The Leadership and Growth Connection

By Jeff Harkness

I’m having a running dialogue with a client that involves effective leadership style. To his credit this client is changing after I pointed out his approach and routine was limiting the company’s ability to grow and attract quality talent.  This owner is fair, but often manages with stern in your face comments, is never wrong, certainly impatient and at times just negative. Sound familiar? It leads to the question, “Are leaders born or made?”  The answer is both, but data shows more leaders are made than born into greatness.  This path isn’t easy, but rewards and growth in business lie ahead if you are an owner or manager that is willing to look in the mirror and make some changes.

Leadership is defined as “a process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task”.  Studies of leadership have produced theories stating leaders must have traits such as vision, charisma, intelligence and core values. So how do you stack up? If you want to succeed in this industry you need people to follow you. It’s hard enough to find help and to compete, but if you don’t invest in making yourself a better leader you are missing the boat. Focus on these key points to begin your transformation.

  1. Know your strengths and weaknesses: Effective leaders invest in their strengths and then surround themselves with the right people to maximize their team in areas where they are weak. The question is how? Start by taking one of the many personality profiles tests. Myers-Briggs, DISC, or Wonderlic all are effective. Strengths, weaknesses, motivations, work habits and insights for your improvement are produced in these reports. Don’t surround yourself with people just like you. I know it’s easy to like them (Of course they remind you of yourself) but it’s a mistake plain and simple. Check your big ego and bring in some people who are different but compliment you. Watch what happens to your culture.
  1. Manage pessimistic thinking: Focus your time and energy in areas that impact your business. Sales, hour’s management, people management and productive scheduling are a must. Every hour of your day needs to be efficient. Good leaders can compartmentalize things. Work a weekly plan with clear focus. You won’t have time to get emotional on issues if you are focused on daily tasks. Remember successful leaders create a positive and inspiring workplace culture. You can’t do this if you’re negative and stressed all the time.
  1. Engage your people and provide feedback: Consistent regular meetings with a prepared agenda have to be a priority. Too many owners think talking on the phone 3-4 times a day to a manager is enough. This is false. You are not too busy. Schedule time with your leaders and make it a priority. Mix in coffee or lunch. Show people you care. Your people need direction and feedback. The cardinal sin is to say to one’s self “I’m paying them a lot of money. They should know how to do that.” What they need is your leadership.
  1. Clearly define metrics and reward success: Leaders must communicate their specific goals and expectations. Management must be held accountable and actual results compared to budget should be reviewed regularly. When the team meets or exceeds expectations recognize the win! Too many companies don’t keep score or don’t manage the right metrics.
  1. Invest in relationships: Leaders expand their companies by investing time, money and emotions in mutually beneficial relationships. Associating with the right customers, employees and centers of influence involves planning, passion, trust and a genuine belief that time will bear results. This is a 24/7 passion, not a nine to five gig a few days a month.

Remember, leadership is a learned behavior that becomes unconscious and automatic over time. Pressure and stress come with the territory but ultimately great leaders serve as enablers of talent, culture and results. The best companies in the industry have leaders who invest in making themselves better. Get out of your old routine and go do something that helps you be a better leader! Sounds like a good New Year’s resolution!