This is a guest post by Bill McBean, author of The Facts of Business Life: What Every Successful Business Owner Knows that You Don't. The seven facts he presents are clearly articulated in this very straightforward book. He begins by saying that when it comes to business ownership, “the reality is very different from then dream, even when you are successful.” How true. I know when I first started my business over thirty years ago, I had no idea what I was getting into. Here, McBean shares the importance of leadership:
Being a leader sounds like a great thing to be -- and it certainly is. But here is the rub: though the word "leadership" gets tossed around a lot, real, productive leadership is still very uncommon. Now, I'm not quoting any study or research. I'm giving you my opinion based on what I have witnessed over the last four decades of business ownership.
What is needed in order to be a good leader? I think it begins with two macro concepts. First, a leader has to have the ability to visualize what success looks like; meaning that leaders must be able to define their organization's success destination, describe what the organization will look like when it gets there, and determine how long it will take to achieve those goals. Secondly, leaders have to have the ability to understand where their organization's weaknesses and strengths are, and then they must have the character and courage to move the organization from where it is today to where they want it to be tomorrow -- the destination.
The keywords in this macro description are "visualization," "character," and "courage," because in my mind the key step in becoming a great leader is understanding where you're going. And then, you have to have the character and courage to inspire others to follow you down that path to success.
Sure, leadership can be more complicated than this. But in my mind, before you dive into the many nuances of leadership, the first step in becoming a good leader is taking the time to define what leadership means for you. But your definition has to be based on the two macro concepts of defining your success destination and developing the character qualities that encourage others to follow your lead.
The point is, leadership begins with your definition of what leadership means to you. Without knowing that, you will never develop a clear understanding of what leadership is, or of what you have to do to become a great leader. Or said another way, you will never be the leader you could be, meaning you will never reach your personal potential. And as a result, the organization you're leading, whether it's your own business or someone else's, will never move to the next level.
In my book, The Facts of Business Life, I describe seven facts, or business basics, that business owners have to understand in order to be successful. What's important to note about the seven facts is that they are sequential in nature. In other words, to improve your organization, you start with Fact One, and the better you know and implement Fact One, the more effective Fact Two will be, and so on. And Fact One, "If you don't lead, no one will follow," is all about leadership because I believe leadership is a vital ingredient to the success of any organization. Without leadership, a business goes nowhere because business basics like management, creating processes, demanding accountability, planning, and marketing, which are covered in other Facts in the book, never even come into play.
In other words, I think leadership is the first step toward owning and operating a successful business. It's the foundation on which the rest of the business disciplines rely. Before there can be effective management and controls, an organization will have to have the leader's courage and vision to enforce the disciplines, put power and accountability behind objectives and goals, reward those who succeed and replace those who don't, and so on.
Without effective leadership, there is just chaos because there is little team work, little consistency, little employee pride, and little customer loyalty. Every day is just another day, without purpose or direction. Your organization will operate just like many other unfortunate businesses that open their doors and close them shortly thereafter with little fanfare and few people missing them.
There is an old saying that a "skunk stinks from the head down." It's true for skunks, and it's true for leadership. The strength of an organization comes from the top, its leadership, and the number of leaders who can be developed within the organization. Many business owners know this. But what most don't know is how to become great leaders, and how to develop them.
Where do you begin? You emulate great leaders, and every great leader began by taking one important first step: defining what leadership means to them. Once you know what kind of leader you want to be you can begin developing the skills needed and the courage to test yourself in front of others.
Are you that person?
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