Are leaders born or made? From business school courses devoted to the topic to books and articles to many a thought leader’s opinion—this question has been debated for a very long time.
We’re all familiar with individuals who are clearly born leaders—whether they’re a part of our local community or someone we read about in the news. People like Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy and Nelson Mandela are examples of individuals thought to be born leaders. When you stop and examine it further, many of the traits attributed to “born” leaders are related to things like being a visionary, having extraordinary courage, being decisive and having a positive personality—but these aren’t the only characteristics that hold weight. Learned traits—like being able to clearly communicate your vision and having emotional intelligence—are also powerful components in the making of a leader.
And it’s the leaders who are made that we often don’t hear much about—the folks who have made a commitment to honing their leadership skills through life-learning experiences, and personal and professional development. Some rise to the occasion out of necessity, becoming leaders because they care too much about their company not to.
As a small business owner, do you think of yourself as a leader? Do you dread or avoid the thought because when you started, you just wanted to own a business, not lead it? For most owners, thinking of themselves as a leader is uncomfortable and occasionally even impossible. In some cases, you may not even be aware of the gaps in your leadership skills. For example, if you’re not clear about your brand, then your employees won’t know how to market your business. Your decisions—everything from deciding to try a new piece of technology to avoiding uncomfortable confrontations with employees—influence each thing about your business. Yet, when you become aware of the impact, you’re more likely to improve and grow.
If you’re struggling with leadership, stop and ask yourself:
- Do you enjoy and embrace your leadership role? Do you remember why you started your business in the first place?
- It’s important to clearly define what you do and why you do it.
- Your passion is the foundation for inhabiting your role as a leader, regardless of what business you’re in or how many people work for you.
- The outcome of digging deep inside will be your own personal purpose statement—it’s all about what’s true for you.
- Do you have a vision for where you’re leading your team?
- In order to lead, you need to have a clearly written picture of your company’s future.
- Your vision will be the target you aim for and a means of motivation for your employees.
- How well do you communicate? Are your employees familiar with your company values?
- Having a clear set of values allows your people to “buy-in” more easily.
- Leaders who invest in their culture, clarify what’s meaningful for them and help their people grow, enjoy higher profits, steady growth and sustainability.
The answers to these questions are at the very core of leadership. You may not know it, but this work is your responsibility and in your job description as the business owner and company leader. Although it may take you out of your comfort zone, it will bring you to a new place—one with a clear direction, one with passion and one where your employees feel a culture of ownership within themselves. As we like to say at EMyth, that’s leading.