In my experience as an advisor and mentor to entrepreneurs in business, one of the biggest failures I see is a lack of self-leadership. You can’t lead a business to success if you can’t lead yourself. I define self-leadership as the capacity to set direction and make decisions, to positively drive your own performance. Leadership in business starts with making good personal choices.
Think about the questions that you are asking your advisors. I expect questions about how a business works, or what are best practices, but I really can’t help you with removing doubts on your abilities or providing a sure-fire idea and formula for success in business. In my view, business leaders are not “idea people,” but people who drive a given idea to business results.
For example, I often hear from aspiring entrepreneurs that “I had that idea first, and he stole it and is now making money on my idea.” I’m not an expert on leadership, so I am always on the lookout for specific development guidance, such as the classic book, “Leadership Results,” by the well-known leadership coach and business psychologist, Sebastian Salicru.
Salicru details several self-leadership development strategies, which I will summarize here, that I recommend for practice by every aspiring entrepreneur. These strategies provide more valuable initial advice towards business success than I can offer as a technical business advisor:
- Build and maintain high self-worth and self-confidence. Healthy and high self-esteem is an essential prerequisite to leading yourself to success, as well as your business. Low self-worth, on the other hand, leads to continual doubts and questions, inability to make commitments or deliver results. Focus on you before your business.
- Recognize your weaknesses, but lead with your strengths. The first challenge is to find your strengths. Everyone has some degree of strength blindness, and will likely benefit from one of many tools, such as the Clifton StrengthsFinder. If necessary, use a strengths coach, and always start a business which highlights your signature strengths.
- Practice your strengths often for inspiration and confidence. Using your signature strengths early in your business will cause a flow of inspiration, energy, and creativity, building momentum in your confidence and leadership. This momentum is what you need for enjoyment and satisfaction, as well as for others to see you as a business leader.
- Build your character and reputation with personal values. Both self-leadership and business leadership require a solid platform for decisions, based on moral and personal values. Your character, as a business leader, will determine your perceived reputation by peers in business, team members, and customers. Values are your most valuable assets.
- Demonstrate leadership by acting ethically and with integrity. People judge you by what you do in your business, more than by what you say. Ethical behavior refers to actions consistent with personal principles and commonly held values in your business community. These will define your right and wrong in business leadership and success.
- Build positive psychological capital to sustain your business. In any business, you need hope, confidence, resilience, and optimism to weather the daily challenges of customers, market changes, and competitors. Without a store of this psychological capital, your performance and leadership will wane, and your satisfaction will dwindle.
I have found that no amount of personal or investor money will create or substitute for self-leadership and business leadership. We have all seen examples of new ventures that fail, despite large infusions of venture capital, and high-potential new technologies. Good entrepreneurs can make success from almost any business idea, through the following of partners and customers.
Today is the age of the entrepreneur, with the cost of entry at an all-time low, and the global market at an all-time high. Yet every business still requires leadership, since the competition and the pace of change dictate innovative actions on a regular basis to get results. Now is the time to capitalize on your strengths and maximize your leadership abilities.