By Team Entrepreneur
Last month I wrote about how ownership and leadership are two different things.
I faced a similar situation about a decade ago, when I was preparing our company to enter into a high growth phase. I read books and magazines on leadership, but as they say, life always turns out to be the better teacher. Here are the seven smart lessons life taught me:
Learn to delegate
Delegating isn’t as easy as it sounds. When you have built your company through street smartness, creativity and everyday courage, it’s difficult to accept that someone else will be able to treat the business with an equal sense of ownership. You are paranoid about your ‘baby’; and it is understandable, too.
You must accept that your personal creativity and direction will continue to be important to the business; but that it will not be sufficient during growth. You cannot and should not do everything yourself.
Hire smarter people
Many management gurus advise leaders not to hire seniors until they have learnt to delegate. I have learnt the best way is to hire people smarter than yourself. People who make you uncomfortable with their talent and creativity often force you to delegate, because you can’t do their job better than they can.
Adjust your ego
Growth is a big ego-adjustment period. The owner-leader’s pride in having grown the business from scratch is justifiable, but an exaggerated sense of self can often come in the way of hiring smarter employees. It’s for a reason that some of the most accomplished business leaders are full of humility.
Think of the unknown future
There’s a saying in business: What brought you here, won’t take you there. The leader needs to be aware and believe in the requirement of new tools for the future. The growth stage throws up new problems and only the naïve think those can be solved by drawing from past experiences.
The growth highway can be bumpy
Many owners think that once they have crossed the existence and survival stages, hired people, created a structure, put systems in place, growth should happen ‘naturally’. Unfortunately, there is nothing automatic about growth. There are new problems to be solved and new tricks to be learnt and applied. You need to know how to manage the rough patches and not be surprised by them.
Leadership is not a popularity contest
Leadership is about effectiveness; not popularity. Some leaders are liked by many, but that cannot be a goal. One of the key leadership traits is to be decisive; and no decision can please everyone. This means you will keep upsetting some people every now and then, including those loyal to you.
The time to enjoy is in the future
Being a part of a growing company and leading it from the front is a heady experience. Growth also forces you to be on your toes and you will often find yourself busier than ever, despite having a capable team. What can help navigate through the turbulence that growth confronts you with, is the culture of the organization and how people around you conduct themselves.
In the next column, we will discuss culture-the other driver. Have a great year ahead.
© Entrepreneur India January 2012
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