Are you leading or managing?

"A leader doesn’t just get the message across, a leader is the message"

Warren Bennis
Or as Mahatma Ghandi put it

"You must be the change you want to see in the world."

As owners or senior executives you create the culture of the organisation. As leaders it is your ability to create more leaders and less followers that will support the long term sustainable growth for your business. Start-up to Scaleup The various stages of SME growth require different approaches and the shift from start-up to scaleup is where the change is most pronounced. In the start-up phase the motivation and inspiration for employees comes from the personal connection with the founder. From scaleup and beyond it is your leadership skills that will define your ultimate success. Replacing the directional approach with a more collaborative and coaching style will help employees become more engaged and committed to the organisational goals.

‘Give a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for life.’

In the busy world of managing SMEs it is all too easy to take control and tell people what to do. It is often the quickest way to get things done. However, it also the best way to stifle creativity, learning and personal growth and the next time you want someone to take the lead be prepared to feed them another fish! Telling, directing and delegating will not grow the team’s leadership skills. To make the shift from manager to leader there are some key areas to consider:

Listen more

Ask open ended questions. Take the time to listen to the responses. Be prepared to guide, advise and support rather than tell. Time is limited so remember it is the quality of time you spend with your employees not the quantity.

Align individual and business goals

Helping people make the connection between their own objectives and those of the business will create an energy, direction and motivation to allow leadership to thrive.

Create feedback loops

Take the time to understand what makes your employees tick. Show them the playing field and get off the pitch. Then create the time for two-way feedback on a regular basis. How are you doing and how is it going? The structure will produce better conversations and gives your employees the space to perform while you add value elsewhere.

Influence v authority

Managers create circles of power while leaders create circles of influence. Leaders operate in an open and transparent way generating a culture of trust and respect. Their influence is far greater than their direct authority. Check how many people outside your reporting hierarchy come to you for advice. The more this happens the more likely you are perceived to be a leader.

One size doesn’t fit all

Research has shown the most successful leaders have strengths in self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy and social skills. They also adopt a range of leadership styles which they use as circumstances dictate. Remember your employees are individuals with their own unique set of preferences. What works for one might not work for another. (See ‘Leadership That Gets Results’ by Daniel Goleman for more details)

The Mood Elevator

Even the greatest leaders can have a bad day. Larry Senn in his book ‘The Mood Elevator’ highlights how mood can affect the quality of our thinking and conversations. Consider how being stuck on the basement, stressed, worried and anxious will affect your relationships with your team. Elevate your mood to improve your leadership.

Get some external support

So much is written about leadership and many consultants make a living out of its complexity. There are people who can help you as an individual and support your team in their development of leadership skills. Do something today to help create the long term sustainable growth for your business.