Let’s remove the proverbial elephant in the room and not pretend that I am an expert in leadership. Diversity certification and supplier diversity yes, but leadership, not so much.
What can I possibly offer to the vast world of accomplished CEOs, presidents and other well-known leaders that have not yet been shared? All I have is my story, my goals and my unique vision and version of boutique business leadership.
The toughest management challenge is always oneself. Do I possess the ability to acknowledge and understand my own values, perspectives, strengths and weaknesses? Am I able to nurture and harness my own passions, abilities and emotions and make effective decisions? Am I aware of my vulnerabilities enough to know when to appreciate the proficiencies of others?
Once a person is confident that they are able to continue the ongoing process of self-leadership and self-reflection, it may be the opportune time to expand one’s leadership to a team.
The scariest part of growing my business was my first hire. Not the accounting hire, not the attorney hire, nor the other non-customer facing hires. Those are skills-based hires that can be contracted and do not affect the interactions with my clients. It was the first hire that allows clients to judge you based on someone else’s actions. Yikes! Until that point, I was leading myself and could only blame or salute myself for any feedback the company received.
With that first hire, I had to lead another person that represented my company and me!
How does this person need to be led? Do their tasks require a more hands-on approach, or can I rely on status reports? It comes down to whom the person is and what they are assigned to do. What is their motivation to take on the challenge and if they already have the experience?
I was very fortunate to have been able to hire the PERFECT person! Yes, I did have to kiss a few frogs first, but luckily the frog kissing was relatively short and painless compared to other stories I have heard. In my (humble) opinion, this is the key to leading a small business. Staff need to be able to do multiple tasks and not require direction all the time. They need to be flexible and independent. The perfect person for my business is self-motivated and completely understands the WHY (https://startwithwhy.com/) behind what the company does.
My leadership style is to lead by example, with heart, integrity and strong professional relationships. I am more decisive than not, assertive and confident. I am quite clear on what my “why” is and develop my team based on our shared vision. Working with me is often more fun and social than working with others. I want my team to want to be there.
My goal is that as I continue to grow my business is to not lose sight of the leader I strive to be, continue to self-evaluate, never manage, and always lead. In the words of one of my leadership heroes, Bernard Tyson, CEO of Kaiser Permanente, “The starting point [of effective leadership] is a sound and well understood mission that everyone galvanizes around, and when people sign up for this mission, they know it is not up for debate.”
What is up for debate is how best to accomplish that. When a leader “respects what individuals can bring to the party” everyone reaps the benefits. That is the leader I hope I am and will continue to be!