Becoming an entrepreneur will always require you to have multiple skills, no matter how good you are at delegating. But in the long term, running a business will put your leadership skills to the test most of all.
The impact of the pandemic, followed by a recession, has created a massive challenge for leaders around the world. Small businesses have been particularly vulnerable. Without access to the resources typically available to a large-scale organization, small business leaders will have to quickly and frequently make critical decisions.
Even though we’re on the road to recovery from that crisis, our highly networked and globalized world exposes businesses to a constant, high risk of disruption. A company’s continued survival will require effective leadership. Here’s how you can leverage that skill to make a difference.
Shape your narrative
The average consumer sees companies as static entities. They provide a specific type of product or service. But companies are dynamic; they are continually evolving. And effective businesses use branding services to engage consumers with this story of growth, gaining their loyalty.
Nike, for instance, started selling shoes for runners; it served a particular niche. But over time, the brand has grown and succeeded way beyond its initial expectations. It has had to reinvent itself. Nike now caters to consumers seeking a specific lifestyle; by constantly associating with top athletes, it’s selling the image of success.
But the evolution of business is hardly linear. Like any individual’s career, it unfolds haphazardly. You might want to steer in a particular direction, but you often have to change course in response to events that are beyond your control.
What you can do, however, is control your narrative. It’s a technique that many people use to deal with stress and mental health issues. Instead of having your identity shattered by disruptive events, make that change a part of your ongoing story. This will frame your response and lay the groundwork for further growth and innovation.
Of course, a lively narrative isn’t for your benefit alone. Leaders don’t succeed by pulling their organizations forward. They depend on people, and it’s for this purpose that you must chart a new course for your company’s evolution.
A disruption calls for change. But most people are too slow to recognize when this is necessary. On the other hand, those who do might hasten to take actions that prove unwise in the long run. It’s a leader’s job to get all the disparate parts of their organization on the same page. Doing so requires you to work with your people, rather than relying on your strengths as an individual.
No leader could have foreseen exactly how the pandemic would unfold or how it would affect business on every level. But the ones who responded effectively were quick to organize a network of teams that could gather information and find solutions. They empowered people to take action beyond the common framework of operations.
Communicate with transparency and empathy
With your people engaged, you can rapidly gain a better understanding of situations for which there is no precedent. This information will help you to pivot your business in a direction that maximizes your chances of success.
But it’s still no guarantee of a positive outcome. There will always be a chance for missteps to be made, and people can be averse to failure.
You have to embody the right mindset and impart that to your team as well. Be consistent in the way you communicate. Don’t seek to lay blame at anyone’s feet; instead, keep the focus on being constructive and finding solutions.
Along those lines, you must also strive to be transparent. People can’t feel empowered if they aren’t treated as stakeholders. Provide constant and concise updates on what’s being done, how well (or otherwise) those efforts are going, and what next steps are being planned.
Finally, even if you communicate with the best intentions, you have to recognize that not all people are ready to receive the message or its implications. Acknowledge their human needs, and always demonstrate empathy for those who follow you.
Not every disruption you face in the future will lead to tragedy on the scale of the pandemic or pose such dire economic challenges to your company and its employees. But by definition, disruptive events create change, uncertainty, and anxiety. You can’t ignore or trivialize someone’s fear that they might be out of a job due to not having the new skills deemed essential after an industry shake-up, for instance.
Put yourself in people’s shoes, and give them the confidence to follow your lead and take the necessary actions. That’s a timeless aspect of good leadership, and it will continue to guide you through future challenges your company might face.