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28 Entrepreneurs Offer Their Best Leadership Tips

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To be an entrepreneur and business owner, you have to understand leadership and be excellent at it. There are numerous qualities that make up successful leaders including being strong, visionary, reliable, audacity, empowering, positive, motivating, decisive and confident. While recruiting, hiring and finding talented people is important, it is just as important to manage and lead employees. Here are some tips to keep in mind as you build your leadership profile.

#1-Leading by example is the key

Photo Credit: Brianna Rooney

People want to be inspired and motivated. They want someone that does what they preach and does it well. No one wants a leader that sits back and barks orders. Even if you’re saying good things. It doesn’t matter because you need to show them. Just like in your personal life, actions speak louder than words.

Thanks to Brianna Rooney, Techees!

#2- Empower your team

Photo Credit: Dan Salganik

Let your team know that what they are doing makes a difference to the success of the company. Empowering your team without forcing it is pertinent to getting them excited about being part of a project. What I mean by that, is not handing out compliments and telling them that ‘they matter’. What you should do is assign tasks that challenge them, celebrate wins, discuss losses/failures, and keep moving forward.

Thanks to Dan Salganik, Commoot!

#3-Build a high trust culture

Photo Credit: David Sarnoff

Leadership requires establishing trust with your employees. One way to build trust is to establish relationships with managers and staff. Ask questions about their aspirations, goals and family life. Leaders must also model the behavior that they ask of their employees. If leaders act in contravention to the established culture and policies, it erodes trust and confidence in that leader, Leadership requires effort and work. For me, the overriding necessity for a leader is to build a high trust culture, be open to feedback and show gratitude.

Thanks to David Sarnoff, Sarnoff Group LLC!

#4-Three tips

Saurabh Jindal

Photo Credit: Saurabh Jindal

Be as honest as you can be to your team and customers. Your team is your family and your first set of customers will be the backbone on which you will get other customers. This would also entail that you lead by example. Your team and others involved with business look upto you and also judge if you are the right person they should be following. Set an example for them or which they are proud to be associated with you. 2. Store information properly: You will repeatedly need to use the  information about your business, processes, service offerings and everything else associated with the business. Store it well and in an easily retrievable manner. You will end up saving a lot of time as you meet potential stakeholders- customers, investors, partners, etc. 3. Don’t bring work to home: Take a required break from work. Refresh yourself. Try to lead a normal life. At home, make sure you read and absorb new things.

Thanks to Saurabh Jindal, Talk Travel!

#5- Be authentic and listen more

Photo Credit: Katie Higgins

In a world where, at the tip of our fingers, we can compare ourselves to everyone around us – be authentic. In doing so, you’ll make real relationships with real people in the world around you, rather than a manicured (aka fake and forgettable) connection. My other best leadership tip: Successful leadership requires more listening than talking. Rather than barking orders, get in the trenches and get stuff done with your people. That’s how you inspire change and progress.

Thanks to Katie Higgins, Emboss Communications!

#6-Set the right example

Photo Credit: David Pagotto

In practice, this means getting in the trenches with your team and moving everyone forward together. When an employee sees the business owner or their manager getting to work early, or being obsessive about customer engagement they adopt the same behaviors and principals in their own work.

Thanks to David Pagotto, SIXGUN!

#7- Focus on the vital tasks

Photo Credit: Topher Morrison

A Leader needs to have a realistic understanding of the vital tasks that they are performing each day versus the functional tasks that they find themselves doing out of habit or a false sense of necessity. By focusing their working hours on functional tasks, the Leader is effectively choking the growth and scalability of the business. The vital tasks are the duties that the Leader is uniquely qualified to do…and when he/she does them, it makes a significant impact on the company’s revenue, cash flow and profit. Functional tasks are those that can easily be delegated, like emails, payroll and appointment setting. These vital tasks are subjective, and plenty of what is considered vital today should become functional by next year. By delegating functional tasks to an employee, a part-time staffer or intern, the business can scale exponentially. And by doing this personal vital vs. functional assessment again each quarter, the needle can be moved significantly within a year.

Thanks to Topher Morrison, Key Person of Influence USA!

#8- Make the team understand the decisions  you make

Photo Credit: Laurie Richards

Teach others how to make good decisions when you’re not present. A good leader makes strategic decisions and ensures others understand the rationale behind those decisions. A strong leader doesn’t leave others wondering why today the answer is go left when yesterday the answer was go right. The more the team understands how the leader makes decisions, the better decision-makers team members become when the leader is not available to make those decisions. Early in my career I had a wonderful leader who taught me the criteria he wanted used for decision-making. He’d ask what we thought. Then, he’d push us saying, I think we need something that’s a little more focused. When next idea was offered, I’d think, Is it focused enough? Then next time he might say, This time I think we need something a little more time sensitive. From then on, every idea I offered was focused and time sensitive. This went on until I knew exactly what criteria I needed to make what he would consider a good decision. I’ve carried this philosophy and technique into my career as an entrepreneur and CEO. Team members know the criteria used for strategic decision-making, so that, in my absence, they can make decisions I would make. The leader cannot always be present. When (s)he teaches others how (s)he makes decisions, that leader empowers others to make appropriate decisions in the leaders absence — a significant advantage in getting the right things done right.

Thanks to Laurie Richards, LR&A!

#9- Communicate constantly and effectively

Photo Credit: Ho Yin Cheung

The key to leadership, like most things in life, is communication. For business owners of smaller startups or companies with a smaller number of total employees, communication is even more vital. As CEO of a company with around 20-30 remote employees (and growing), it’s my job to ensure communication between teammates and with me is constant so that I can facilitate growth and onboarding as smoothly and efficiently as possible. My #1 tip for leading my team to success revolves around understanding different communication styles, listening to my employees and providing the team with the information they need to be successful. Because the nature of remote working often lends itself to added  communication challenges, I created a written guide that eliminates any room for misunderstanding when it comes to my personal style of communication. I included common misconceptions I’ve experienced based on my body language or style of questions and comments. I detailed my main pet peeves when it comes to productivity, small proactive steps employees can take that gain my confidence, and more. The best leadership advice I can give anyone is, if you want to create a well-oiled machine comprised of confident, happy and productive employees, leave no room for misunderstanding by creating an open, honest stream of communication.

Thanks to Ho Yin Cheung, Riotly Social Media!

#10- A number of tips

Photo Credit: Brian Lim

Great leadership requires having processes and procedures in place. It makes the daily operation of your business more manageable and gives you more time to actually lead. I also believe in the importance of having a “Do Not Do” list. Make sure your ideas align with your mission statement, and if they don’t, move on. Great leaders have learned the art of delegating tasks. In the beginning, I was the guy that tried to do everything on his own. As I’ve grown, I’ve learned there’s a lot of value in networking and building relationships. The relationships that I formed yesterday are what’s opening new doors today.

Thanks to Brian Lim, INTO THE AM!

#11- Be a trustworthy leader

Photo Credit: Peter Dudley

I work very hard to build trust; it’s impossible to lead people who don’t trust you. You can order them around and get them to do what you want, but being in charge is not the same as leading. Trust is built over time, through a combination of authenticity, transparency, vulnerability, courage, and just plain listening. Trust can also be broken in an instant, so it takes constant vigilance–especially in successful times when we can  get complacent in the little things–to be a trustworthy leader.

Thanks to Peter Dudley, Cancer Support Community San Francisco Bay Area!

#12-Never be afraid to fail!

Photo Credit: Ross Vierra

Failure is the key to success, if you learn from every misstep you will grow and learn how to excel for the future. The issue most people have is that they view failure as the end, whereas, in reality this is just the beginning. Michael Jordon, world famous NBA Basketball star once said, “ I’ve missed 9000 shots and lost 300 games and was trusted 26 times to take the game winning shot and missed. I’ve failed over and over in my life and that is why I succeed.” Bottom line is you can’t make the shots and win if you don’t take the shot and if you miss and come up short, learn from the misstep and step back up to the line and shoot again. Never quit and view failure as the moment success is about to enter your life.

Thanks to Ross Vierra, Axis Global Enterprises!

#13- Hire Leaders

Photo Credit: Glenn Mungo

At MUNGO, we approach hiring with the same purpose that we apply to client work: Exceed expectations. In our experience, good enough doesn’t win. It doesn’t build trust and it doesn’t build longevity. Not with clients and not within our agency culture. So, we look for people for whom good isn’t enough. And given a choice between the “right” hire based on resume or the hire that demonstrates the most potential and carries the most upside, we choose upside every time. We can teach smart people to do anything. We can’t teach passion, initiative, enterprise or intangibles that may not translate on paper but evolve into greatness when given the right culture and opportunity. Investing in upside is everything.

Thanks to Glenn Mungo, Mungo Creative Group!

#14- Cultivate healthy relationships

Photo Credit: Peter Thies

When we think of leaders, we assume the role baths in glory, that leaders get to swim in financial rewards and social recognition. However, what is not well known is the emotional toll that the role of leadership may bring. According to our research with 75 CEOs, new CEOs learned only **after**  starting the job about several emotional, cognitive and personal challenges inherent in the role. In addition, they had to deal with these issues real time, with little-advanced notice. Specifically, leaders recanted that they often experience a sense of being alone in a crowd. Naturally, as the role of leadership introduces a new power dynamic, it creates distance between the leaders and their families, friends, and colleagues. In addition, the role of leadership comes with a duty to make large-scale decisions that often weigh on the leaders’ consciences. During times of uncertainty, leaders must be the public face of confidence, regardless of their internal experience. To avoid burnout, leaders must cultivate healthy relationships and practice a lifestyle that holistically benefits their well-being.

Thanks to Peter Thies, The River Group!

#15- Four tips

Photo Credit: Kimberly Rath

Get to know your employees as people, not just workers. Be friends with the people you manage. We know this goes against a lot of advice leaders get. But who do you work harder for, your friends or the people who make a point of not being friends with you? Accept people as they are and help them become even more of who they are. Make people your highest priority.

Thanks to Kimberly Rath, Talent Plus, Inc.!

#16- Pay attention to needs and motivators

Photo Credit: Tracy Williams

Leadership is all about what you can do to help the people you lead. When I sense someone struggling, I try to lead with a servants heart. In other words, carefully consider what tools people need and motivators and then give them what they need. As a CEO and leader, my job is to help people with their job and vice versa.

Thanks to Tracy Williams, Olmstead Williams Communications!

#17- Listen

Photo Credit: Simon Chatfield

Be a great listener (don’t just wait for your turn to speak). Being able to listen to the feedback of your team and clients makes the difference between a great leader who is dedicated to their staff and customers, and a mediocre leader who is mostly interested in themselves. Take the time to listen to any and all questions, concerns, or ideas. Take your employees’ feedback to heart – you hired them for a reason.

Thanks to Simon Chatfield, Optimum Technologies, Inc.!

#18- Have constant conversations on specific topics

Photo Credit: Halelly Azulay

Have ongoing, regular, and timely conversations with employees about performance, goals, career, and feedback, daily and weekly. Listen before talking and do more asking than telling. Regular leadership conversations contribute tremendously to your team members’ current and future level of performance and engagement at work. The top ten types of conversations that I suggest every leader have with every employee throughout each year are strengths conversations, goal planning conversations, day-to-day performance conversations, weekly check-in conversations, positive feedback conversations, developmental feedback conversations, career conversation, Stay Interview conversations, impact conversations, and development and training planning conversations.

Thanks to Halelly Azulay, TalentGrow!

#19- Have a leadership philosophy

Wayne Strickland

Photo Credit: Wayne Strickland

All leaders, especially at high levels, must have a personal leadership philosophy that will navigate them through the tough times and excel them through the best times. A leadership philosophy is a list of behaviors that a leader follows that is personal, authentic and temperature tested. These are behaviors that have been communicated to their teams and provides dependable and predictable behavior so their teams know exactly what the leader expects when making decisions and navigating the ever changing competitive landscape.

Thanks to Wayne Strickland

#20- Make your story compelling

Photo Credit: Jim Haudan

Inspire people to embrace change through storytelling. Because if leaders can’t do that, it’s nearly impossible to scale any idea, process or new strategy. It is the leaders’ responsibility to craft a storyline that creates the connections, and the intellectual and emotional buy-in for people to want to go on your journey. As a leader you have to have the mindset that it is your job to have your people want to internalize your story, rather than just be passive listeners of the story and then leave it up to them to figure out where the excitement lies. So, think about your story; make sure it is compelling, clear and understandable and be sure that success is defined when you see the energy and passion that you have for the subject reflected in the faces of your people.

Thanks to Jim Haudan, Root Inc.!

#21- Strike the balance

Photo Credit: Dan Goldstein

The key to being a leader in business is balancing the needs of your customers with those of your team members. It’s important to challenge your employees by setting aggressive but achievable goals so they can strive for bigger and better results, while building a company culture that emphasizes camaraderie and collaboration. I don’t think success is a zero-sum game. The ideal result can be a win for the company, the client, the individual employees, and, when marketing in an industry with a high standard of ethics like law or medicine, and public perception of the overall niche occupied by the client.

Thanks to Dan Goldstein, Page 1 Solutions!

#22- Take full responsibility

Photo Credit: Ben Taylor

There are a number of different qualities and characteristics that make a good leader – and each person will have their own unique style. But above all else, good leaders are responsible for guiding a company. A leader will be responsible for the company’s mission, vision, integrity and ambition. And they’ll also be responsible for getting their employees to buy into their ambition to succeed. Mistakes will get made, sometimes more than you’d like. But what separates good leaders from bad leaders is the aftermath – where good leaders learn, bad leaders blame.

Thanks to Ben Taylor, Rainbird!

#23- Make culture the most important focus

Photo Credit: Romeo Spino

Develop a culture where people have the autonomy to create and contribute to the mission. Hire the right people and stay the F*ck out of their way. I am a strong believer that all businesses should make culture their most important focus. If you treat your team with respect and provide opportunities for creativity, then “turning a profit” will happen   organically. – “Creativity yields Opportunity”. I believe people are unique and who’s to say that my way “THE CEO” is the only way? You can’t force people to operate in a box, ”because that’s the way business has always done it”. Just let people be who they are and be creative. It gives everyone a sense of ownership and accountability, and it makes them a part of something bigger. The freedom to create will quickly show any CEO who talks a good game and who shows up every day to CRUSH IT! In order to be a great company, you have to keep developing and investing in your workforce. For any business owner, you are only as good as the people who surround you.

Thanks to Romeo Spino, StratasCorp!

#24-Get your boots dirty

Photo Credit: Timothy Bach

Leading isn’t a job, it’s a lifestyle. As a young entrepreneur and business owner, I manage several employees who are significantly older than me. It works because of two key reasons: first I am respectful and trust their expertise and two, I’m constantly in the trenches alongside them. A good leader doesn’t sit on his horse on top of the hill looking over the battle but instead has his boots filled with mud, fighting right alongside his troops. Good leaders show respect and lead by example; working harder, faster, longer than those around them!

Thanks to Timothy Bach, The Creator Factory!

#25-Continuously question yourself

Photo Credit: Sean P Finelli

Self-improvement is paramount to our success. Learn from encountering new challenges, as well as working with your team who have constructive opinions or who have already been there and done it. I pride myself in hiring great talent and learning everything I can from them. It’s not always about creating a top-down approach. I dissect and analyze much of what my team communicates and how the people around me in the company behave. I notice what works and what does not. I absorb this information and use it to evolve my approach as CEO, with the goal of creating a better and learned working environment for everyone. Show pride in your brand by *advertising your team*. This is a crucial step to humanizing your brand. When building your website, avoid adding a stock photo of someone answering the telephone. Instead, ask one of your people to feature in the photo. It achieves a simple goal: empathy. We’re real people, not machines, and our real people are here to help you. Using images of your team also increases morale, showing you value that person as being an integral part of the brand.

Thanks to Sean P Finelli, The Roman Guy!

#26-You’re also part of the team

Photo Credit: Damien Buxton

I’ve worked with many business owners and leaders over the past twenty years and have found that some often act like they are not part of their own team. Dictating orders as opposed to delegating tasks. In some of the more successful companies, I’ve noticed there is a different mindset and ethos, many managers are ‘hands on’ and work as a group with their staff, everyone supporting each other. This seems to a grow a helpful and ‘can do’ environment. Become a great leader and be part of your team not just an overseer.

Thanks to Damien Buxton, Midas Creative!

#27- My main tactic for leadership and productivity is transparency

Photo Credit: Lana Elie

As an employee I always felt one step removed from the person above me. I wasn’t to be more skilled than them and I wasn’t privy to big decisions – and it really hindered not only the belief in myself but a vision to pursue.At Floom, we do things a little differently. I’m very open about the skills I have and the ones I lack. It’s important that the people on the team feel not only like the experts of their departments, but with it they have the responsibility of growing and professionalizing those skills in order for the business to be able to grow. The vision is clear, and constantly shared, and with that vision we try to make sure each member of the team can see where they want to be at that stage. For example, if we want to be this kind of a business, doing these things, at this size, in three years, what are they doing with in it? Not only does it feed excitement, but allows a picture and a plan to be created in their minds in order to simplify achieving those goal. The simple fact is, with my team feeling inspired to grow and feeling like the company is backing them, the business will prosper alongside.

Thanks to Lana Elie, Floom!

#28-Know What You’re Leading

Photo Credit: Nate Masterson

Once you’ve gotten your business off the ground, it’s easy to lose track of what goes on amongst employees on a daily basis. The best piece of advice I can give in regards to leading in a business is to take the time to understand each department and job that is being done in your company. By learning what your employees do even on the lower levels, you will gain a new appreciation for their work as well as a better understanding of how to best help your workers and make them more efficient. Seeing mix-ups in communication amongst departments, noticing outdated equipment, or detecting poor working conditions in your company are best done when you are actually in the trenches with your workers. Plus, your employees will appreciate you taking the time to get to know them and their struggles, and they will consequently invest more energy into the company.

Thanks to Nate Masterson, Maple Holistics!

What’s your #1 leadership tip? Tell us in the comments below. Don’t forget to join our #IamCEO Community

About Mercy - CBNation

This is a post from a CEO Blog Nation writer. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

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