on a performance culture where you could confidently hand that over to a team member in a senior leadership role?
With the right planning and systems in place you can employ A Players you trust to deliver, so you can focus time and energy on sustainable growth. This is impossible if you get caught up in the minutiae of the day to day. Communicate leadership roles clearly to the rest of the team, and make it known that you give authority for them to sign-off on projects.
When we’re in danger or anticipate a threat, it’s natural to have a “fight or flight” response, but this reactive response can have disastrous effects on your team, business and your ability to lead. Team members respond less effectively to leaders that demonstrate a lack of perspective.
Focus on lowering your adrenaline. Take 5 minutes to regain composure. Go for a walk and when you come back, brain dump everything that’s going on in a list, and order it by priority. What can be delegated? What can wait? Chances are not every single task is as critically urgent as it feels, but your responses will influence the outcomes.
So you’ve dialled down your “fight or flight” response, but what about the responses of your team members? While their approaches to work might seem out of your control, your responses to your team are as important to those of your workload.
Have you noticed a wave of sickness in your team? This is a red flag.
Chances are your team has had a burst of short-term energy before becoming burnt out. Take a step back to evaluate how yourself and your leadership team have been responding to the demands of the team’s workload - how you act will reflect on their behaviour.
This leads nicely onto responsibility over blame - essential for a happy, healthy and effective team. If you lead by example, team members are likely to stand accountable for their departments and projects. Transparency and honesty will always be more effective at building trust with your team than searching for scapegoats for perceived failures.
While periods of rapid growth are exciting, they increase your exposure to vulnerabilities and your ability to respond. You might be figuring out new processes, customer support, new inventory or products which are all exciting steps, but avoid putting yourself back into “fight or flight”. Be responsive rather than reactive.
When things don’t go to plan, it can be easy to slip back into the “fight or flight” mode again. But this will inevitably lead to overwhelm in your team and underperformance. Be curious and ask questions:
Make every effort to understand where they’re at. By doing this you will earn their respect and come up with a solution that everyone’s on board with. By not feeling attached, everyone’s cortisol stays low and you can move onto problem solving, rather than blame. Good leaders are constantly increasing their attention spans so they can fully engage with everything that’s going on around them.