If you’re not leading your business, who is? That’s a pretty obvious statement. But, can you answer it yourself without doubt? If you ask 10 people, “What is leadership?” you’ll get 10 different answers.
While my 3 sons were growing up we found Boy Scouts in a time when we all needed a little structure in our lives. It was probably one of the greatest gifts given to us all. Even though I had been a leader and helped coach others on leadership for many years, it was amazing to learn what a great job the Boy Scouts do. And they do it with teenagers not corporate giants! In fact, some of them are better prepared than a number of the so called business leaders I have encountered in both my corporate and military career.
That being said, why not use what works? Here is an overview of leadership in The Boys Scouts of America Senior Patrol Leaders (SPL) Handbook. The SPL, for those not familiar with Boy Scout, is the lead youth in charge of the troop. It is important to note, The Boys Scouts of America strongly recommends to adult leaders that the troop be “boy run”. That is adults only act as advisors and the boys take responsibility for all the planning and implementation of regular troop activities:
With that as a backdrop, here is how The Boys Scouts of America teach teenage boys leadership:
- Keep your word. Don’t make promises you can’t keep.
- Be Fair to All. A good leader shows no favorites. Don’t allow friendships to keep you from being fair to all members of your patrol. Know who likes to do what, and assign duties to patrol members by what they like to do.
- Be a Good Communicator. You don’t need a commanding voice to be a good leader, but you must be willing to step out front with an effective “Let’s go.” A good leader knows how to get and give information so that everyone understands what’s going on.
- Be Flexible. Everything doesn’t always go as planned. Be prepared to shift to “plan B” when “plan A” doesn’t work.
- Be Organized. The time you spend planning will be repaid many times over. At patrol meetings, record who agrees to do each task, and fill out the duty roster before going camping.
- Delegate. Some leaders assume that the job will not get done unless they do it themselves. Most people like to be challenged with a task. Empower your patrol members to do things they have never tried.
- Set an Example. The most important thing you can do is lead by example. Whatever you do, your patrol members are likely to do the same. A cheerful attitude can keep everyone’s spirits up.
- Be Consistent. Nothing is more confusing than a leader who is one way on moment and another way a short time later. If your patrol knows what to expect from you, they will more likely respond positively to your leadership.
- Give praise. The best way to get credit is to give it away. Often a “Nice job” is all the praise necessary to make a Scout feel he is contributing to the efforts of the patrol.
- Ask for Help. Don’t be embarrassed to ask for help. You have many resources at your disposal. When confronted with a situation you don’t know how to handle, ask someone with more experience for some advice and direction.
This is an excellent list that I couldn’t have written better myself. Can you honestly say that you display the traits outlined here? If not, then it doesn’t matter what you try to do to fix your business, because the leadership may not be there to grow it.
The hardest thing that business owners and entrepreneurs must do is look in the mirror. You must do this to find the weakness within your leadership abilities. Only then can you make the personal changes necessary that contribute to your small business growth.
As I described in an earlier post The Search for Growth Continues, there are two sets of key factors that contribute to your small business growth – owner and company factor. If you only are addressing the company factors your small business growth will never be fully realized.
So take action! See where your personal growth really lies. Use this list to evaluate yourself. Rate yourself in each area on a scale of 1 – 10 (1 as worst and 10 as highest) and be honest. Add up your total. If your totals are 80 – 100 (I said be honest) you really need to take a hard look at yourself. Even the best leaders are harder on themselves than you have been and would doubtfully rate themselves this high. What make you think you’re this good?!
If you are in the 65 – 80 you are probably already in the zone. Use the individual ratings in each area to determine where you could use some improvement and start working on these areas. An executive coach probably would be a good idea to help you stay focused and be accountable to yourself.
If you are lower than 65 then you’ve got some work to do. You should probably begin looking within yourself before you try to fix your company. Again, use your ratings to prioritize the areas and begin working on improving your leadership skills. Be careful, some skills are needed before others are possible. So make sure you’re working on things in the right order. An executive coach is probably a good idea for you as well. Often denial occurs in this zone. Accountability is critical to moving forward. A coach will bring the accountability you need to improve your leadership skills and abilities.
As your leadership skills improve you will be surprised to find your business improving as well. Your staff will also gain the benefits from your improved skills, and grow and changes too. Before you know it you’ll find yourself on the upward trend you seek on the way toward your small business growth.