Leadership is different from management. It is about seeing ahead what others cannot yet see.It is about vision and inspiration, and, ultimately, about influencing others to do what you want them to do because they are willing to do it.
“Leadership is influence,” says author and life coach John C Maxwell. This statement applies to all aspects of life including, particularly, in respect to small businesses. Given that most small businesses fail within the first three years of their lives, it is important that the founders acquire relevant leadership skills to be able to direct the vision of the business. This starts by leading self, ensuring that there is mastery not only of the skills and expertise required of the business, but also of the strengths and weaknesses of the founders.
“Leadership is influence,” says author and life coach John C Maxwell. This statement applies to all aspects of life including, particularly, in respect to small businesses. Most small businesses fail within the first three years of their lives; therefore, it is important that the founders acquire relevant leadership skills to be able to direct the vision of the business.
This starts by leading self, ensuring there is mastery not only of the skills and expertise required of the business, but also of the strengths and weaknesses of the founders.
By mastering self, the founder of a small business is able to discern how far they can take the business before bringing someone else into the management team to take it to the next level. This is to avert one of the key mistakes small business founders make, of thinking that just because they are the ones with the business idea or innovation, they are the ones best equipped to take the business through all its stages and eventually to profitability.
Small businesses hold a significant position in the development of our country. They are key drivers for job creation, innovation, and economic growth. Given that some of the top challenges they face include access to finance, markets as well as skills, leadership is therefore important for small businesses to help navigate the business through uncertainties that arise.
As a leader of a small business, you have to look beyond the day to day issues of managing the business, which often tend to be subjective, and take a long-term outward view of what the business really needs.
Management tends to focus often on what the business wants, owing to the daily pressures. In soliciting funding to take the business to the next stage, the focus should be on how your business aligns with the prospective funder’s mandate and the value that the funding will provide to your business, and being able to clearly articulate these, such that you are able to influence the funding decision.
As access to markets is a major factor of whether businesses succeed or not, as a leader of a small business, the focus should be on what value your offering provides to the end user or customer and communicating this value. It is not only about communicating the problem that the customer faces with other competitive existing products or services and how your offerings overcome that, but having the ability to make the customer see that for themselves.
It is about influencing the value chain, and ensuring real market capture. It is about influencing your customer to choose your offerings each time without much hesitation. This is also an area where real business leaders understand the value of branding, such that the brand provides a distinctive market differentiation.
In the case of skills, often talent follows leaders and not just the business. It is about communicating to the talent the value of being part of your business and the opportunities they will have than in another business. It is often said that talent follows leaders more so than the salary. In essence, the leadership ability of business founders and owners acts as a catalyst that makes all elements of the business work together. Without leadership all the other business resources lie dormant.
Leadership plays an important role in identifying opportunities, setting and navigating the path for a business vision. This ensures that the business can easily adjust to forever changing environments in today’s fast paced business world. The saying that “Without a vision the people perish” is applicable to leadership and small businesses in that, without visionary leadership, a small business is more likely to flounder and eventually fail.
In conclusion, while a business might sometimes seem like a living, breathing thing with a mind of its own, it cannot grow by itself. It takes a leader with a passion to give the business vision, translate that vision into a roadmap, mobilise resources, inspire market confidence and attract the right partners. Growth cannot happen in the absence of leadership.