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Over the last 30 years, I have studied the topic of Leadership from some of the leading experts in the world and have concluded that leaders inside small companies are presented with unique and serious challenges that make their roles no less critical to the success of their businesses as the inspirational leaders of large businesses that are featured in business school case studies. Leadership in small business is seriously hard work. Oftentimes small business leaders wear many functional “hats”. They work long hours, with limited access to resources and have strong emotional ties to the business that they likely created. To help inspire small business owners become better leaders, I’ve compiled five of the most critical aspects of small business leadership that if followed will assure greater success.

The first aspect of leadership is to have a clear and inspiring vision; a view of the future shape and direction of the business. Your vision statement needs to be futuristic, realistic and achievable. It should be well communicated and must motivate others to the extent that they are willing to pursue YOUR dreams.

The second critical aspect of leadership is the importance of enlisting the opinions of others. Whether it’s shaping the vision, developing new products and services, dealing with customer issues, or even generating ideas for the next customer appreciation day, by enlisting the opinions of others, great leaders keep employees engaged which in turn encourages them to take an active role in getting great results.  This practice brings a strong sense of gratification and sense of purpose and helps employees feel like they are part of something special.

For a leader to be effective at enlisting the options of others, it is important to cultivate the third critical aspect of leadership in a business – a culture of trust. Working effectively in a small business environment can be really challenging and even impossible when trust is not a key component of the culture. Great leaders build trust which enables team members to take risks and express their opinions openly and honestly without fear of reprisal.

The fourth aspect of successful leadership is a willingness to be flexible. Working inside a small business requires everyone to maintain a certain degree of flexibility in their roles and approach to tasks. The relatively small size of most businesses simply doesn’t allow individual functional roles to be filled exclusively by a single employee. This is especially true for business owners who often wear several functional “hats”.

The fifth and possibly most critical aspect of small business leadership is an unwavering commitment to remain “above the line of choice”; to maintain an outlook that encourages others to remain positive and engaged. By remaining above the line of choice, leaders foster a culture of trust and accountability.

These five aspects of leadership: having an inspirational vision, enlisting the opinions of others, maintaining a culture of trust, the need for a flexible attitude, and remaining above the line of choice are critical to the success of any small business. Great leaders remain conscious of the need to practice these habits in order to inspire others and to sustain a culture of success.

Contact me to learn more about insights into effective leadership, or sign up for my workshop, “Lead Great Teams” here.

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Brian is a business executive turned-entrepreneur with more than 30 years of experience across many business functions. He holds a BS Degree in Chemical Engineering from Grove City College and an MBA from Baldwin Wallace College, and certifications from Case Western Reserve University, ActionCOACH, and The DeBono Institute. He is active on non-profit boards, in the Northeast Ohio community, and is a frequent volunteer with various charities and institutes.