In the SEAL Teams, there were fundamentals we practiced on a daily, weekly or quarterly basis: shooting, jumping out of perfectly good airplanes, small-unit tactics, looking good in Speedos (that’s a joke -- the Speedos part, at least). When there are tangible items to focus on, it’s easy to put a plan together and design the accompanying strategies to realize success.
However, with the intangible factors of relationship dynamics, navigating organizational politics and building influence, the likelihood of having a step-by-step process that garners a “W” (that’s acronym speak for “win”) is less likely. Actually, it’s not so much the plan but having the right plan that achieves your intended efforts.
Learning how to communicate effectively and manage people is extremely difficult to learn, let alone apply, so add this section to your startup plan: leadership fundamentals. As you go through your business plan and begin to envision the various stages of development and resources necessary to scale, consider also how your leadership style will have to adapt as well. What works for a five-person startup is different than a 100-person company or a 10,000-employee organization.
However, there are fundamentals that every leader should know, no matter how large or small the organization he or she commands. Here are four fundamentals of leadership every entrepreneur should know:
1. Leaders make decisions.
Leaders need to make tough calls and operate in that obscure space where there’s just enough information to be dangerous but not enough to be effective. Prefer to hold off on making a decision? Congratulations, you just made one -- the choice to not make a decision is still a decision.
2. Leaders are consistent.
How leaders show up is everything. If you arrive to work grumpy, people will think the CEO has a bone to pick. Be terse in your conversations and you come across as rude or impatient. Fail to smile and quickly turn into that social hand grenade you never wanted to be. Consistency builds trust in thoughts, actions and intentions. Choose how you want to show up.
3. Leaders create value.
The leadership style you choose to implement is the vehicle that moves the needle between “valuable” and “utterly useless.” That style may be autocratic, democratic, directive or coach-like, and each one is dependent upon the personalities and situational factors involved. How you communicate that style, though, is everything. Speaking of which ...
4. Leaders communicate.
The words you choose to use (or avoid), the tone, how you hold yourself (think posture), the verbal confirmations of “uh huh” you give to someone when they’re talking that indicate you’re listening, they all comprise the effectiveness of communication that instills the aforementioned value. More than anything though, leaders ensure that the message sent is the message received, since anything less would be ineffective. That’s not why leaders get paid the big bucks.
Where’s authenticity in this list, you ask? It's under communication. Want to foster greater innovation? Look at the communication and decision-making processes established by the leader. Looking for new behaviors to idolize? You’ll find them when your fearless leaders shows up -- hopefully. Oh, and that thing called trust? That’s where consistency comes in.
How will you practice the fundamentals today?
Related: 5 Ways to Create a Culture of Trust