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7 Keys To Be A Leader In Your Business

I hope your business is growing well. I don’t know when you started your business, but if it is growing well, and perhaps on the way you envisaged, you will have hit that stage where you are no longer the do-er.

When you first started, like me, you probably did everything. Nothing was beneath you, not even cleaning the office!

But as your business grew, and you hired staff, and the number of staff grew, doing everything yourself was no longer feasible. Your role changed, from being that specialist expert in your trade to being a generalist having to know a bit about everything in the running of the business – despite the fact that you just couldn’t do it all yourself.

Sound familiar? Guess what? You’ve moved from do-er to leader!

You are no longer expected to solve every problem, but you are expected to set the agenda and leads the way for everyone.

How do you do that? What do you need to do in order to transition?

Here are the 7 keys I believe you need to know and develop in order to be the leader in your business:-

  1. The key to building trust
  2. The key to possessing emotional intelligence
  3. The key to being open to new ideas
  4. The key to asking the right questions
  5. The key to diplomacy
  6. The key to finding balance
  7. The key to sustaining your vision.

Let’s take them one at a time.

The Key To Building Trust:

Your biggest challenge, especially if you are just starting to hire staff, is the need to teach other people how to do your job, and then trusting them to do it.

It’s natural that you want to impose your standards and stay in charge of what you know. But you just can’t grow if you do that, there’s only one of you. If you really get stuck every day on the detail of what you do, you won’t have the time or headspace to lead the whole business.

You need to build your trust in other people as well as to build their trust in you. This means that you need to show and teach, not take over.

They will make mistakes – of course they will, you did when you started off – but the focus is on what happens as a result of those mistakes? Do they learn? Do you learn? Is there a better way of doing what was supposed to happen so that you can cut out future room for error?

The key to building trust is about empowerment. Your people need to be empowered to run with the opportunity and take initiative, but the balance is to be watchful so that you can guide and teach before they really fall over. When they realise that they have responsibility, that they are empowered to do things and accept the consequences, but that you are available to make sure they don’t launch themselves over a cliff, they will trust you to ask for help and allow trust in them to be built.

The Key To Possessing Emotional Intelligence:

“Emotional Intelligence” is simply the ability to identify and manage your own emotions and the ability to identify others’ emotions and emotional needs.

While you are “the boss” and to some degree may need to act as a boss (like making the final decision for example) your team need to know that you are also human. If you can display emotional intelligence, you can show more of yourself, your humility and your emotional responses.

After all leadership is about leading people and if you are unable to identify your negative emotions such as frustration, how can you lead them into responding appropriately? Leadership is about inspiring people, being a role model and being there for them when they need support. This needs you to identify your emotions, manage them, identify people’s needs, and respond to them.

We’ve all met the manager who yells out in frustration and loudly demands action. How did you rank them as a “leader”?

The key to emotional intelligence is to be genuinely interested in people, and to stop and think about the range of emotions you display as a human being. How can you harness these emotions to inspire and lead others?

The Key To Being Open To New Ideas:

If you have run your business on your own for a while, it can be very challenging to meet a really good team member who has plenty of ideas.

They see them selves as enthusiastic and contributing, but you may see their ideas with some caution. Tell the trust, have the words “I’ve seen that before” or “That won’t work” come automatically in your mind? It’s true that you have done the hard yards and they don’t know about all the struggles and mistakes of your early days – and it may be true that some of their ideas may sound similar to those early mistakes of yours – but time, circumstances, context and the idea itself may have changed.

The people you are leading are probably of a younger generation than you are with different life experiences. It just may be that trying that old idea – with new tools like social media – may now work.

The key to being open to new ideas is to allow discussion and exploration. Listen first, understand, ask questions, and then allow them to study or research or trial it. Use your experience to identify the challenges they might face, not to shut it down.

The Key To Asking The Right Questions:

Recognise that now as a leader instead of a do-er, you are no longer acting as the specialist, knowledgeable about your subject. You need to be a generalist, listening about others’ specialist areas and setting the agenda on how to develop these to the advantage of your business.

As a leader over the whole business, you may not have all the answers. But with your experience in the business, you can leverage others’ knowledge by asking questions and then redirecting them.

Ask all sorts of questions about the business to understand who are your best customers and why. Ask if your production process can be made better and how. Ask what wastes money and what makes it. Ask what mistakes you’ve made and how to fix them.

Then, the key to asking the right questions is to start to prioritise the information you are getting and drilling down with more questions on key areas.

The Key To Diplomacy:

As a leader, you need more than just charisma and great communication skills to bring people with you. It is your vision and you need to lead the way so that people see that vision, desire to follow that vision, and walk the way.

This takes more than persuasive skills – because others might argue or disagree, or be confused, or misunderstand. Dealing with this takes diplomacy and understanding. Leading means managing conflict amongst star players, negotiating solutions both internally and with external parties. This might mean that you have to build alliances – sometimes with people who would normally be seen as in competition.

The key to diplomacy is to keep your eye on the big vision and the desired outcomes while getting there. Helping others to see that big picture and to agree to work towards it is diplomacy.

The Key To Finding Balance:

You may need to act sometimes as a leader, and sometimes as a manager. Sometimes, you need to understand why you need to do something in the business, and move your people to understand that so that they can move in the same direction.

Yet sometimes, you need to take a tactical view and actually walk with them in that direction, setting out tasks and actions for them to initiate.

This needs balance – in other words you can’t be Richard Branson all the time, sometimes you need to be one of his aircraft mechanics. The most important thing to recognise when finding this balance is to focus on what is important, what has the biggest impact.

The key to finding balance is to be able to focus on both people and processes, both purpose and profits of the business.

The Key To Sustaining Your Vision:

What is leadership, if not remaining true to your vision?

Sustainable, resilient businesses stay true to their vision of what they are and how they are – their purpose. Your ultimate responsibility as a leader is to see to it that your vision survives change within and outside the business so that the business thrives by sticking to its purpose.

The key to sustaining your vision is to articulate it, be concrete in how it translates in day to day business activity, and then to insist on everyone knowing and working towards it. In this way you should know the key drivers and success factors of the business and be continually measuring them.


The period of growth in a small business can be its most critical. This is where your singular control of what it does, how it sells, how it manufactures and buys, and how it acts on a day to day basis can be put at risk. Management of the situation is no longer enough during this period and you need to display the characteristics of a good leader. These 7 keys or traits can be developed through thoughtful use of experience, and through the back and forth of working with your team.


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