The 5 things you need to Boldly lead your business

kirk             – CBS Paramount

As a business owner, do you ever find yourself asking “WWKD?”  (What would Kirk Do?).  If not, it might be a strategy worth considering – as Randy Pausch pointed out in The Last Lecture, Captain Kirk is a great role model for a leader.  He knew it was critical to surround himself with people who were smarter than he was, he knew the importance of delegating and he had the passion to inspire people to greatness!

You wear a lot of hats in your business – you might be the rainmaker, bringing in new opportunities.  Or maybe you’re the lead production person – creating the goods or service.  Or perhaps it’s the little things, being the chief cook and bottle washer responsible for just getting stuff done!  Or even more likely – you’re doing it all and more!

However there’s one responsibility that’s unique to the business owner and it’s the trait that Captain Kirk really excelled at.  The one thing that makes everything else work.  Of course that’s your job as a leader…the captain of your ship!  As the owner you’re the only one who can really do the critical leadership activities.

Running a business is kind of like running the starship Enterprise – there are a lot of moving parts, sometimes people don’t come back from missions and often times, things will go very, very wrong…but they can fixed with some hard work and the right strategy!  As the leader – you’ve got to do the important things to make it all come together.  But what does that really mean?  What are the critical activities of a leader for a small business?

Here’s a starter list of what’s really important – share your thoughts in comments below on what I might have missed!

1. Be the Visionary

The small business leader must be the one to develop the vision of what the business is going to become.  Just like the captain sets the course for the ship, it’s up to the leader to determine the short and long term destination of the business.

The vision is the basis for everything else and it should reflect not only what should happen, but why that’s the destination.  And it can’t be a lot of fluff – it must be something that people can understand and grab onto.  It doesn’t have to be as catchy as the Enterprises mission:

“Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.”

However, without a solid vision…you’re not going anywhere.

2. Repeat Yourself

In his book “It’s Your Ship” Captain Michael Abrashoff talks about how he picked up the nickname from his crew of ‘Megaphone Mike’ because he was constantly communicating and reminding everyone of the big picture using the ship’s PA system.

You have to create the vision, and you also have to relentlessly communicate that vision, repeating yourself over and over so that everyone knows, and really buys into why you do what you do, how you’re doing it and what you’re doing.  You’ll get sick of saying the same things – but that’s your job as the leader!

You should be able to ask any employee what your doing as a company, what’s important for success and get consistent answers.

3. Be Authentic

Small businesses have a big advantage over their corporate counterparts because it’s possible to have personality and to be real people who authentically believe in something.  Part of the reason Captain Kirk was so effective (and got so many babes) is because he didn’t hold back – he let people know what he was all about.

As the business owner and the leader – it’s up to you to set the example and put yourself out there.  People want to buy from other people…not a nameless, faceless business.  The best way to demonstrate who you are as a business is to be yourself. 

4. Keep the Big Picture Perspective

This one is tough – most entrepreneurs want to get into the weeds.  They want to be the Hero who saves the day, even if it is killing their business.  Just like it’s critical for the business owner to set the course, the business owner also needs to be the one who’s evaluating the big picture.

If you’re not carving out a couple of hours a week to look at the big picture of where your business is going, then you’re going to end up in the wrong galaxy sooner rather than later!  It’s easy to say that leaders lead, but the practical aspect of that for a business owner is that it’s up to you course correct and do the right thing for the business overall.

5. Keep Making Things Better / Keep Learning

Finally – it’s up to the business owner to constantly be looking to improve everything.  It’s human nature to rest on your laurels, to coast, to just let things go.  But the leader has to have the fire to keep pushing things forward, improving outcomes even when things are going well.

Along the same lines – the business owner must create an environment of constant learning and self improvement.  Change is constant and the successful businesses will stay in front of the trends and be better educated than their competition!

So the next time you’re struggling with a tough decision – maybe you should ask yourself ‘what would Kirk do?’ and remember as the business owner you are uniquely qualified to lead your business, set the vision, communicate, set an authentic tone, look at the big picture and constantly improve.

If you’re doing all of those things – chances are you are boldly going to a pretty cool destination!

What aspects of leadership do you think are most important for a business owner?  What did I miss?  Share your thoughts below – I’d love to hear them.

Shawn Kinkade  Kansas City Business Coach

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