It goes without saying that you have read many articles on Leadership. There are many blogs, journals, books, and such, all offering “tips from the top” and “how to make £-gerzillions in 12 months” or “leadership is a mindset” type of perspectives. It is true that many of these articles do indeed offer quality advice so why is this one any different? Well, in its intention, to provide possible ideas to assist the lonely life of the leader, is very much the same. Where this one differs, and hopefully succeeds, is that the cases and references contained herein are based on actual situations, actual events, actual people in actual businesses. And recent too; these are not gathered from the expanding archives, nor dredged from the files of the 70’s and 80,s business records, but refer to recent events.
I mention this for two reasons; firstly to assure you that they are genuine and secondly because some of the issues and practices that I reference here could easily otherwise be mistaken for archaic and archane “pre-elightenment” practices before the time of philanthroprenuers, social enterprise and The Big Society.
I will provide them in order of some personal priority but the order is fluid and by all means juggle the content as you so prefer.
Firstly, It’s not your money.
Before horror, denial and indignance set in, let me expand.
You are the Leader. Incidentally, by “Leader” I mean in the context of “leading others” – if you are alone then these comments may have less resonance and relevance. You had (and maybe shared) your vision. You invested your time, energy and money; well done but, put simply, if you are providing all the funds for your business after its initial set up and are not recieving income from customers and/or investors then you do not have a business, you have a hobby; and possibly an expensive one. So, back to the point; the money providing funds for you and your business should be from you successfully providing your product to people willing to pay for it. It is your customers who are funding your business; this is not “your” money it belongs to the business and has materialised as a result of the efforts of ALL your staff. Treat it as such. Your staff and partners have contributed and deserve some recognition and they should expect that the “we are all in it together” theory to at least hold some truth for the work they do. Pay yourself how much and how often you like in accordance with the performance of the business but do not strip your business for personal glory and bling. You are the custodian of the funds; treat themand your partners, respectfully.
Secondly; Its not all about you.
You lead, we know that, but to do that you need followers; if you do not have followers then you are not an inspiring leader of peoples, but are an eccentric performer operating on the fringe of business reality. So, followers it is then and to get followers you need to engage them. I know this may sound somewhat zeitgeist but it holds true for all ages. The “tip” here? Engage them in their own terms, not yours. You may be driven by money, they may not. If they are young and keen then money may well be a priority (to fund the first steps on the property ladder for example) but if they are maturer then longer term commitments such as pensions and investments may be more relevant or social impact and community involvement may motivate them more. Essentially, think about how to engage them in terms that are important to them and not just relevant specifically to you or to the business mission. (Although I would strongly recommend that some social values and objectives are integrated directly into your mission statemnent from the outset.!) An engaged and motivated workforce is far more likely to deliver ALL of your objectives so communicate and listen to their personal requirements and create ways that you can all benefit in terms that are appropriate to all.
And more, detachment will probably allow you a better perspective; standing back to see the wood AND the trees.
Thirdly; You don’t know everything.
If you employ people then it makes sense that you believe that they add some value to your business. It follows that you are prepared to let them perform these duties but here’s the rub; just how unhindered are they actually. If you have to make all the decisions; if you have to sign every cheque; if you have to attend every meeting, if you have to check every task that they complete then let’s be honest, they are considerably hindered. Essentially you do not trust them to do their work. The answer; trust them and prove this by your actions. Delegate, communicate, share, support them; inspire them to be creative and innovative. They probably know more about what they do than you do so create and environment that encourages this knowledge and innovation and a culture that supports it. Trust is something that is better shared and the only way to test trust-worthiness is to actually trust someone. If they can trust you to lead them, you should be able to trust them to follow.
Essentially, detach, empower, trust. Business is about people. Your u-s-p is made all the more unique because of the definitive uniqueness of you and your staff. An innovative product or incredible service will always differentiate you from you competitors but it is your relationship and leadership of your partners and employees that will really drive home your uniqueness. As a leader you have a duty to support your followers as much as they have a duty to behave responsibly and be trustworthy with your business. They have a self responsibility, you have a “collective” one.
There are innumerable tools and techniques on the market but these, above, I hope are examples of a few fundamental truths.
Detach, empower, trust. What can be the worse that happens – you can always go back to the “old ways” !!
This article was published in the3rdimagazine on 4 June 2012.