The leader stereotype is one of a lone wolf individualist, passionately pursuing ground-breaking solutions and not afraid to stick their neck out on the line when it comes to driving a business forward. They are iconoclasts, one of a kind, extroverts with ideas worth listening to. However it is a myth.
Ask a leader to list their top tips for leading a business and the response might surprise you.
Of course, getting out there and giving it a go is near the top of the list of tips. No good will come from nesting on your ideas. Action is required, which, for a large majority of wannabe leaders, includes overcoming the fears and doubts that hold them back, particularly any fears associated with public speaking and networking. If you are never heard, how do you expect anyone to know of your business?
Yet once you’ve conquered your fears and got the message ‘out there’, what next? Surprisingly the answer isn’t you, according to Harriet Green, former boss of Thomas Cook. What leaders need to do is always surround themselves with people who are better than them. Rather than leading from the front, excelling above and beyond your workforce, the real path to success is with picking the right team, which is crucial for all new businesses where a shared work ethic and productivity levels will help the business grow out of its chrysalis. Picking the right team involves surrounding yourself with people different to you: you won’t make a successful business if everyone is geared towards sales or idea generation. This sort of imbalance is not sustainable. Rather the answer is in building a team with people who compliment your skills. So if you are good at business development, bring in colleagues who are good at operations or similar.
Once you have the best team in place, the next step is engaging your workforce through meaning, which is achieved through having a solid company mission and clear values. Having a mission and values will give everyone a platform from which to grow from and frame their development. Not having a mission could lead to chaos and infighting as people battle over the direction and identity of the business. You don’t have to feel imprisoned by a mission – keep it simple. The best missions act as a catalyst for evolution and expanding horizons.
Leadership isn’t always about leading from the front. At times you have to step back and analyse how the business is functioning and whether it requires intervention. It is about being part of a team, and letting others grow. It is not all about ego and gains.