Leaders lead companies. True leaders inspire dreams and ambition. We’ve often seen how vast and famous companies narrate their work environment’s positive leadership and culture to the world. The challenge is – how to recognise a true leader in a small or medium company?
Bigger companies like Google, Cisco, Hilton, and many others are seen as examples of a wanted work environment and a place where every employee can thrive. These companies have employees whose potential is ignited, supported, and concordant with their mission and vision. And when each individual succeeds, the company moves forward to success.
When it comes to small and medium companies, authentic leadership is even more highlighted. It might sound improbable, but if a small company doesn’t have a true leader running it, it is doomed to failure. This is because everything depends on the person in question – the work environment, the direction of the company’s development, and the employees’ professional wellbeing.
So, how to recognise a true leader in a small or medium company? They have the following characteristics:
- Be Aware of the Business’ Strengths and Weaknesses
- Be an approachable and committed leader
- Smart decision making
- Listen to different opinions
- Be open to new insights
- Keep calm, even under high pressure
- Embrace change and adapt quickly
- Accept the possibility of mistakes
- Invest in yourself and your employees
- Think about feedback
Be Aware of the Business’ Strengths and Weaknesses
There is a simple yet highly effective way to learn more about all the strengths and weaknesses your business has. It is known as a SWOT analysis. SWOT is short for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It helps you learn more about products, industries, locations, and employees.
Do your research, explore every possible option, hire professionals if needed – but make sure you go through every part of the analysis. Think about your competitors, their product range, their partners, about your financial situation, what needs improvement, and whether you have the most optimal location for your business? Take your time; it will be worth the trouble.
Be an approachable and committed leader
Being approachable does not mean being a best friend or the “cool” boss. However, there are a few things that you can do that will make you seem friendlier and open to communication. For instance, you can start by greeting everyone when you come to work and smile while doing it. Also, make eye contact when you cross paths with your employees, and nod your head as a form of respect.
These little gestures will make your employees feel appreciated, seen, and relevant. Once you achieve this, the entire work atmosphere will be more pleasant, and your staff members will feel lucky to work for you.
As for being committed – don’t come last to work, and don’t leave first. As a leader, you should be putting in more work hours in your day than other employees.
Since you lead a smaller team, you should provide for them some of the benefits you enjoy—an ergonomic chair for everyone, a parking spot, and flexible vacation options. You will surely keep them around for longer.
Smart decision making
A leader’s daily tasks mostly consist of having the final word about numerous dilemmas, issues, or challenges. A dedicated and capable leader is expected to be decisive enough and confident enough to make quick and smart decisions. Yes, decisions. Undoubtedly more than one, and most of them will probably be tough and demanding. That is what the job entails.
There will probably be times when your decision is not optimal, but your position requires risks, and your employees should understand that. If a moment comes when things don’t go well it is vital that your employees trust your process, and if you do – they will too.
Listen to different opinions
Another way to include your employees in the decision-making process is to listen to their opinions. However different they may seem. Yours is the final say, but they will also feel appreciated and useful if they feel included.
It is up to you how involved you want them to be and about which issues. Some should be only your burden and responsibility.
Be open to new insights
An essential characteristic for any leader, regardless of the size of their business. Things evolve, the market changes – and you need to stay on top of the game with each shift and turn. Be curious, do constant research in the field of your work, and you will soon see all the benefits that come with it.
One of the main ones is staying relevant on the market. If you evolve as a leader, your business will evolve too. This can open new doors of opportunity for growth and immense success. Just bear in mind that your employees need a boost also. Inspire them to stay on track with new things. Find the right way to motivate them and inform them properly that growth comes from within the company.
Keep calm, even under high pressure
We have already mentioned that a day’s work as a leader requires many decisions and tough choices. Well, it doesn’t end there. You will also face long meetings, short deadlines, and managing finances, employees, and stock levels.
Can you feel the pressure by merely reading this? Well, a leader knows the price that the title brings – but a skill of remaining calm and focused even when facing these situations is a must for a great leader.
How is this beneficial for your business? It provides a leader with a cold head who can think on his/her feet and stay focused when needed most. This can only result in a positive outcome out of any difficult situation – a positive effect on your business, of course.
Embrace change and adapt quickly
A leader who screams success is proud to own a growth-oriented mindset – a mindset open to change, open to implementing new products and services. An attitude ready to embrace almost anything new that comes on his/her way.
If a new product appears out of nowhere and in your field, if sales start dropping unexpectedly, don’t panic and understand what the market and demand ratings are telling you.
An even better solution than understanding is trying to anticipate the next big change in the market. Your company can stay ahead and adapt to those changes much quicker.
Competition is a real thing; it is not to be undermined, especially not when you lead a small or medium company. The competition, in this case, is fierce – everyone tries to join the big guys.
Accept the possibility of mistakes
In the world of business, in the world of constant change and newcomers – the possibility to make mistakes is big, but your fear shouldn’t be. Don’t be afraid of that probability. Instead, keep your head high even when it happens, and learn from it. The best outcome possible is to accept the mistake and know better next time you find yourself in a similar situation.
Once a thing or two goes wrong, you can start thinking about proactive plans about addressing other issues head-on. It is a blessing in disguise. Even so, don’t lose your focus, and you will rarely have to deal with mistakes.
Invest in yourself and your employees
Willingness to continuously upgrade is a characteristic only successful leaders have. Strive to improve your knowledge and your skillset. There are numerous ways to achieve that. You can attend seminars, webinars, and workshops to help you stay in the game the right way.
All those possibilities for becoming better should be available for your employees as well. It would be best if you grew together. Because, remember, better-equipped employees means a job well done. And a well-done job results in success, higher revenue numbers, and bigger opportunities for your company. A win-win scenario.
Think about feedback
There are two primary forms of feedback – the first is customer feedback that is addressed to your company, and the second one is the one between you, your employees, and your partners.
When it comes to customer feedback, it is important that you provide a simple way for them to do it. Customers should be allowed to express both their criticism and praise, and other potential customers will appreciate that.
For the internal part of the feedback channel, you need to make sure that you have meetings intended for that purpose. There should be meeting dates for employees and partners, too, meetings where you can discuss current issues, goals, and any changes that seem necessary.
Please speak your mind, and ask them to do the same. Communication is vital for things to run smoothly on all ends.
The fact is, there are many different styles of leadership, but as accurate as that is – there are a few characteristics that make a leader more successful than others. By being a successful leader, you are also helping your business in becoming more successful.
Great leaders inspire employees; they motivate them to do their best and end up with growth, numerous achievements, and triumphs.
About the Author
Branko Ilishev is the co-founder and Head of SEO at SmartClick, a web and SEO agency. Being on top of online optimisation trends and discussing them with fellow colleagues around the world is another of his passions, so he often turns his insights into words.