Starting a small business is no easy undertaking - it requires hard work, determination and a drive to succeed, all of which are hallmarks of a great leader. Managing staff also calls for skills that will go well beyond what many start-up leaders will have developed in the past.
To help expand your abilities while keeping staff engaged, we've assembled six leadership skills that all business leaders will need to embody if they want to be a success.
Among the most basic ingredients for a great leadership style is vision. A good leader will understand where their business is, where it is going and the steps involved to get there.
Vision is also an area where there is considerable overlap between strategy and leadership qualities. As well as writing down this vision in a business plan, leaders have to embody this goal themselves and make it a part of the way they communicate with staff.
This point follows on nicely from vision, because vision is ultimately empty if it isn't backed up by effective communication. Strong leaders will be able to explain why they have taken a certain path, the logic behind it and also build support for their ideas among staff.
Communication has to be a two-way street though. In every business, employees are the ones who are at the coal-face, and they will often have great ideas that can help to refine a business strategy. Being open to this feedback and listening to staff is just as important as explaining a strategy to them in the first place.
You've probably heard the saying that "The buck stops here", well when you are a small-business owner, the buck stops with you. Ultimately, you have to be accountable for everything your business does and stand behind the products and services that you offer, rather than shifting the blame to anyone else.
At the same time though, accountability doesn't mean you can micromanage staff. It's a delicate balancing act between giving staff enough rope so that they can make decisions on their own, but still know that you are prepared to step in if any unforeseen issues arise.
Finding this point between personal accountability and delegating responsibility is something many business owners take years to perfect, but is essential if you want to build a positive, engaging workplace.
4) Emotional intelligence
Understanding your own emotions and those of others will underpin every conversation you have as a business owner. Whether it involves motivating staff, winning over potential clients or hiring for an important role, emotional intelligence is essential.
As well as developing your emotional intelligence, make sure to prioritise these qualities when you are hiring. Having this skill set within your business will help build a strong team and ensure your staff are engaging with customers.
Creativity often goes hand-in-hand with vision, but there are important differences between the two. Creativity can apply to every decision a business owner makes during their day and will help them develop a unique strategy.
While creativity may not be the first quality that jumps to mind for small-business owners, it's important to remember that the speed of change in modern organisations requires a lot of lateral thinking. Over time, a lack of out-of-the-box thinking can start to eat away at your finances and see your competitors gain an advantage.
The applications of a creative mindset don't end there either - business leaders can incorporate this thinking into every decision they undertake, from product development through to marketing initiatives.
6) A willingness to learn
No leader is going to be perfect, they will always need to be reacting to new challenges they encounter. Doing this requires much more than simply responding to issues as they arise, it also calls for business leaders to improve themselves and keep learning.
These opportunities can take many forms. It might be a formal qualification in leadership or management, or it could be a short course to address a very specific gap in your skill set. Regardless of the avenue, business owners need to be willing to constantly learn and improve their skills.
Developing these six qualities can be tricky, and every business owner will have at least one area they need to work on. For those leaders who can develop these areas though, the outcome is going to be a much stronger organisation that attracts and retains engaged staff.