In traveling the path to success, an entrepreneur will inevitably come to a fork in the road. Debbi Fields, of Mrs. Fields Cookies fame, recalls one such incident early in her career.
While having dinner at the home of one of her husband’s clients, she was asked, “What do you do?”
“Oh,” she replied, “I’m just trying to get orientated.”
The client abruptly dropped a sizable dictionary in front of her and said, “The word is oriented. If you can’t speak the English language, you shouldn’t speak at all.”
For Fields, this was her fork in the road. Initially devastated by the attack, that was the moment when she set out to become a successful entrepreneur. To overcome criticism and push forward. Our collective tastebuds know what happened next, and we’re all grateful for it.
In moments like this one, certain leadership skills are formed, by not only aspiring entrepreneurs, but anyone seeking success in their respective industry. Debbi Fields knew in that moment that she had a choice to make. All leaders face moments like these in their pursuits, when they’re pushed to rise above.
Leadership is considered by many to be the number one trait an entrepreneur must have. Not only is it important for leading a team, but for leading one’s self. It is within where the real work happens, and the mindset of a successful entrepreneur is cultivated.
So ask yourself, entreprenewbies, are you ready to lead the way?
The Top Entrepreneurial Leadership Skills
While every entrepreneur is unique and able to achieve success in their own way, there are some crucial traits they all need to cultivate on a daily basis.
“Leadership is hard to define and good leadership even harder. But if you can get people to follow you to the ends of the earth, you are a great leader.” – Indra Nooyi
Here are the most important leadership skills any business owner should strive to master in their work life and home life.
Ability to Take Criticism
Being able to handle criticism will be one of your biggest assets. And if you do it right, you can turn this criticism into action. If there’s something people don’t like about an idea, an entrepreneur with good leadership skills will use the negative critiques to find ways to improve. Leaders need thick skin; thank your critics for paving your path to success.
Here are some helpful tips for dealing with critics:
- Always be respectful. Getting offended and acting defensive will only come off as unprofessional. That doesn’t do anything but put a negative light on you and your company. People will assume you’re not cut out for the position you’re taking on.
- Realize you aren’t always right. Everyone makes mistakes (even the best business leaders). Don’t be so stubborn in your ways, especially if they aren’t providing you with the results you want to see. Take others’ suggestions into consideration, even if you don’t initially agree with them.
- Document the useful feedback. There’s nothing you can really do with an anonymous “you stink” comment from an internet user. However, make use of the feedback that is well thought out or coming from somebody who genuinely wants you to succeed.
- Remember that everyone takes criticism. You know that CEO you aspire to be? The one whose footsteps you’d like to follow? Maybe it’s Marissa Mayer, Mark Zuckerberg, or Michele Buck. Guess what—they have been criticized too (more than almost anyone). The more well known you are, the more criticism you must endure, which is completely fine. You will never please everyone.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.” -Steve Jobs
Want to connect with a successful leader who can mentor you?
All of the really iconic business leaders of our time have one thing in common: passion. Being an entrepreneur is not for the faint of heart, and when you really think about it, there’s a huge difference between business owners who are in it for the money and those who have a passion for what they do. The latter is rewarded by the sense of accomplishment and doing what it takes to create something bigger than themselves.
“There’s lots of bad reasons to start a company. But there’s only one good, legitimate reason, and I think you know what it is: it’s to change the world.” -Phil Libin
When you really care about your work, it shows. Your confidence and enthusiasm will be contagious, and others won’t be able to help but want to be a part of it. Whether you’re recruiting new employees to take with you on your journey or making a sales pitch to a potential customer or investor, your passion is the indicator that you’ll do what it takes to thrive.
Just ask Jodie Fox. Her passion for shoes led her to build a successful online business in only two months.
Don’t feel that passionate about your product? That’s okay! Of course, it’s better to work in a niche you love, if only because you’re going to spend a lot of time working at it. But if you aren’t 100% passionate about what you are selling, you can be passionate about being an entrepreneur or being your own boss. The point is that building your own business is more than just making money. If your passion is solely focused on bringing in the big bucks, your customers will feel it, and you may find yourself always wanting for more and never achieving it.
Ability to Connect With Like-Minded People
Effective leadership skills begin with getting along and communicating well with others. After all, it’s all about teamwork. Make a point to connect with other business owners. It can be helpful to have some real-life examples from others looking to make a difference. You might find a mentor or other like-minded entrepreneurs you can share your ideas and frustrations with.
“Ninety percent of leadership is the ability to communicate something people want.” – Dianne Feinstein
As you pursue your entrepreneurial ventures, your connections will play a huge part in your growth. Like-minded individuals breed like-minded results.
Consider joining a peer advisory or CEO group to gain a fresh outlook from other entrepreneurs and seek guidance from those with different perspectives. These connections could prove to be valuable in the future and help you develop leadership skills. As you navigate the business landscape, you’ll have the support you need to reach your goals.
When joining a peer advisory group, it’s critical to know if the person leading has indeed walked in the shoes of a CEO. You do not want to be a member of a group in which the leader isn’t experienced or possesses no leadership skills. The right peer advisory groups allow you to gain insight from other CEOs, as well as build trust, share ideas, and offer each other solutions. When a dozen business owners come together in one room, the potential to achieve greatness has no limit.
How do you find these groups?
Referrals and Testimonials: Start here as you’ll immediately see whether the leaders in these groups have produced substantial results for their clients. You can talk to current members, but also try locating former members. Ask them point blank, “Why did you leave?” The answer might help you target a better fit.
Books and Speaking Engagements: Once you know they’ve produced results, get insight on a group leader’s style, approach, and personality. Books can give you a peek into their history and how they’ve overcome challenges. Seminars and conferences can potentially lead to an introduction. In addition, most speakers come prepared to offer some sort of limited-time workshop at these events. Just be careful. A great speaker or writer does not always translate into a great group leader.
If you’re not ready for a peer advisory group, consider seeking out a business coach. A business coach/mentor offers some of the same benefits of an advisory group, but on a much more intimate level.
A coach can offer alternatives when:
- You’re having trouble balancing work and life.
- You’re trying to acquire a quality team or are having issues with your current team.
- You’re more frustrated and tired at your job than you are dedicated and passionate.
- You’re having trouble turning your business plans into reality.
- You’re lacking confidence.
How do you find these groups or individuals? SCORE can get you started. Most states have a local branch or work with some of the local chambers. The organization lets you connect with business mentors for free—in person or via face-to-face technologies. And this tool is more for business owners who are just starting out.
You can also look to your current network and see if any friends, family, or coworkers have recommendations for you.
Want to connect with a successful leader who can mentor you?
Perseverance and Positivity
Most success stories don’t happen overnight. As you launch your business, you’ll likely have many pitfalls before you reach your goal. The important thing is to keep going. Learn from your mistakes and never give up. Failure in a business is temporary, but quitting is something that lasts forever. The best leaders realize that the journey is the destination.
Pessimism will get you nowhere. With every mistake you make, think of it as a chance to try a new strategy. If a customer, employee, or anyone for that matter brings you down, overcome the negative feedback and just be excited to switch things up to get a better outcome next time.
Do you want to have an optimistic outlook but are not sure how? Here are five simple yet effective tricks:
- Positivity is a choice. No matter how hard things may seem in life, at home, or at your job, you can always put a positive spin on the subject. The way you act will affect what happens to you, whether it’s good or bad. You ultimately manifest everything that comes to you. This is known as the law of attraction. Why not only manifest good things?
- Go out of your way to make others happy. Positivity is contagious; you feel good when you make others feel good. Plus, complementing employees will only make them want to work harder, which in turn will help your business improve.
- Have a goal, every day. No matter how big or small, set a goal. Trying to accomplish something on a daily basis will not only keep you active, but also help you maintain a positive frame of mind. Don’t just let your precious days pass you by!
- Realize that negativity does absolutely nothing. You cannot change what you can’t control. However, you do control how you react to it. Spending your valuable days wallowing in worry, despair, and anger will not get you anywhere.
- Read for inspiration. There are countless great reads out there for leaders who need a spark of positivity in their business (or in general). What’s more effective than absorbing hundreds of pages of pure happiness?
Some books to consider are:
- Think and Grow Rich
- The Power of NOW
- The Law of Attraction
- The Power of Positive Thinking
- The Happiness Project
Inspiration From Thriving Entrepreneurs And Leaders
In case you needed a little extra push before finishing this post, here are some valuable nuggets of wisdom from successful entrepreneurs who know best when it comes to leadership.
“I believe in a quiet, strong and grounded leadership. I think some of the best leaders are those whose work is widely known and respected but who, themselves, are relatively unknown.” -Rachael Chong, founder/CEO, Catchafire
“A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” -John C. Maxwell
“We need to accept that we don’t always make the right decisions, that we’ll screw up royally sometimes – understanding that failure is not the opposite of success, it’s part of success.” -Arianna Huffington, Co-founder/Editor, Huffington Post
“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.” -Jim Rohn
Want to connect with a successful leader who can mentor you?
Up-and-coming entrepreneurs are taking the world by storm every day. So, what are you waiting for? Become one of them by developing these leadership skills to realize your dream of success.
Have these tips helped you thrive in your business? Can you think of additional leadership skills for entrepreneurs? Leave a comment below!