Want to Be a Winning Business Leader? Be Visible at the Front

by Martin Zwilling, Founder & CEO, Startup Professionals

True leaders realize that, by definition, their place is at the front, and not the rear. Yet many executives try to lead through fear and intimidation. This isn’t really leading at all — it’s pushing. In all types of businesses, leading from the front means that you are not afraid to get your hands dirty and pitch in to get the job done.

True entrepreneurial leaders see the big picture and recognize that their business is only a small piece of a much bigger community. They lead their own small community to pull together in a way that galvanizes the market’s entire eco-system into a win for both sides.

If you want to successfully run your small business, you’re getting a good idea of where you need to be. Here are some thoughts on how to lead at the front.

Delegating & Earning Loyalty

For maximum leverage, every leader must learn how to delegate. Delegation is a great skill to have, but you also have to lead effectively to earn the right to use it. Intimidating or berating other team members from a position of power isn’t delegation or leadership.

In every growing business, people are expected to wear multiple hats every day. An effective leader who wears many hats easily creates loyalty. This is a quality that cannot be bought or achieved through bullying. It must be earned. Business executives who earn loyalty generally do the following:

  • Communicate and demonstrate a clear sense of purpose
  • Provide great coaching, mentoring and tutoring
  • Encourage, recognize and reward achievement
  • Ensure credit is given where credit is due
  • Are consistently dependable and knowledgeable
  • Demonstrate accessibility to everyone
  • Treat people fairly
  • Listen well
  • Show patience and humility
  • Are helpful and quick to expedite important matters
  • Prove loyalty by standing up for team members, defending them to other constituents and, when necessary, to customers

Funny thing about loyal team members — they respond very well to being led from the front. Your team’s level of motivation and attention to detail is always going to have a fairly direct correlation to your ability to keep things moving forward, despite the cyclone spinning around you.

Effective Communication Is Key

Communicate effectively and constantly with your team. No news is not good news in times of crisis. Tell the truth even when it hurts. Don’t be caught stuck to your chair while the storm is swirling around you. You must stay on top of everything and everyone. And guess what? You will miss things, too. Get over it.

People will make mistakes, so accept it now — certain tasks, even critical ones, can get lost in the noise. The 100 percent solution is never attainable, so forget about it. Strive for 90 percent and try to get that part right. The rest will come in time.

Unfortunately, a crisis often drives leaders to retreat behind closed doors instead of advancing to the source of the problem. They withdraw to their desk, get inundated with data and overwhelmed by numbers and lose the connection with their people. If one of your executives fits this mold, you need to get rid of them. Otherwise they will kill you in the end, one way or another.

Be Present, Be Visible

Leadership is about being visible and setting the right example out front on the firing line, in good times and bad.  There is no place for the bully who fails to take the feelings of others into account and insists on his or her way, and no place for the tyrant, who feels superior and needs to rule the roost.

Now is the opportunity for real leadership, especially considering all the economic challenges around the world, and continuing human suffering. Will you step to the front?

Martin Zwilling is the founder and chief executive officer of Startup Professionals, a company that provides products and services to start-up founders and small business owners. Check out his daily blog or email him.

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