It doesn’t matter if you’re leading a tank division across North Africa, leading an expedition to the south pole, or leading a team of little league baseball players to the division championships, leadership is a skill.
Like all skills, it takes time to master, and everyone’s skill level varies. Some people are naturally in tuned to it, learn quick and don’t have to try. For others, leading is a challenge, but the skill is necessary for small business success.
The first thing any leader should remember is to motivate the team. The first instinct of many leaders is to drive, but driving will break moral and destroy team members’ respect for the leader. When motivating your team remember to reward them for their successes and chastise them for failures.
Always reward in public (unless the reward is financial or beneficial like a cash bonus) and chastise in private. You don’t want to embarrass someone or single them out.
Secondly treat everyone equally and fairly. Don’t hold a double standard, because team members believe that you favor someone over the others, it will disillusion them. They will be less likely to put in effort. If they believe that they can reach their goals and reach a reward like everyone else, they will push harder.
Don’t lie to your team. Tell them the truth. Let them know what is going on. If the situation is grim, let them now and make sure they understand that they are part of the solution. If they believe they can help, they will. Try to keep the negative message from being too negative, because if your team becomes disillusioned, they will give up.
On the flip side, if the company is doing well, let your team know that they are one of the reasons for the company’s success, and they will be motivated to keep working hard.
Finally don’t let one person’s failures and inefficiencies hinder the entire unit. A team will be demoralized if they see that one person is dragging them down. Cutting people loose, when they need to be cut loose, is necessary. Don’t do it too quickly, and try to avoid it when you can, but if the time comes to let someone go, let them go.
These are not the only bits of knowledge needed for leadership, but they are a foundation to build on. Now get ’em tiger.