There is no better time than right now to become your own boss. The availability of online training, the booming entrepreneurial world, and a fast-changing world full of small business makes creating your own business more viable and exciting. If you are reading this, you’re likely already excited and inspired to do what you really want to do, to follow a passion or dream, and to create your life on your terms.
High-level leadership skills are essential for your success both individually and as you lead your team or become your own boss. Here, I have collected some of the most important tools of leadership from more than 2 decades running my own therapy/coaching practice, and from extensive research on this topic.
Notice how much focus there is here on emotional intelligence, or EQ. Without a high level of EQ, there is a huge lack in effectiveness as a leader. You can know your product or service inside and out, but if you’re missing good communication skills and empathy, for example, people are more likely to go elsewhere.
When you have excellent support, whether it is a mentor, boss, or coach, who helps you develop and strengthen these areas, you can become a truly successful CEO of your own life and your business.
These are not in any particular order, however, I do believe the first three build a strong foundation.
This means having a deep understanding of your emotions, values, mission, strengths, challenges, needs and blind spots. Recognizing how your feelings affect yourself and those around you allows you to be a stronger leader. Self-aware people can realistically assess their capabilities as well as when it’s best to ask for help. This extends from knowing your personal strengths and weaknesses to also being candid about your company’s abilities, services or products.
Managing and monitoring one’s emotions is crucial for excellent leadership. The more you understand and take responsibility for your own emotions, in other words, act reasonably, the healthier your company or organization will be. You will create a culture of trust and fairness, whether you have one assistant or 100 employees. Sometimes we think of self-regulation as it relates to a toddler or a teenager, but really, this is a developed skill everyone needs to address because otherwise, some leaders can unknowingly erode trust and thereby their most valued work relationships. Impulsivity and lack of integrity are the cause of many bad circumstances within companies.
What is your WHY?
Be incredibly clear on your mission and passion. When you run your own business, and you hit bumps in the road, which inevitably happens, staying in touch with your deep WHY is key for keeping you going. Writing it out, many times, and posting it up so you can read it is powerful. A fun, impactful way to do this is with a picture of some kind. When people in a company understand what they are working for, they come to work with a high sense of purpose. Commitment, innovation, weathering hard times and failure all become easier. Thomas Edison was driven by a higher cause and said, “I didn’t find a way to make a lightbulb, I found a thousand ways not to make one.”
How you communicate is vital – manage your body language and your tone of voice well, and you’ll see the positive impact you can have.
Research shows this breakdown in how communication is delivered:
- 7% of communication is words
- 38% of communication is tone of voice
- 55% of communication is body language
This becomes exponentially important in the world of digital work because of course we have to really tune in and pay close attention online. These numbers stress the degree of importance of non-verbal communication.
How do you approach others? How is your eye contact, your body language, your posture or handshake? Confidence and calm go a very long way. Sitting up or standing tall, taking up space but not too much, being present, not distracted, focused and calm are ways to accomplish this.
The old top down style of leadership is no longer accepted by many. Discussions based on mutual respect and understanding is now the norm. People want to work for/with people who listen well, value their input, and create a supportive and enjoyable culture. Weekly or daily check-ins with your teams, in which they have a chance to voice concerns and contribute ideas, creates a powerful culture in your business. If you work alone with no team, consider ways to collaborate with relevant business owners.
Courage to Be Vulnerable
People respect people being real. This does not mean an emotional purge, it means being willing to discuss difficult feelings, owning up to one’s mistakes, being authentic, and being open to feedback. There is still widespread belief that being vulnerable is weak. From my point of view, it’s the opposite, and a growing body of writing supports the belief that both courage and vulnerability are critical for leadership. Read Daring Greatly or Dare to Lead for more on this topic.
You might not think this is a key part of great leadership. However, the better you are at taking care of yourself, staying out of overwhelm, and away from burnout, the better you’ll be able to achieve success with a peaceful mind, and then be the leader you want to be. Many people who are driven towards success also work themselves into the ground. Putting everyone else’s needs above your own means self neglect that will catch up with you.
Avoid the Disease to Please
Women, especially, get caught in the trap of being nice and wanting to be liked. Instead, think hard about your priorities, and what you want to achieve in your life, rather than worrying about everyone liking you.
Real genuine interest and understanding in the people you work with and who work for you will be felt and deeply appreciated. Take time to listen to people who work for you. You will make a positive impact on them, then they will want to continue working with you.
Lead by Example
Be the leader you would like to have leading you. What are the qualities you’d most like in your CEO? Write these out and use this as a compass for your own leadership.
Don’t Do It Alone
Create a board, join a network, hire a coach, have mentors, but whatever you do, be sure to have a strong, varied network of support. Often when business owners are starting out, they think they cannot afford or aren’t at the level of needing this, but I can tell you from experience, if you work with excellent people from the beginning, you succeed far more quickly than if you go it alone.
Your skills, emotional intelligence and behaviors shape your success and leadership. Take an honest look at yourself, celebrate your strengths and work to overcome any self-limiting thoughts and behaviors so you can soar!
- Strengths Based Leadership by Don Clifton
- Fierce Conversations! Achieving Success at Work & Life, One Conversation at a Time by Susan Scott
- Dare to Lead by Brene Brown
- How Women Rise by Marshall Goldsmith & Sally Helgesen
- Anything You Want by Derek Sivers
- Entrepreneur Revolution by Daniel Priestly
- How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
- Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
- The Power of Full Engagement: Managing Energy, Not time, Is the Key to High Performance and Personal Renewal by Jim Loehr
- The 80/20 Manager: The Secret To Working Less and Achieving More by Richard Koch