Inspiring leaders have the vision and passion to inspire their people.

 

Steve Cordiner

Are you a leader or a manager?

The difference is subtle, but critical to companies that are seeking to grow at pace or attempting to navigate change in uncertain times.

Running a company certainly requires good management skills, but leadership is even more important – the best business founders and leaders inspire their colleagues with a vision of what it is possible to achieve by working together.

This vision is what will give your business the direction and the fizz it needs to succeed.

In a marketplace where larger, more established businesses are generally better resourced, a clear vision will enable you to focus on your course and strategy. And when times get tough, it is this passion and energy that will see you through – but it also applies in times of high growth as your business develops.

 

How, then, to provide the leadership your business needs? The key is to constantly define its mission and to ensure your people are working towards it.

This is not simply a question of whether your people believe in the vision; it’s also vital you are channelling your people and resources into the key priorities that will deliver your ambitions effectively.

A good starting point for this process is setting out what you are trying to achieve in terms of the impact you hope to have on your target customers.

See the business through their eyes, rather than trying to describe it for yourself. This, after all, is the value proposition that will ensure customers come to you rather than your competitors.

With that mission statement in place, leaders should find it easier to set out how and where the business will operate and how it will execute.

It is important to work towards a goal and a timeline, say 3 years, or a key funding round, IPO or exit.

This isn’t just financial, it should be within consideration of issues such as company culture, the value proposition for employees, shape and size of business, team around you, and the various practicalities of running the business day-to-day.

Having a vision and a plan will give you a focal point when new opportunities begin to emerge or challenges arrive.

 

The most successful businesses are very often supremely good at doing one thing well.

Trying to expand into too many new activities for too many different customer types before every last ounce of value has been extracted from the core business may not go well.

You should be open to trying and testing, but it is important to be cognisant of the risk of turning the company into an enterprise that does lots of things poorly – or at the very least, no single thing brilliantly.

 

The best leaders recognise this and don’t allow the team to be diverted; they may think about new opportunities – or even set up new product development teams – but they keep their people focused on the existing mission. The same applies during periods of change and challenge.

Leaders also have to decide for themselves where they want to be actively involved in the business and where it makes sense to delegate.

That requires good self-awareness – an understanding of your skills and capabilities, as well as your weaknesses so that you can begin to compensate for these.

 

Don’t be afraid to hire good people in areas where you judge your own competencies fall short.

There are various ways to make that judgement.

Psychometric testing, for example, can provide a very accurate assessment of your personality and what that might mean for the way you lead your team.

Feedback from the team itself can also be very valuable: try to build a company culture in which people feel comfortable telling their bosses what they think – and where leaders are prepared to listen.

The final element of leadership is the ability to recruit well where you identify gaps in the talent or skills required for your business mission.

 

Crucially, good leaders approach the recruitment process scientifically, casting the net wide and hiring the best possible people to keep the company working towards its vision.