Telling the truth about SME life today

The leadership checklist: Being a better boss next year

What makes a great leader?

It’s a question that has been tackled by many business thinkers. In fact, there are tens of thousands of studies, theories, frameworks, models and recommended best practices. For a busy small business owner, it’s important to cut through the barrage of noise and battles for attention and focus on what really matters. Our mindset is one of constant distraction. Psychologist Hebert Simon wrote: ?Information consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention.

Research by YouGov shows that only one in seven people wake up feeling fresh every day of the week and one in four wake up mentally exhausted on four or more days. The Japanese have a word for this busy state, karoshi, which translates as ?death from overwork. This is a fate we must avoid at all costs. No wonder most leaders are left feeling less than effective. It feels like you need the brains of a scientist, the karma of a Buddhist and the execution skills of a Navy Seal to get the job done.

A founder mentality

Leadership is undergoing a seismic shift. In many SMEs, there’s a chronic leadership gap: businesses are over-managed and underled. To progress, we must all become leaders of ourselves; this means we must make change happen and become a lifelong learner of leadership. The good news is that leadership can be broken down into daily behaviours that are learnable. That’s not a typo. Anyone can learn to lead, especially in an SME as long as they start with what I call a founder mentality, which is best summed up as:

Founder mentality = direction + (commitment) x (execution)

(1) Direction. This means what it says! Where is your business heading” What’s the vision and how will we get there Without clarity on these fundamental questions, it’s easy for any business to lose its focus. Make sure the direction is aspirational and purposeful. Not only is it necessary for prioritising effort on your goals, it also reduces fear of the unknown and helps the team to stay on track.

(2) Commitment. Are you walking your why, your leadership purpose Are we all in” Is the team engaged (fully motivated) and enabled (skill/ability). Many SME’s are engaged but not enabled. Do a skills audit of your team’s capabilities and start turning obstacles into opportunities; and look for coachable moments every day.

(3) Execution. This means turning talk and goals into daily action. Declare what’s important and then get out of the way and let your talent get to work. Is everybody accountable or is there an SEP mindset. This stands for ‘somebody else’s problem?. It’s endemic in many companies and is the opposite of the leader’s mindset.

You know the characters: blame throwers, energy suckers, silent assassins, and misery monsters that drag the whole team down. A SEP culture means avoidance: excuses, inertia, and lazy back covering. Like a disease that’s airborne, SEP can contaminate a team, a company, and even you.

Image: Shutterstock

Continue to read to find out more about the exercise that will help you become a better leader.


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