Whether you have an executive role in a company or manage people in your own business, your aim as a business leader should always be to add strings to your bow that will improve your leadership capabilities.
Few business leaders will argue with the fact that they are learning all the time, whether it is to improve on leadership skills that they already possess or to learn new ones.
When you take into consideration the way that the success of any business depends to a large extent on how its leader operates – from making important decisions to motivating employees – it is clear that taking the time to add new skills and business techniques to the equation will result in a happier and more productive workforce as well as superior decision making when the pressure is on.
With that in mind, here is a look at some important insights that can help business leaders find success in any industry.
Think back to a time when you worked as an employee. It might have been when you had a part-time job to earn some extra money in college, or you may have had a regular job before you began your managerial career.
How would you feel if your boss or manager spoke to you disrespectfully? They may have had other things on their mind, or it could have just been their nature to not treat people with respect. The reason is not important; treating people in this way is never acceptable.
Can you remember how you felt about this person? All it takes is a few harsh words that are given without any thought to shatter someone’s confidence and have a negative effect on how they work.
Now think back to a boss or manager who was friendly and offered you regular encouragement. If you did a good job, you were likely praised. If you fell short in any way, you were likely encouraged by this boss and pointed in the right direction so you knew how you could improve.
Which one of these individuals would you have gone the extra mile for?
There is obviously a fine line between an employee who is trying their hardest but falling short and an employee who is trying to pull a fast one, but the definition of a good business leader is being able to tell the difference.
Motivation is the key
It would be fair to say that there is not a definitive method of motivation that business leaders should take on board because it depends on the workforce and can largely be put down to experience. A good business leader will know exactly which triggers to pull when it comes to motivating their workforce.
Perhaps one of the most effective methods of motivation is to lead from the front. Show your workforce that you have the right attitude to achieve fantastic results, and this way of working will become infectious and inspire your workforce to achieve greater success.
One example of this would be if you were a business leader in a retail environment and you told your staff to always be polite to customers and work with a smile on their faces. This may sound good on the surface, but if you are rude and spend a lot of your time being visibly annoyed, how do you think your staff will behave? They may be smiley and helpful while you are around, but the moment that your back is turned, it could very well be a different story.
Be prepared for difficult conversations
Anyone who tells you that being a business leader doesn’t involve difficult conversations at times is not telling the whole truth.
By its very nature, being a leader will mean that you will sometimes have to tell people things they don’t want to hear. In addition, you will probably also have difficult conversations with yourself from time to time.
Let’s look at an example of a difficult conversation with an employee that will result in untold problems if not tackled immediately.
It has been brought to your attention that a female employee is often late to work, and she usually presents one excuse after another. However, when you approach her regarding her poor time-keeping, it becomes obvious to you that she is a single mother who is struggling with her childcare.
These problems aside, she is a hard-working individual who is a credit to the company, so the obvious answer is to help her out in any way possible. However, you will also have to explain to her that this tardiness cannot continue because it is having a negative effect on other employees as well as the business in general.
It may also be useful to offer help regarding the problems that she is experiencing because of work-related stress. Employees who are stressed tend to be less productive, so helping her could well help the business overall.
Another example of a difficult conversation would be having to tell employees that you are going to have to let them go due to a change in your business plans. This could be described as the epitome of a difficult conversation because you may know too well that the people that you are going to have to let go have obligations such as mortgages, children to support, and bills to pay. However, situations like this are all part of being a business leader. Most leaders will tell you that even though these scenarios don’t get any easier, it is something that just has to be done to aid the running of a company.
Learn how to accept change
A business leader who is unable to accept and embrace change will struggle to take their business to the next level.
The business landscape is constantly changing in so many ways, and this is true in every industry. One of the most recent changes across many industries has been due to the pandemic and the resulting lockdowns, which has prompted many businesses to instruct their staff to work from home.
If that wasn’t tumultuous enough, there is now the situation where change is being implemented yet again with the requirement that these employees who were working from home now have to return to work and are struggling to do so in some cases.
Changes in technology and workplace practices also need to be tackled. An extreme example could be a payroll department that insisted on using a pen and paper to calculate the payroll requirements instead of using the latest computer software because it is “how they’ve always done it”.
Mental health in the workplace is yet another example of how things have changed over the years. Employees who claimed to be off work with stress were often treated as though they were making up excuses to enjoy some time off, but a good business leader will now try to find out if there are any underlying issues that are in their power to resolve instead of assuming that someone is being dishonest.
Learning how to be a good business leader
There is no getting away from the fact that a business leader becomes more effective with experience, but a high-quality online bachelors degree in organizational leadership is an excellent qualification to put on your resumé and one that really does add to your leadership skills as opposed to just being a piece of paper.
It is also important to keep in mind that a qualification like this one will fast-track your career and open up opportunities that may have not been possible without it.
Think of this qualification as the foundation of your business career, and your growing experience will build on this.
Be prepared to take criticism
It doesn’t matter if you are the leader of a company or part of the cleaning staff; nobody likes to receive criticism. In the case of a business leader, however, it can often be part and parcel of the position.
Not all criticism is justified, but it can be very challenging to work with someone who believes that they are never wrong. Few other traits are more annoying and disheartening, especially within the workforce of a company.
It is not unusual for employees to know far more about a particular job than the head of the company. If you instruct someone to carry out a job in a particular way, take the time to listen to them if they tell you that you are wrong.
The secret is to not take it personally. If you dismiss this type of feedback outright because you think you know better, it will probably alienate the employee and have a negative impact on the working environment.
Employees should actually be encouraged to offer suggestions regarding how a job could be carried out more effectively. If these suggestions are implemented, a reward should be given in the form of cash or other rewards.
Look after yourself
When business leaders carry too much weight on their shoulders, it can result in various health problems. Therefore, it is important that you look out for warning signs so you can prevent minor issues from becoming major problems.
For example, you may notice that you are having trouble sleeping or that you are becoming slightly irritable at home with your family.
It could be that you are not finding pleasure in activities that used to be enjoyable or you are finding yourself worrying about things that could happen. These are all signs of stress, so take a step back to see if you can identify the situations that may be triggering you.
Could it be that your diet has taken a turn for the worse, such as by eating ready meals in the evening instead of a wholesome meal? Are you drinking more alcohol than usual in an attempt to take the edge off a stressful day and getting little or no exercise because you are just too tired?
Once these habits take hold, it can be the start of a slippery slope. Be honest with yourself and commit to making the necessary changes. Working on your well-being will make a big difference and should allow you to handle the challenges of business as well as life in general with a renewed vigor that will yield much more positive results.
In the highly acclaimed book by Tim Ferris, Tribe of Mentors, the author was asked if he had noticed if any of the mentors who had been interviewed for his book had anything in common. It may surprise you to know that a high percentage of these influential people went to bed early and practiced some form of meditation. If you are a business leader, it may be worth considering taking a leaf out of their book.
The little things make a big difference
How many times have you had a conversation with someone who was looking directly at you, but it was obvious that they were not taking in a word that you were saying?
To say that this is annoying would have to be something of an understatement. If it is someone in a position of authority who you are having this conversation with, you could be forgiven for wondering why you even bother talking to them.
If you have a conversation with an employee and he or she tells you that their daughter loves baking cakes, imagine how that person would feel if you asked them a few weeks from now if they have enjoyed any nice cakes lately or how things are going for your daughter at school?
It is that personal touch that can make all the difference. As a business leader, if you make the time for these little things, it can mean so much to the people who work under you and shows that you actually care.
The buck stops with you
The term “ultimate responsibility” applies to so many areas of life, especially for business leaders.
If you are doing your job properly, there is nothing wrong with basking in the glory of success along with your team. At the same time, however, you must take responsibility if something goes wrong because, ultimately, the buck stops with you – even if you believe that the problem has nothing to do with you.
Your employees will make mistakes, and you will also be wrong at times. However, the team that sticks together through the rough and the smooth will be the team that succeeds over the long term.
When something goes wrong, it can be a hard lesson to take. However, if the problem is the fault of the employee, keep in mind that it was you or your team who hired them in the first place. Is it possible that the training program of the company needs to be improved in some way?
If you accept that the buck stops with you, it will result in a greater respect from the workforce as well as respect from any client or customer who may be affected because they will probably realize that you have stepped up to the plate, even though it was not you who was at fault.
There is so much involved in becoming a great business leader in the ever-changing business environment, but some things will always remain the same.
A degree in organizational leadership is a great place to start as you will have a solid foundation to build on, but it is also true that experience counts for so much.
A leader who has been in the business for years will probably cringe as they remember the decisions they made in the early days, but as the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
To sum up, the ideal business leader, they must be humble and willing to take ultimate responsibility.
They must be able to motivate their teams, recognize if someone has a problem, and be prepared to put the time in to make things right.
A business leader should make their own health and well-being a priority and be honest with themselves if something doesn’t seem right, such as not sleeping properly or seeing signs of stress.
Gone are the days when business leaders lived by the adage “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” or had to show a tough exterior that resulted in the workforce being scared to carry out their job in case they did something wrong.
Being kind and caring is not a sign of weakness in a business leader. In fact, it points to a leader who has his or her finger on the pulse and shows that they know exactly what is required to lead any business through the trials and tribulations of business life.
One thing is for certain: a business leader who can prove that they have the ability to ride out the troubled economy in which we find ourselves will always be in demand and will be able to pick and choose any future opportunities that come their way.
Image source: Getty Images