The barrier to business growth is often well hidden inside your team. Ask yourself this question: is your leadership helping future leaders in your business to rise up?
If your business is not growing (or not growing fast enough), do you blame that on the market? The economy? Or do you look inside to seek improvement? Here's some advice: check your leadership.
Revising your leadership is a tough test to take. Too many businesses are experiencing exceptionally difficult times, but, equally, a number of businesses are also growing very fast – particularly in the digital sector.
Leadership expert John Maxwell said, “Grow a leader – grow the organisation” - I think he is right. In my experience of starting and advising high growth companies it is never a lack of great ideas or opportunities that hold a business back, it is always about leadership.
Truly great leadership is about raising up other leaders... which doesn’t sound very helpful, so let me explain:
Let’s start with a clear definition. Leadership is essentially the ability to influence others. Leaders (even if they don’t manage people or have a big title) demonstrate an ability to influence the actions of their fellow workers, customers and the direction of the business.
As you can imagine, leadership and influence can be expressed at all levels of an organisation: sales people can have it, managers can have, directors can have it too.
However, you truly know you have a great leader when he or she begins to develop highly effective teams whose members are also great influencers.
So, here are my 9 questions to ask about your leaders and ourselves.
Does the leader...
...have the ability to influence, both within the team and externally? Do team members listen to what he or she says? Do they copy or model his or her behaviour?
...is their ability to influence independent of their job title? You expect directors to have influence simply as a result of their job title, but do team members pay attention due to fear or do they seek the director’s advice outside of meetings?
...have the character and maturity or do they possess a fundamental character flaw? Leaders need to build trust by being reliable, trustworthy and acting with integrity.
...have a great attitude or do they offer excuses (even valid ones) instead of performance? A great attitude allows leaders to admit mistakes, learn and move on.
And, if you want to know whether this leader is raising up other leaders and developing powerful business growing teams, then ask these questions:
Does his or her team have...
...a strong and compelling common goal (which is not about money)? You will know whether this is true or not by the excitement of the team. It's the team leader’s job to develop and furnish that vision.
...a desire and willingness to co-operate? Do issues get solved without waiting for the next meeting? Or not?
...great communication skills, including the ability to give and act on bad news?
...a shared commitment? Yes, commitment means doing the things you said you’d do, even though you no longer feel so excited about it all.
If any of these are lacking, can you support the team leader to deliver them?
Here is one last test of great leadership.
Can you take bad news and turn it into new opportunities? In the words of Barack Obama’s strategy advisor, Rahm Emanuel, "Never let a serious crisis go to waste." From business to politics, the re-forming and re-arrangement of both business and politics is greater when emerging from a crisis.
If your business is not growing and in crisis, is now the time of your greatest leadership opportunity?