As we start to head toward summer, many people look forward to vacation and a pace that begins to slow down, but not entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs know that when it’s hot outside, the heat is on just as strong internally.
Summer is a great time to push hard and develop not just your business skills, but your leadership skills. In fact, it was in the summer of 1899 that industrial giant Henry Ford left his position as chief engineer at the Edison Illuminating Company’s headquarters to concentrate on automobile production.
Ford knew that he needed to leave the safety of his position to explore life as an entrepreneur on his own terms. While we know Ford as one of the great inventors of America, if you’ve ever studied his leadership skills, they too are truly astonishing.
Leadership, like entrepreneurship, is an often aspired-to position, but it’s rare for most to actually achieve and display true leadership capabilities. Being in a role where you’re the boss, the supervisor, and for entrepreneurs, the founder doesn’t by default mean that you’re a good leader.
You can start a business, but that doesn’t mean you can lead a movement, or even a staff. Leadership takes an incredibly nuanced balance of authority and compassion, grit and softness and drive and a sense of reward. It’s perhaps the toughest role entrepreneurs will ever step into when they begin to hire out staff and drive their vision forward.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking because your business is a great idea, it means you’re a good leader. Develop and cultivate the traits great leaders posses by taking small daily actions.
Here are five things real leaders do, inspired by the leadership of Henry Ford (along with some of his great quotes).
“If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own."
Real leadership requires more listening than talking. When you pause to really hear other people’s side of the story, to let their perspective sink in and allow yourself to not be attached to your own notion of what’s right, you exhibit a true quality of a leader.
Listen more than you speak and learn how to hear others. It’s not that other points of view will necessarily be right, but just listening can go a long way. Great leaders allow other voices than just their own be heard.
“A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business.”
Every day, real leaders assess their businesses, the day’s activities and their teams, products and time. Money is a crucial and necessary reason for business. You need money to thrive, survive and keep your business going. It’s a wonderful thing. However, money for money’s sake alone will not drive decisions that are for the good of your staff, your community or the greater scope of humanity.
True leaders assess what areas their businesses are being efficient at and what areas they are not, and weigh their monetary decisions against other criteria. Monetary decisions can’t always be measured alone. Sometimes they need to be balanced against values such as integrity, vision and purpose. A true leader assesses the bottom line and his or her moral compass, and then makes adjustments accordingly.
3 + 4. Improve and take action
“You can't build a reputation on what you are going to do.”
After they assess, great leaders look at where they can get improve. When they identify better ways of doing things, they act. It’s a perpetual cycle: assess, improve, action.
True leaders don’t just apply the cycle to their businesses, they apply it to themselves. How can they be clearer communicators? How can they be better leaders? Where can they improve their skills?
Leadership is an ever-evolving and continuous process for yourself and your business. Start inward and work your way out.
“Quality means doing it right when nobody is looking.”
Real leaders have high expectations of others, but they have high expectations of themselves, too. True leaders expect more from themselves than any member of their teams. They lead by example, not by threat. They inspire their team to perform at the peak vs. demanding.
Real leaders also know that sometimes, team members won’t be able to live up to the expectations the team needs to thrive and they’ll have to take action. Being a leader means making touch decisions, decisions not based on personal emotions but the good of the team. They know that there are situations where changes have to be made.
Expect a lot from yourself to build and to maintain your business and your team. Real leaders make the necessary changes and do the right thing for the good of the whole group.