“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – John Quincy Adams, sixth American President
As a leader, you have to negotiate balancing on a tightrope. It’s never an easy job. Be too friendly and your subordinates can take advantage of you; be too strict or unapproachable and you risk alienating them. I’ve had good and bad bosses through my career. And the ones I’ve really looked up to and who inspired me to give my best have been those who have been compassionate, open and, of course, passionate about what they do. The ones who alienated me were those who shouted indiscriminately, didn’t know their work and who were not assertive enough.
As an entrepreneur, you could be working with a small team or a large one, depending on your business and on where you are on the growth chart. Irrespective of whether you have one employee or several, your business is your baby and in order to keep it growing and successful, you need to be a great leader.
So here are some suggestions on how you can be a leader who inspires your employees.
Respect your employees: When you treat someone with respect, you earn respect in return. To quote Jayson De Mers, Founder and CEO of Audience Bloom, “True respect doesn’t depend on the other person doing something (or not doing something). It means recognizing that all people are inherently worthy of respect; even people who drive you crazy or who haven’t done a single thing to earn it. It means treating people in a way that preserves their dignity and honors their humanity. When you show respect to everyone you interact with, you foster an environment of caring that permeates the workplace.”
Be generous: This doesn’t mean only in material terms. It means being generous with your time. It means being generous with praise. It means giving credit where it’s due. And it also means being gracious when an employee makes a mistake. Yes, generosity also extends to giving bonuses, pay rises and gifts on festive occasions or birthdays. And the occasional lunch or dinner out, helps you to bond with your employees, furthers foster team spirit and enhances your relationship with them.
Be passionate about what you do: You are the captain of the ship that is steering your business. And since you have decided to become an entrepreneur, one assumes you are passionate about your work. You have a vision and a mission. As a leader, you need to imbue your employees with the same passion so that you all are working towards a common goal. When they see you passionate about your business, it will inspire them and instill admiration in them for you and what you believe in.
Be humble: This doesn’t mean you have to be meek and mild or a pushover. But arrogance can be off-putting. When you treat your employees respectfully and speak to them rather than talk down to them it most certainly helps in fostering a more conducive workspace. Treat others as you would wish to be treated.
Be decisive: Nothing can be more confusing than a leader who waffles! If you are unclear about your growth trajectory or what your business represents, then how do your employees have a clear vison of what they are supposed to do? When a leader is decisive and clear, employees look up to him or her for direction.
Take responsibility: As the leader, the buck stops with you. If you have made mistakes, acknowledge them. Your employees will see you as human and admire you for having the courage to own up to your slip-ups.
Be compassionate: When you show you care, your employee will but naturally warm up to you. Lolly Daskal, Founder and CEO of Lead From Within says, “Great leaders understand the importance of personal connection and attention. Show you care with everything you say and do, and let people know they matter. Listen to them, talk to them, provide them with feedback.”
Ultimately, leadership is about inspiring your employees to do their best. If you gain their trust, lead from the front and genuinely care about them, they will look up to you and do their best for you and your business. It’s a win-win situation for all!