Leadership is an integral part of running your own business and key to your success as an entrepreneur. Whether you manage people or manage relationships with other stakeholders, authenticity is a powerful ingredient to success.
So what does it mean to be an authentic leader and entrepreneur? Here are 6 tips that will help you keep it real.
- Self Awareness – Most of us have some sense of ourselves. As an entrepreneur developing a healthy sense of self is critical to growing your business. Developing self awareness means fostering a stronger and deeper understanding of who you are – your values, skills and knowledge, what makes you “tick”, your best approach to getting things done, your strengths and challenges, and your impact on other people.
It’s an ongoing journey that involves times of self reflection, regularly seeking feedback and coaching to calibrate your own perspective on your impact and effectiveness. A strong sense of self comes from accepting who you are, knowing your strengths and where you need help. When you are grounded in a balanced view of yourself it gives you what people call “presence”.
- Integrity – I could probably write an entire blog just on this one. A study by the Centre for Creative Leadership shows that integrity is the key factor in determining success for business owners and leaders. As an entreprenurial leader, you demonstrate integrity in a number of ways:
- You say what you mean and mean what you say. This helps you build trust and trust and integrity go hand in hand. People always know where they stand with you. There is no hidden agenda.
- You communicate in a straightforward, honest fashion and tell the truth, even when the news isn’t good. Sugar coating bad news to minimize impact on employees, customers, or clients can backfire. When the truth comes out (and it usually does) you have lost credibility and it’s a much longer road to gain that back. Be open and transparent and you will continually build trust and credibility.
- You are consistent and reliable. This doesn’t mean that you are not responsive to shifting needs or necessary changes. You can adapt your approach and be flexible to changing circumstances and new information while remaining true to your values and larger purpose.
- Courage – You tackle difficulties and challenges head on. You are willing to take the risk to be vulnerable when there is pressure to conform. You have the internal strength to strive to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to define you. It’s good to accept feedback to raise self awareness, just not at the expense of ourselves and what we value.
- Respect – You value and appreciate your customers, clients and employees. You show interest in them beyond what they can do for you. You recognize others for their accomplishments and give them second chances when they make a mistake. You appreciate the different capabilities that others bring to your business and that everyone has different ways of doing things. You don’t insist that everything is done your way or that everyone behaves like you or values only what you value.
- Accountability – You take responsibility for your actions and decisions and those of your team. The buck really does stop with you. You follow through on commitments and hold others accountable for their committments. Too often I have seen people in leadership roles point fingers at each other or worse, at their employees when mistakes are made. If you want people to trust you and follow you through challenging times, be accountable.
- Vision – You have a view of where you want to take your business that inspires others to do their best work, even in challenging times. You have the ability to look beyond the immediate day to day/ month/quarter, or year. Rather than short-sighted decisions, you take a longer view of the impact of decisions and can accept short term hits in the interest of longer term value. That value is directly connected to how you and your business serve the larger community or even the world.
Ultimately, your inner compass guides your daily actions and decisions more than external pressures to conform to someone else’s idea of who you should be and what you should do. This enables you to accomplish great things as you have earned the trust and loyalty of your customers, your employees, and other stakeholders. And that is a powerful leader.
Catherine Meyer is CEO and Founder of Catalyst Leadership Solutions. She provides coaching and leadership solutions to a wide range of businesses and industries. Her focus is on helping business owners and entrepreneurs develop their strength in leading people so that they can build their capabilities, enhance growth, and maximize results for their business If you manage a team as part of your business or are in the process of creating a team, Catherine can help you develop your leadership strength to ensure the success of this phase of your growth.