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Taking the Lead


by


You don’t have to know everything to be the boss.

Perhaps no other topic in the arena of business and personal development has been the subject of more books, seminars, workshops and classes than leadership.

It’s no wonder that entrepreneurs are hungry for advice. Assuming a leadership role for the first time can be uncomfortable, even for astute, accomplished small business owners.

Being a leader can feel especially intimidating when your staff has more experience than you do. Leadership, however, is less about your resume than about who you are—your character, values and personality—and the vision you set for your company.

Think of yourself as the conductor of an orchestra. You probably don’t know how to play all the instruments, but playing is not your role. Your job is to know what the end result should be and to inspire all the musicians to willingly and enthusiastically follow you so the team can produce an amazing work of art.

Like learning to play a musical instrument, leadership is an art and a skill—and skills can be learned with time, study and many, many hours of practice and refinement.

Dependence to Independence

When you become a leader, you move from a position of dependence to a position of independence. You did so when you completed your formal education, and when you moved out of your parents’ home and became financially independent. In each case, you assumed a position of greater responsibility for yourself.

Likewise, moving into a formal leadership role represents a major change in your life—and change doesn’t always feel natural. When moving into a leadership role for the first time, to ease your lack of comfort, try these tactics:

  • Find a trusted mentor—someone who has been through it.
  • Continue to evaluate what is working and what isn’t. Be flexible and open to change. Learn from your mistakes.
  • Don’t try to hide any shortcomings from those whom you are leading. In fact, seek their counsel—selectively.
  • Praise team members in public; correct them in private.
  • Learn to laugh at yourself. Self-deprecating humor—at appropriate times—can be a great icebreaker, and it can build rapport and enhance relationships.

Be Proactive, Plan, Prioritize

Stephen Covey’s landmark book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is generally regarded as one of the top 10 business books of the past 50 years. To be a more effective leader, keep in mind Covey’s first three Habits, which entail moving from dependence to independence.

Habit 1: Be proactive // Rather than reactive. Operating with a proactive mindset is more likely to creative a positive culture.

Habit 2: Begin with the end in mind // Take the time to carefully think through your organization’s purpose or mission statement, and clearly and consistently communicate such to staff.

Habit 3: Put first things first // Becoming an effective leader includes spending time in careful planning. Focus on what is important, rather than on what is urgent.

Think of entering into a leadership role as a new chapter in your life. Relish the journey, accept your missteps, and learn and grow from them.

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