News flash: being a business owner does not have anything to do with being a business leader. Of course, the two naturally go hand-in-hand. However, if you believe that the concepts are synonymous with one another, then you should continue reading the rest of this article.
Over time, I have learned that the top leaders are the ones that can clearly make the distinction between the two concepts. ‘Owner’ is purely a title or position. On the other hand, being a leader is a choice you make each and every day!
This is the second time I have owned my own business and I have no problem admitting that I have made a load of mistakes along the way. I have even tricked myself into believing that I was a good leader, when in truth I was not leading anyone or anything! To be clear, I was totally unaware that I was inadvertently falling into the trap of "being the business" rather than leading the business. Consequently I had fallen into the trap of managing the business rather than building it.
Similarly, I have witnessed CEOs rock up to the office every morning and walk right past all the young, ambitious, bright eyed, bushy tailed employees without making any eye contact. They seem much more concerned with how they will handle an upcoming meeting with a client or just generally grumpy from not having had their morning coffee yet. In reality, you may own the company from the comfort of your desk in the back room, but you may be far from being a good leader.
This is what I call working "in" the business rather than working "on" the business.
It is easy for anyone to start or own a business. Sure, the demand in terms of time is pretty substantial, from filing the paperwork, completing the list of business activities, paying corporate taxes, executing sales and marketing activities and of course fulfilling your promise to your clients – actually doing the work that the business was set up to do.
The hard part, though, is turning yourself from an owner into an actual leader that empowers the people around you to take ownership with you and on your behalf. The truth is, not everyone has the skills or temperament to be a both a leader and an owner. Business texts will tell you that your primary obligation as the business owner is to drive the growth of the business through new sales, from a predefined vision to create awareness for your products/ services and how they differ from what is already on the market.
Whilst the above is true from a formal definition’s perspective, it is really just a bunch of intellectually stimulating rhetoric with little or no meaning if you lack the ability to inspire, motivate or lead others.
Leaders create value. And not by selling or increasing the number of new clients they can attract, but by enabling others around them to work more efficiently.
Below are seven attributes of great leaders, not just owners:
1. Leaders lead, rather than control: True leaders do not ever need to remind people that they are the business owner or that they are the boss. Having to tell your staff that you pay their salaries or that they have to do what you say is not leadership.
2. Leaders do not tell you what to do; they show you how to do it: Authentic leaders demonstrate how it’s done rather than setting the rules.
3. Leaders do not point a finger, they take responsibility: It is easier to blame others for mistakes, instead of taking responsibility on behalf of the team. This is a concept known as extreme ownership - a set of principles learned on the battlefield by Navy Seal leaders.
4. Leaders do not micromanage: You have to allow space for your team to fail. Leaders give people the opportunity to learn from their own mistakes and they are there to help them understand how and why that happened.
5. Leaders highlight the team’s achievements, not their own: Leadership is not about individual accomplishments. A leader does not feel the need to take credit because the influence they have on the team surrounding them is far more important to them.
6. Leaders make everyone around them better: Leaders look out for opportunities to help their star players build confidence. Even when their people do not reach their goals, they appreciate that for them to succeed, it takes time, trial and error.
7. Leaders carve out time for all: Great leaders always listen to and empower their people. They make the time to coach and train because they understand that neglecting their people only reinforces negative habits, complacency and disengagement.
In summary, leaders see what other people do not because they do not look for immediate results. They care about challenging and nurturing others to reach greater levels, even higher than they themselves could have envisioned on their own. In the end, they reap the rewards.
If you resonate with this piece we would love to hear your thoughts! And if you would like to develop your own or your team's leadership competences, we can support you and your team through our Gen A Academy training programmes.
To your success!