The art of small business leadership

Managing people is part of running a business, but does your team see you as a leader?

Published: January 08, 2015
Updated: February 16, 2017

You've successfully launched your business, and your staff is ready to follow your lead. But managing a business and managing people are two different things. As a small business owner, you are in a position of leadership, but do your employees see you as a leader?

Leverage these four small business leadership tips to effectively manage your team and earn its respect.

Small business leadership tip #1: Communicate

The best leaders are always strong communicators. That means giving employees your undivided attention by limiting the distractions around you: Put down your phone, close your laptop, shut your office door, look at the person talking to you, and listen.

It also means asking the right questions. Getting to the bottom of an issue, such as why an employee is unhappy, requires gathering all the information. Listen, ask questions, and pay attention to what they're not telling you, which could be feeling under-challenged or a problem at home.

Finally, it means keeping everyone in the loop. Even the busiest business owners need to let their employees know what's going on organizationally on a regular basis, whether it's a weekly update or a monthly staff meeting.

Small business leadership tip #2: Delegate

As a small business owner, you probably wear many hats — CEO, CFO, COO. You physically cannot do it all, so let something go.

Getting certain things off your plate — such as overseeing social media, IT support, or bookkeeping — frees up your time to actually grow your business. At the same time, giving staff members more responsibility could help them learn skills and shows them that you respect them enough to handle bigger tasks.

Clearly communicate the specific tasks you wish to delegate and provide employees with necessary training. Instead of being a micro-manager, be an advisor — encourage employees to come to you with questions and provide non-judgmental feedback.

Small business leadership tip #3: Resolve conflict

Directly dealing with conflict can help you save time and money, and increase productivity. Employees appreciate a boss who addresses matters proactively. Let employees know they can bring their disputes to you, and if you see something, say something.

Small business leadership skill #4: Empower

Commitment goes both ways: For an employee to truly invest in your business, you have to invest in them.

That means providing opportunities for employees to learn something new and take on different responsibilities. If you give employees no room for error and demand they come to you with all big decisions, you degrade their independence and, in turn, create more work for yourself. You hired them; now trust them to do their jobs.