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Lead From Where You Are

The roadmap of entrepreneurship starts with a great idea of a desired future state.

Dirk Coetsee

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“People use the terms Management and Leadership interchangeably. This shows that they do not see the crucial difference between the two and the vital functions that each role plays.” – John Kotter


In general, there is a strong focus on Leadership at the start of an Entrepreneurs’ journey. Leadership is about being future directed and aligning action to an inspiring Vision. The roadmap of entrepreneurship starts with a great idea of a desired future state.

Unfortunately, and in general as the stressors related to a desire to perform or to preventing failure increases, the prevailing tendency is to over focus on the day to day operations at the expense of future direction.

Related: Women Who Lead: Bonnie Cooper And Esna Colyn On Wearing The Mantle Of Leadership

Your venture as an entrepreneur gradually becomes more and more exposed to the risk of becoming irrelevant when you over focus on day to day operations as you neglect to avail yourself of changes in the industry, developing a sustainable culture, and fail to offer an inspiring future direction and strategy to your team.

Leadership is not management. Both are needed to meet the ever challenging and changing business environment in which we operate. Most companies are over-managed and under-led resulting in a strong focus on analysis, performance management, the here and now, and less time spent on inspiring the workforce towards a desired future state.  For sustained success both Leadership and management is required but the focus should shift to strong Leadership to remain valid.

The visible proof of a team being over-managed and under-led usually is the result of a team being de-motivated by a constant focus on tasks and performance evaluations yet rarely being exposed to and engaged in a motivating and energetic environment.

Leadership is not a title or a position. By your actions, you either give a title meaning or by not living up to your title you take away the meaning of it. Having the title of CEO, COO, or whatever it may be does not imply that you are a leader, by your actions you demonstrate if you are worthy of your title and being called a leader or not.

The wrong internal dialogue, for example, “I cannot be a leader because I am just a cleaner”, or “I do not have the charisma to be a leader”, stunts your growth as a person and makes it impossible to lead. When a person comes to the realisation of the fact that anyone can lead irrespective of their position or title and acts accordingly, the wonderful journey to the actualisation of their potential has started.

Leadership is future directed towards a common and mutually desired Purpose and Vision. Leadership is the ability to create more leaders and inspiring them through your own actions as a Visionary.

Related: How To Be A Great Leader When Leadership Doesn’t Come Naturally To You

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The writer asks the reader to challenge the voice saying: “I cannot Lead” by asking: “Who told you so?” It is ourselves entertaining and then believing such negative talk, we are to blame. Leadership starts with a firm decision to be a leader followed by consistent action congruent with the term leadership.

Leadership and culture are two sides of the same coin. True Leaders spend a vast amount of time on creating a positively challenging environment wherein people feel worthy and validated and eager to face the challenges at hand.

What do the great leaders do? They create energy by inspiring others. They act bravely and venture outside of their comfort zones to show to others that it is possible to do so. They stay level headed in times of crises, and sincerely praises the team in times of peak performance.

True Leaders act with integrity according to the values of the company. They are excited by and cannot mention the Vision and values of their company enough.

Leaders tend to notice those “small wins” achieved, that collectively and over time can result in “big wins” and celebrate it. Visionaries are not afraid to ask for help or be mentored as they know that nobody can achieve something amazing and lasting totally by themselves.

Leaders never stop learning and growing. True leaders coach and mentor others in a sincere way and leave other leaders behind. When you act on the above you are a leader irrespective of your position.

Management in general is a focus on the daily operations of the business. Constantly analysing the key metrics of the business and aligning processes and the behaviour of the team to improve the results of the business. This is a very necessary function and cannot be underestimated. Even when a great leader is present but poor management processes and systems prevail, the leader will most likely fail.

Can you be a Manager and Leader at the same time? The answer depends on the situation but yes, it is possible to both be a Manager and Leader. Both Leaders and managers are as successful as their team members are successful.

Related: Sorbet’s Ian Fuhr: Servant Leadership Personified

The above is merely theory. The following is offered as practical steps to grow the leadership capabilities of team members.

  • Deliberately analyse your team members’ leadership capabilities and potential every quarter.
  • Create an internal Leadership training program or ensure that there are training opportunities to develop the Leadership capabilities within your team. Do extensive research on this and ensure that your team has access to high quality Leadership training, coaching and mentoring.
  • Make it your mission to find ways to inspire individual team members. This can be very challenging especially in larger organisations where people can easily become a number. Train your managers to find ways to inspire others.
  • Ensure that there is always an element of inspiration contained within meetings. What stops you from starting a meeting with a short yet very inspiring video? What stops you from sharing an inspiring story during a meeting?
  • Inspire others during your presentations with great story telling and true examples of great leadership behaviour.
  • Share your passion for the Vision and values of the company and behave accordingly.
  • Remove the sole focus on numbers in your company newsletters and start focussing on culture, inspirational success stories, and this great Vision that you hold so dear.
  • Always ask yourself after meetings- How did I make my team feel after this meeting? Before meetings always ask: “What can I say and do during this meeting to inspire my team?
  • Ensure that the day to day management of your business does not suffer due to an over focus on Leadership. At the same time ensure that your team does not become de-motivated by an over focus on management and lack of inspiration. Slowly but surely find this balance.

All the above should not be the final steps nor the only steps that could be employed to ensure a stronger and sustainable servant leadership culture. Your strategy and culture must be scrutinised regularly and the right questions must be asked to assess if you are on the right track.

Dirk Coetsee is a Leadership advisor and training facilitator. You can contact Dirk at: djc@visionary.org.za

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Leading

How To Make Speedy Decisions As A Leader

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Dirk Coetsee

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“Trusting one another, however can never mean trusting with the lip and mistrusting in the heart.” – Mahatma Gandhi


“Self-trust is the first secret of success” – Ralph Waldo Emmerson

Whom of us has not been held prisoner by our own devices of procrastination and fear? Whom has not used delaying tactics purely to play for time only to learn the true practical meaning of Shakespeares words: “I wasted time and now time doth waste me”?

Rapid decision-making

Harvard research has identified amongst other key traits of the most successful CEOs’ of Fortune 500 companies the ability to make decisions quickly and act on them at a rapid speed albeit with the inherent acknowledgement that they might get it wrong forty percent of the time.

Related: 7 Strategies For Development As An Entrepreneur

Why is speedy decision making and a rapid pace of execution so critical? Top leaders know that making quick decisions combined with swift execution creates a much better chance of success as opposed to very slow and bureaucratic verdicts underpinned by little or no action.

When there is a high level of distrust amongst the stakeholders in any entrepreneurial venture literally everything slows down as negative arguments ensue and takes up an enormous amount of precious time. Forced action underpinned by distrust loses quality and speed and can potentially bring a business to its knees.

“The speed of trust” is therefore an extremely valuable principle that all Leaders should live by, that is if they wish to serve a higher purpose than themselves and others. Those Leaders whom have developed a high level of self-trust and have earned the trust of their team members have put themselves in the very advantageous position of being empowered to move towards their vision at a rapid pace through quickfire decisions positively multiplied by confident and competent execution.

“The speed of trust” does not mean that decisions are made without careful consideration and stakeholder input putting the level of quality of execution at imminent risk. It simply means that the decision-making process is quicker than most as mistrust does not cast unnecessary shadows of doubt over the intentions and ambitions of all the stakeholders.

A Leader or Leaders whom has fostered self-trust within themselves will not go through lengthy spells of procrastination that those whom lack self -awareness and suffer from severe self- doubt has to go through.

How do I execute at the speed of trust?

How do I practically bring the principle of the “speed of trust” to fruition within my business? Firstly, ensure that this critical principal is applied throughout all business processes which starts with hiring trustworthy people and by working those out of the business whom cannot be trusted.  Secondly, as  a Leader your actions and words echo throughout every aspect of the business therefore do what you say you are going to do. Admit to your mistakes and fix them.

Thirdly be authentic in your pursuit of the vision of your business. One of the possible ways to achieve that is by being a visible and living example of the business values that you advocate as a leader.

Related: Sales Leadership: The New Frontier

Lastly in order for you to be trusted as a leader you must first show trust in others. Trust others by giving them more responsibility and verbalise your high level of trust in your team members. Passionately speak about this principle and its positive fruits at every opportunity. Make the practical display of this principle by employees or any other stakeholders known to all stakeholders and be lavish with your praise when anyone is willing to earn the trust of other team members.

A very good example of this principle in action was embodied by the Supreme Russian commander, Alexander Vasilyevich Suvorov whom never lost a battle and was respected by both his men and his enemies. He earned the trust of his men by being amongst them as often as he could, by sharing their hardships and by offering them the most authentic and quality military training known to man within that period of history.

Suvorov was a humble student of warfare and documented every detail of his learning experiences which included setbacks that he faced. He observed the morale of his men first hand and ensured that he inspired them not only through his inspiring speeches but by being a living example of discipline and bravery.

I will leave the reader with an important question to ponder, one that has echoed throughout history: Do you trust enough to be trusted?

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What Kind Of Leader Are You?

Your effectiveness in scaling your business starts with the kind of leader you are. Here’s how you can build yourself up into a leader others will follow.

Nicholas Haralambous

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When you are in start-up mode it’s tough to take a step back and think about the kind of leader you are or want to be. Most of the time you’re fighting to keep your business alive, never mind think about how you lead.

This is especially challenging when it’s faster and more efficient to just step up and do things yourself. It’s easier for you to make the decisions, do the work, check the work, follow up on the work, etc. However, it’s this situation that prevents young companies from scaling to the next level.

Ask More Questions

I work really hard every day to be quieter. Sometimes I succeed and sometimes I fail so dismally that I actually do more damage than good. You see, I like to talk. I like to hear other people talk and I like to bash around ideas until they become something bigger, something better and something that can move from idea into action.

Related: Your Leadership Journey Starts Now… And Go!

Coupled with liking to talk, I also like being right. Who doesn’t? Add onto these two things the fact that I like to read and research and then throw in a teeny bit of ego or pride and it’s a recipe for leadership disaster.

If I am the most well-read, loudest and most opinionated person in a meeting then all that happens is that I end up pitching an idea, getting everyone to agree with this idea and then assigning the work on the idea to become a reality. Basically, I am working with, for and amongst myself. It’s an echo chamber that leads to bad ideas surviving and an unhappy team leaving.

The Collective Is More Intelligent Than the Individual

As a leader and founder, you probably feel like you are the person with the best understanding of the problem you are trying to solve and the best person to solve the problem. This can lead to a dictatorial approach to leadership, team inclusion and problem solving. You have an idea, you tell your team and they do what you tell them.

If this is how you do it then I have to ask you a simple question: Why did you hire smart people? Just so you could tell them what to do? If that’s the case rather hire capable but cheap people, not the best.

Your best people are there to help you scale your business beyond your own thinking and time. There are a set amount of hours in the day. There are only so many emails you can answer in your day.

A good example in my business is customer support. We pride ourselves in our impeccable customer service online and offline. I can’t physically answer every question posed by customers but I can hire incredible colleagues, entrust them with my vision and views on our customers and then trust them to go out and use their good judgement.

Work With The Best

Here’s the kicker to being a good leader: You need to work with the best people.

This is not something I say as a passing statement. I want you to stop reading right now and think about the ten people you interact with at your company every day. Are they the best people you could be working with? If not, why not? How do you find the best people and bring them into your business? Go and do that.

Related: You’re The Boss, So Be The Boss

It’s important to work with the best for two very simple reasons.

Working with the best people pushes you to be better. If you are literally the smartest person in the room in every aspect of your business it means that you are surrounded by subpar players and you are not learning anything. The people around you are meant to educate you and push your business into places you didn’t even know were there.

Second, working with the best people attracts other incredible people. If you have a business full of average team members, can you guess what kind of people they pull towards your business? More average or less than average people. Why? Because average people don’t want to be surrounded by incredible people. If they are, they look worse and not better.

It’s incredibly difficult to be a good leader all of the time. In fact, it’s close to impossible. What you can do is try to be a leader who communicates, learns and grows with your team in an open manner.

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All The Business Wisdom You Need From 4 Famous Entrepreneurs

Combine the knowledge of the greatest entrepreneurs with your own hard earned lessons.

Brian Hamilton

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There’s a lot of deification of entrepreneur “personalities.” The truth is that a few entrepreneurs, in my opinion, are probably luckier than good. But, some of the praise and deification is warranted. There have been some fantastic business leaders in this country, and one can learn a ton from studying them. Below, I’ve compiled a list of the four entrepreneurs who have taught me the most over the years.

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