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Posted: June 04, 2013

Entrepreneurs, get in the leadership lane

Build skills to overcome roadblocks

Derek Murphy

The 2008 economic crisis was a terrifying time, to say the least. Millions of jobs were lost and many people faced difficulty trying to obtain a new line of work. As a result, many struck out on their own, not by choice but out of necessity.

I applaud those individuals who took that route. Entrepreneurship is by no means a smooth road. In fact, we’ve all heard the ugly statistics surrounding the high failure rates.

Still, no risk, no reward, right? While not everyone gets to experience a Bill Gates-type success, many entrepreneurs do just fine. But merely being one doesn’t necessarily mean you’re an above-average leader. In other words, just because you’re the boss doesn’t mean you know how to lead.

Obviously, if you’re an entrepreneur, you take calculated risks. You probably excel at creative problem-solving and know a thing or two about laying out a compelling vision and motivating those around you.

And I’d wager that you’re fairly resilient, which is, of course, a key component of your leadership arsenal.  Much of your success, after all, relies on your willingness to stick with an idea if you are convinced it is the right direction, even if your conviction is in the minority.

Those competencies are important, but what else is critical to your success? Whether you’re in charge of a whole team or just one employee, you need to strive to take your leadership to the next level.

Here are some important leadership skills to work on so you don’t end up as another entrepreneurial crash-and-burn tale.

Trust

Trustworthiness is so important to ultimate success of leaders and their companies that I could dedicate an entire article to the topic. But I’ll spare you that – at least for today. While your employees and customers already have some sort of confidence in you because they are choosing to work with your business, it doesn’t mean they have to trust you.  After all, most of us are familiar with a version of the adage that it takes years to earn trust and just a moment to lose it.

Being able to inspire others to follow your lead will depend largely upon whether you are a person who is perceived to be trustworthy and of high integrity. One key way you lose or fail to gain the trust of others is if you don’t take personal accountability, which is taking responsibility for personal actions.

Remember, do not promise or commit (including to deadlines) unless you will be able to honor the commitment. Do what you will say you’ll do, always make decisions that are ethical and display integrity at all times. No excuses.

Develop your team

So your business is doing well enough that are you able to hire employees. Now what? Well, you have to make an effort to develop your team because that has a big influence on your ability to implement your leadership vision.

Do you facilitate a team atmosphere where all members feel comfortable offering ideas? If you’re unsure, you need to focus more on learning how to empower others to contribute at higher levels through providing special assignments, constructive feedback and targeted development opportunities.

Make a list of the key strengths and limitations of your colleagues and each person on your team. Find ways to utilize the strengths and build understanding of one another's styles and interests. Ensure that your teams have defined their purpose, goals and vision.

Know your numbers

Let’s say you started a cake business, and while you know the science of ingredients that allow you to make sweets that taste nothing short of heavenly, you may be intimidated by financial or operational complexities. But if depending too heavily on the analytical expertise of others does not allow you to fully integrate financial and other business factors into your decision-making processes, which can hinder growth.

Demonstrating business and financial expertise, even as a non-financial manager, adds value and credibility to your decisions, plans and understanding of organizational complexities.

You can’t avoid numbers forever. Get to know the organization’s key financial indicators, such as net income and cash flow. Learn the meaning of each indicator, how it is calculated, and why it is important.

The entrepreneurship road is full of bumps, but if you work on developing your leadership skills, you’ll have the right vehicle to deal with any roadblocks that come your way.

Derek Murphy is CEO of TBC, a global assessment company with over 4 decades of experience, specializing in 360s and survey customization. Our hosting platform, TruScore®, allows you to manage all of your talent management assessments in one central location. Request a demo to discover why some of the most recognized brands in the Fortune 1000 chose TBC.

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