Are you a good leader?

I recently read a Harvard Buisness Review article on group decision-making.  The basic premise was groups do not make decisions, leaders do.  That led me to ask, what makes a good leader?  There are many, many articles that answer that question, but it boils down to a few key criteria:

1) Do you see the big picture?

2) Do people respect you?

3) Will/Can you take responsibility when shit hits the fan?


The big picture:

Seeing the big picture means understanding your organization’s overall goals, how to achieve those goals and having a back-up plan in case of failure.  Many leaders may think they see the big picture, but often they have no idea how to actually achieve their goals and they certainly don’t have disaster recovery plans.  For large enterprises, the leaders (C-level folks) generally leave these “mundane” worries to middle managers.  For small business and most non-profits, that’s not possible.  If you run your own business, you must intimately understand your big picture and have a concrete plan for achieving your goals.  What’s often overlooked is the disaster recovery plan.  Small businesses might think they don’t have the time or resources to create a disaster recovery plan, but that’s where they are wrong.  Small businesses cannot afford a disaster.  Your customers are expensive to obtain and expensive to keep.  Should they choose to go elsewhere because of your failure to plan, you will be out of business.



As the boss, you may think your staff automatically respect you.  That is not always the case.  People respect you for your knowledge, your compassion and your ability to empathize.  Do not confuse fear with respect.  Just because your staff fear you and/or losing their job, doesn’t mean they respect you as a boss.

But why do you need their respect anyway?  Aren’t YOU the boss?  When your staff respect you, they believe you have their best interest at heart.  Thus, they are more likely to support your ideas, no matter how insane or seemingly impossible.  As a respected boss, you should have an open door policy so that your staff feel comfortable coming to you with problems before they become disasters (because, let’s face it, you don’t have a disaster recovery plan, see above).



It is a fair assumption that as the leader of your small business, you are ultimately responsible for everything that happens in/with your business, but is that ideal?  Can you take responsibility for the illegal acts of your employees?  Will you take responsibility when poor customer service is delivered and angry customers lash out online  (note: the internet is forever, never anger a customer who has the ability to complain to the internet)?  If you can’t or won’t take responsibility for issues that are outside of your control, then you need a plan to address those issues before they arise.  For example, if you have a medical practice, have a plan to regularly train your staff on the importance of patient privacy and the appropriate use of technology to disclose confidential PHI (protected health information).  If you hear rumblings of poor customer service, reach out to the customer directly and offer a remedy immediately (refund, discount, apologies, etc.).  Then, turn the situation into a teaching moment for your staff so that they won’t make the same mistake again.


Finally, what is the difference between a good leader and a good manager?  For small organizations, it’s often one and the same.  For larger organizations, please stay tuned for another edition of Grace Asks…. where this topic will be addresssed.

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