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John Jantsch

What I Know for Sure About Leadership

Thursday, November 14, 2013

I've learned a great deal about leadership in the process of trying to build a business.

Only recently have I come to appreciate the important role that effective leadership plays in actually growing a business.

In small businesses we often look to more obvious areas of business for paths to growth, such as marketing and selling or even negotiating skills. The thing is, nothing really happens without true leadership.

That's not to say someone can't hatch a good idea, work their tail off and grow a business that looks pretty successful.

But, lacking vision, compassion, purpose and commitment, it's pretty hard to build a place where people want to come and be their best self and that may actually be the hallmark of a successful business.

I'm not unlike a lot of entrepreneurs. I want to work on the stuff the business makes and sells today. Leadership is quite often more about the stuff of tomorrow and it's messy and unruly and it gets in the way of things we'd rather do.

Oh, and it takes work, it doesn't always come naturally to us, even those of us who are routinely thrust into roles that require us to lead in order for others to succeed.

So here are few things I've observed over the course of trying to learn to lead.

Grow yourself

Leadership is mostly about trying to help people grow and achieve potential. Of course the only way you can provide an environment where this can happen is if you charge headlong down that path yourself. Unless you are constantly experiencing your own growth you'll cease to recognize the need for it in others.

Reading is probably my most effective tool for growth. I, of course, read most everything I can related my work, but I make it a point to read a great deal of fiction and other seemingly unrelated topics such as human growth, psychology, sociology, nature, ancient religious traditions and even architecture. I'm fascinated by the connections these subjects have to things like community building and system development.

Start asking for recommendations on books about leadership. Don't be surprised if a few of them don't mention the word leader in the title.

Create vision

People don't give themselves to great companies or great products. They follow great stories and great causes and great ideas. Until your leadership ideas are steeped in a vision that's bigger than simply going to work for you to get a paycheck, you'll struggle to attract anyone interested in much more than that. Vision takes thinking bigger for yourself and your company first. Until you can do that you'll find it hard to inspire yourself let alone others who might choose to join you. Do you have a big idea, are you headed somewhere really cool, do you do what you do because there's a higher purpose? Share that and don't be afraid to inspire others to think bigger in the process – that's vision.

So here's your question. What's the picture of your business in three years and why is that a vision worth following?

Get alignment

Get people involved every step of the way by getting them to understand why they are doing what they are doing. Ask for their input and ideas and hold them accountable for improvement based on their input. Give them permission to disagree with you, even inviting conflict. Ask that surprises and bad news are delivered unvarnished. It's the only way to get people as invested as you are in the outcome of their work and it's how you eventually get everyone aligned.

Bring your entire organization together and ask them to identify, in their view, the three greatest priorities in your business right now.

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About the Author:
John Jantsch is a marketing consultant, award winning social media publisher and author Duct Tape Marketing and The Referral Engine. He is the creator of the Duct Tape Marketing System and Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network that trains and licenses small business marketing consultants around the world.
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