Being a successful young entrepreneur will mean, at some point or other on your path, that you will lead a team. How do you become a strong and inspiring leader? Read on for advice from those who have been there. See if you can spot any common traits…
Focus on Yourself, Then You Can Focus on Others
“Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.” – Jack Welch, American CEO
When you are confident in yourself, others will feel confident in your leadership. A little bit of honest introspection on your part will go a long way towards helping you recognize your strengths, thereby building up your belief in yourself. Invest in YOU. It’s not selfish: it’s the mark of a good leader.
Don’t be ashamed of your weaknesses, either: that’s where you gather your team. Find the best in people, and they will be their best for you. Your team will thrive and succeed when they know that you, their leader, believe in them.
Know the Difference Between Being Strong and Being a Bully
“The challenge of leadership is to be strong, but not rude; be kind, but not weak; be bold, but not a bully; be thoughtful, but not lazy; be humble, but not timid; be proud, but not arrogant; have humor, but without folly.” – Jim Rohn, American entrepreneur and motivational speaker
Drawing out the best in others won’t come from being a selfish, demanding, unforgiving taskmaster. A true leader does not build their success on the pain and humiliation of others. Respect is not the same as fear and a team that truly respects you will want you to succeed.
Neither be so friendly and humble that you let your team walk all over you. You are still the boss: be the boss. Be gentle with your team, but firm in your convictions. You can insist on their best performance without demeaning them as human beings.
A great reminder for maintaining balance is this poem by Max Ehrmann. Print it out, keep it by your desk, and let it inspire you.
Leading is Not Micromanaging
“You manage things; you lead people.” – United States Navy Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper, American computer scientist
Bring people onto your team who are capable of working independently and require as little “management” from you as possible. When a member of your team knows what to do and can do it well, you will be able to devote your time to leading rather than micromanaging. Strong team members work hard and work smart. They figure things out rather than coming to you with every problem.
Similarly, remember why you hired these people in the first place, and let them do their jobs. As a young entrepreneur, you know how you want your business to look. However, trust in the team you’ve created to make your vision happen and they will give you what you want. Inspire them with gratitude and confidence and they will pleasantly surprise you by going above and beyond your expectations.
Develop Your Own Leadership Skills
“The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.” – Warren Bennis, American scholar and pioneer in the field of leadership studies
How do you develop the confidence and inner strength to be a good leader? This list of activities and tools is a good start. Just as you are no doubt developing your own entrepreneurial skills by seeking out information that will teach you how to run a business, you can also learn the skills you need to become an inspiring leader.
Depending on your personality and disposition, you may find some of these exercises more challenging than others. If you are naturally shy, for example, you may find it difficult to master effective communication. Have an honest talk with yourself and don’t be afraid to admit where you will need the most self-work. If you are reading the Kantner Blog with regularity, that means you know you already have what it takes to become a successful young entrepreneur—or you know you have the potential to develop entrepreneurial skills. We believe you can do this!
A Good Leader Inspires Their Team
“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” – Indra Nooyi, Indian-American CEO
“Inspiration” is so vague, and yet it is an essential component to good leadership. How do you inspire your team to, as the quote above says, follow you to the ends of the earth?
Ask for your team’s input. Just as you want to be taken seriously as a young entrepreneur, so, too, the members of your team want to know that you take their concerns and ideas seriously. Create a culture of open communication and honesty where people can come to you with constructive criticism or new ways of doing things, knowing that you will listen and respect what they have to say. Remember to thank your team members for their hard work and their valuable contributions.
Delegate, Delegate, Delegate
“From this point forward, the tasks you let go of will define you more as a leader than what you take on.” – Jo Miller, Australian-American CEO and women’s leadership authority
Each member of your team is there for a reason. Let them do their jobs. Young entrepreneurs have a lot going on and trying to do everything yourself will only burn you out. You can’t give 100% to your business if your attention is constantly elsewhere. If you find yourself spending more time than is reasonable keeping your social media updated, hire someone to do your business’s social media, and let go.
When you delegate, you show that you are confident enough in yourself to know when you need help. This is a quality of strength and self-knowledge, not weakness.
In the end, you should always be willing to learn from your team and from others who have advice to offer you. There is a fine line between arrogance and confidence: never stop looking for that line and keeping yourself on the right side of it.
Florida’s young entrepreneurs are encouraged to apply for a Kantner Foundation college scholarship. Learn more by clicking here!