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Ask the Expert

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You are a leader, like it or not

Posted: July 14, 2014 12:29 p.m.
Updated: July 14, 2014 12:29 p.m.
 

Leadership is the primary responsibility of those who own businesses. It starts by leading from the front, not hiding in an office where you cannot be seen or heard.

Those in the company see and hear the attitude of the owner every day. It follows that owners should not wear their heart on their sleeve.

No employee I’ve ever met wanted to deal with or follow an angry, frustrated, unhappy owner. When faced with this challenge, many employees run, and some hide; only the brave or foolish stay and fight.

Owners need to own their attitudes; take responsibility for what their attitude can do to an organization. A positive attitude will gain followers and believers. A negative one will drive people away, both inside and outside the company.

Attitude always seeps through. This is demonstrated in tone of voice, facial expressions, posture, handshake, voicemail messages, e-mailing, decision-making, delegating and management style.

I’ve known owners who ignored employees they were mad at or disappointed in. How mature is that?

The question every owner should ask is, “What attitude is seeping through to my employees, the company’s clients and our vendors?”

The best employees won’t tolerate an owner with a lousy attitude. Why should they? They will go to another employer where their effort is appreciated. There is always a labor shortage of great people.

Employees look to the owner for their future; both personally and professionally. This future is also known as a vision.

Organizations on the path to success have a vision. That vision is articulated to the people who have a responsibility to carry it out. The vision is visible and progress is measured regularly.

Does every employee know what that vision is, or do they just work for a paycheck? The answer depends on the attitude of the owner.

Employees look to the owner for a sense of mission; a sense of purpose. Only the owner can provide this. This can’t be delegated.

A mission also is what sets one organization apart from all the others. It’s unique.

The mission tells every employee what they need to be doing every day. Those who don’t know what the mission is need to have it explained to them. Those who need help understanding what they need to do every day to be in alignment with the mission need to be coached. Those who don’t agree with the mission need to find another organization to earn a paycheck.

A mission statement is not “to make money.” Some owners, unfortunately, don’t understand that, and while they may be wealthy, they lead organizations that are not built on anything but greed and profit.

Owners need to continually be learning and applying what is learned. No company can get better at what it does without the person at the top getting better at what they are supposed to be doing: leading.

When employees see their owner improving so he or she can become better at the top leadership position, they know they are working for an individual who is in business for the long haul.

No employee I’ve ever met wants to be around someone who already knows everything and is constantly trumpeting that belief.

Employees want to be with a winner, not a whiner. Employees want to know that when times are tough, that their boss will keep fighting, not throwing in the white towel or tossing a temper tantrum.

Being an owner is not the same thing as being a leader. Leaders have far greater responsibility. It’s a shame many owners don’t see the distinction because they act like owners when they should be leading an organization.

Ken Keller facilitates The Wise Owners Advisory Boards, bringing business owners together for education, sharing and on-going success. Contact him at KenKeller@SBCglobal.net. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

 

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