Being a business owner or leader can be challenging, even isolating – it’s not a gig that allows for much time off. It can also get lonely; there’s no guidebook or blueprint for being a business owner or leader. Combine that with the lack of time left to network or meet with like-minded people, and it can turn into a bit of a silo.
So, a few times a year, we host a roundtable that brings together leaders and executives from our SME and Enterprise clients. The event acts as both an opportunity to say thank you for working with us, but also to talk through the most important issues impacting our clients’ businesses.
With so many business conversations still centring around dealing with Covid, the issue of leadership during a period of hyper change is front of mind.
Renowned Management Consultant Peter Drucker once said, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” The question is then, what are the right things? And, moreover, how can we develop the skills as leaders to manage through this period of change?
“Uplifting leadership capabilities in the face of change and disruption” was the topic for debate at our last roundtable. With some great business minds around the virtual table, we expected some sage advice to emerge. And boy, were we right!
What does great leadership look like?
Leadership comes in many forms, and the answers to this question were widely varied. Pretty immediately, though, we saw three common themes emerge.
Great leadership is… empowering your people.
Around half of the roundtable participants valued a leader’s ability to encourage and support the people working with and under them.
Enabling your team to achieve goals, optimising potential and getting the best out of people, and seeing others succeed – all of these are important in ensuring that your people hold trust in you.
Great leadership is… in the soft skills
Empathy. Humility. Vulnerability. Bring present.
Soft skills can make or break a leader, and it’s important to ensure that you spend time honing your ability to empathise with and learn from people of different backgrounds and skills.
Great leadership is… your vision
The ability to facilitate and adapt to change; make tough and sometimes unconventional decisions; have a vision and get there; and build strength from failure. These all speak to a leader’s resilience and discipline.
It’s clear that a leader has to wear many hats and find the one(s) that best suit them – but it’s also true that no one leadership style is better or worse. It all comes down to the way that leaders and business owners can utilise their skills effectively.
How can leaders be successful in the face of disruption?
Rapid and drastic change has shaped the world over the last couple of years, leaving many leaders and businesses floundering. And yet, some have risen to success – so what should you focus on to find the same success?
Be transparent to earn trust
A sentiment that was emphasised is that trust is deep-rooted in transparency.
Your people are smart; they can see that times are tough and that it’ll be a while before things become stable again. This means that they’ll value your ability to be honest and open with them.
Creating a safe space where people can approach you and speak up and be heard is another powerful way of building trust and loyalty.
Nurture your team’s culture
Fostering a good culture will ensure that your people will stay and thrive.
This means building up the culture through regular communication, accommodating requests like flexible work, and showing empathy and understanding for people’s unique situations.
At align.me, we regularly check in with our team. During a recent meeting there were a lot of flat faces after so many weeks of lockdown. So, a fun, team-building activity was scheduled to lift spirits. Through this exercise, we brought our entire team together to unwind, welcome the newer members, and solve a few puzzles.
Be prepared for change
Just because something has worked so far doesn’t mean leaders should get complacent. The ability to be agile and know when to get on the bus is invaluable in leaders.
Building up your skills and intuition for change can mean a world of difference to your outcomes and approach to both life and business.
How can leaders make mentoring a success?
It’s a given that leaders don’t suddenly emerge out of the woodwork. Many leaders have a mentor who provides a sounding board for problems, advises on next steps, and acts as an impartial confidant.
And as leaders grow and climb the ranks, they may find themselves in a mentoring position with a younger colleague or seek out ways to give back and help promising and ambitious individuals a chance to flourish.
So how should leaders foster their mentorship skills and relationship?
- Mentoring may not come naturally, but it can be learnt. Most people aren’t born with the natural skill to mentor and foster growth in people, but there are plenty of opportunities to learn and upskill.
- Do it regularly, and not just when the mentee is in need. Finding the balance between the personal and professional leads to a strong relationship between mentor and mentee. Scheduling regular sessions or catch-ups outside of crisis times will allow a deeper relationship to develop and thrive.
- Be open to all the possibilities. Not every mentor-mentee match is perfect, and permitting yourself to let go will make you a better mentor. Additionally, allow pivot room for each individual’s journey as no one person is on the same path.
- Mentoring doesn’t need to be done on your own. Joining a network of mentors to find a mentee, or forming your own group within your organisation, will help to provide a strong support model and process for everyone involved. It can also help you grow in your skills as a mentor.
Where can leaders find support?
We’ve said that leadership can often feel lonely, but our roundtable of leaders has shared some great (and even surprising) resources to make the path easier.
Networking groups have always played an important part in providing leaders with new opportunities as well as helping them find their place amongst their peers. The move to virtual networking may be a little intimidating at first, but it’s well worth doing.
Additionally, there are now plenty of online groups and communities for leaders to share their stories, advice, and more. Social networks like LinkedIn make finding your peers easy to do.
Think you don’t have time to network? Try building it into your work calendar rather than your personal one.
The popularity and growth of podcasts mean that almost every industry leader is sharing their knowledge – often for free. (But don’t be put off if you have to pay to access a publication – consider it a business expense worth investing in.)
Guides, advice, and other content is now very accessible to anyone with an internet connection, and it’s worth taking the time to find the right media to watch, listen to, or read.
It may come as a surprise to some that the government is very supportive of entrepreneurship! But there are many agencies and programs built specifically to support leaders and business owners through funding, educational services, and more.
Leadership isn’t a silo
It’s clear that leaders and business owners aren’t alone in their journeys and that there are plenty of ways to find support and camaraderie.
Another one of these ways is through align.me’s roundtables that bring together some of Australia’s most brilliant executives to share ideas and advice. Please reach out to us if you’d like to discuss how we can help you reach your goals.