How to be the most successful and approachable leader

None of us have all the answers. But when you’re in a leadership position, you might feel the pressure to solve every question.

Many business owners fall into this trap. They think because they’re in charge, everything falls to them and only they can fix it.

I call that the “Hero with a Thousand Helpers” business model. That’s where you - the owner - know all and call all the shots. Then you send your minions to do your bidding. It fits nicely with the pop culture mythos of the entrepreneur as a visionary hero. But for actually running a successful business, it. Just. Doesn’t. Work.

A leader, on the other hand, focuses their energy on marshaling the resources to accomplish a goal. 

They may be very good at doing the work, but they understand the business will do much better when they leverage the talents of others.

To be a better leader, resist the urge to be the office’s Magic 8 Ball; you don’t need to have an answer for everything! In fact, to be a good leader you should be equal parts problem-solver and listener. We have to accept there are limitations to what we can know and what we can do.

Practice your stand-up and stand-back intuition.

When you are confident and know what to do: Stand-up

  • Take charge
  • Lay-out steps to get to your solution
  • Implement your action plan
  • Oversee each step
  • Reevaluate and repeat if necessary

If you’re ever unsure in a situation: Stand-back

  • Admit you don’t have an answer yet
  • Listen to all sides
  • Ask for help/consult someone else
  • Do research
  • Come up with possible solutions  

As a business owner, your default mode is probably Stand-up. Work on getting to a much more even mix of stand-up and stand-back. Even when you know the answer, standing back first can - and often does - lead to a better solution.

Once you get in the habit of recognizing when to answer and when to defer, you will be a more efficient problem solver.

Now that you’re comfortable admitting you don’t have all the answers, you need to get comfortable asking for, receiving, and using feedback.

Let’s start with the where.

You should get feedback from multiple sources - your team, your outside advisers, your clients, and people in your support network. Every concern and comment should be heard and considered, whether it comes from someone at the base or top level of operations. Not only will this make your team trust and respect you and motivate them to be better workers, it will stimulate your thinking with different perspectives.

When people feel valued they are more likely to improve their own performance. Think of it like a mirroring exercise; if you demonstrate you care about those around you and the company, others will follow. And feeling that they are part of something - instead of just the hired help - does wonders for engagement and commitment.

Next, let’s think about how we use that feedback.

Incorporate the feedback you receive in a meaningful way.

It doesn’t help to gather a wide range of feedback if you don’t incorporate it into your leadership style. In fact, asking for someone’s perspective and then ignoring or dismissing it will do long term damage to the relationship.

That’s not to say you should always do everything anyone suggests to you. You shouldn’t. But there is often the kernel of a good idea in a suggestion that may not work as is. At a minimum, you should always acknowledge the person for their input, and where appropriate, explain why you chose a different path.

We can do all these things and still not grow as a leader if we don’t want to. 

You may think of course I want to be a better leader, but there are subtle ways we can sabotage our own progress.

Frequently, it’s our pride that undermines our progress. Too often, people aren’t willing to admit they aren’t the best at what they do, or there’s something they don’t know. Those are the people that stay stuck.

The people who really are among the best at what they do are always looking to improve. Whether they’re elite athletes at the top of their sport, or successful business leaders, they seek input from coaches or advisers to get just a little better each day.

So when we get feedback or we’re asking for help, it’s not a sign of weakness or failure. It’s a sign of strength. It’s a commitment to ourselves to do better today than we did yesterday.

When people suggest you do something differently or better, it is not a condemnation of you or your worth. It’s feedback to help you adjust course. When you can receive it that way, you’ll be a more effective leader.

Are you struggling with how to be a better or more effective leader? We can help! We’ve got experience with a wide-range of management styles and want you to be the best leader for your business. Reach out to us and together we can build your confidence and impact as a leader.