Many factors influence the success of an SME and without doubt not all factors are created equal. A good or great product can sustain an SME for a very long time on its own, but eventually that will start to falter through competition or technology change. Good processes, accountability, team member engagement, well funded R&D and strong marketing will all play their part. Leadership and management is one of the items that transcends a lot of the above, and with some simple guiding principles and thought can impact your business growth and sustain your personal enthusiasm for a business whether the owner, senior manager or team member.
Looking at leadership (will come back to good management another time) it is essential to remember that leadership is not to be used for personal benefit. Leadership is about giving, not getting. Leaders lose the right to be selfish. Leaders can so easily get caught up in doing things for image sake—after all, so many people are watching. Good leaders have a servants heart, it is also one that is both positive and persistent. This is the reason that in many western economies and businesses the true benefits and culture promoted by the Toyota Production System have not been gained or established. Leadership is about others, when leaders fail to be objective, people begin to question whether their perspective is skewed by self-interest. Trust wanes. People trust leaders who practice the Law of Solid Ground (John C Maxwell – 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership). Leaders who understand this fulfil three primary objectives:
- Protection: To make sure the people are defended from harm.
- Provision: To make sure the people are resourced to do their work.
- Progress: To make sure the enterprise reaches the desired destination.
Simon Sinek in his book, Leaders Eat Last, talks about the trust and co-operation leaders build and foster in a business or community. This re-enforces the fact that leadership rises or falls on the level of the leader’s integrity. This makes leaders vulnerable but it being this it creates a strength of authenticity that creates bonds and connections with those around them.
Providing protection as a leader is a very broad statement and covers much key ground. The leader who sees his or her team / business / community at the heart of what they do will develop relationships and the ability to influence those around them. To put it another way they will have a clear vision and an affinity to the business that will move them to act on behalf of their people.
This is not done in a way that shields from reality, the leader will have the discipline to do what is right even in difficult circumstances, decisions will be made in a timely manner, authourity will be delegated and issues confronted but everyone will know it is being done with the team / business / communities best interests at the core.
Leadership: The skill of influencing people to work enthusiastically toward goals identified as being for the common good. (James C Hunter)
Nothing is more deflating to morale than to have a poor outcome pinned on someone who doesn’t deserve it. It lacks integrity and overvalues the outcome at the expense of the people as well as the process. (Tony Dungy)
A core part of leadership is that of equipping others to be able to do what they are being asked to do and giving them the opportunity to test and learn from that training / knowledge. That ability and vision to see others reach their potential for the benefit of the individual, the business / organisation and all associated stakeholders makes an exponential difference to a business. In a previous business we had a vision statement “grow the people to grow the business”, the impact of living that out is huge (for both the individual and the organisation).
This brings the whole aspect of motivation into view, we do not then by providing the skills motivate people but we sustain their motivation. Simon Sinek in “Start With Why” says, “Great companies don’t hire skilled people and motivate them, they hire already motivated people and inspire them. People are either motivated or they are not. Unless you give motivated people something to believe in, something bigger than their job to work toward, they will motivate themselves to find a new job and you’ll be stuck with whatever is left”.
The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people. (Ken Blanchard)
I don’t necessarily have to like my players and associates but as their leader I must love them. Love is loyalty, love is teamwork, love respects the dignity of the individual. This is the strength of any organization. (Vince Lombardi)
What is leadership without a vision, when you are in the trenches you want to understand why you are there and what the next move will be and to where. The ability to show not only the power of potential through that vision but then forge a path toward that vision is an essential leadership trait.
That will take many skills, it will take courage, discipline, passion and decisiveness. It will require a strong set of strategic objectives and plans to support it. The leader however will need to have the knowledge that the plan may need to change, be ditched or take a detour for the best outcome.
To support this progress they will mentor and coach, provide direction individually and collectively and genuinely empower team members to support that progress.
…even darkness must pass. A new day will come, and when the sun shines it’ll shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you, that meant something even if you were too small to understand why. But I think Mr. Frodo, I do understand, I know now folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going because they were holding on to something. (Samwell Gamgee, Lord of the Rings)