Leadership: Heartbeat of business

I have a friend who recently had a heart cath procedure. He had been having some unusual symptoms that were difficult to understand, until a doctor suggested something could be amiss with his heart. It set me thinking about the place of leadership in business and other organizations. Often we forget the central role of leadership in our endeavors, and so misdiagnose those random symptoms we encounter, such as unhappy customers, production challenges, fluctuating staff morale, or economic pressures. We can give ourselves to strategy, vision or personality as keys to success, but overlook the true foundation of achievement and impact.

Experts agree that leadership is the foundation on which businesses rise or fall. Multitudes of books, articles, and websites focus on leadership in business, yet the temptation remains, especially for owners Of small to medium-sized businesses, to neglect the heartbeat of their enterprise - their own leadership.

The US Small Business Administration lists key traits of effective leaders, noting these are essential to business success. Among the qualities they list, many are notable for their apparent lack of connection to business results: emotional stability, social boldness, empathy, and intuitiveness are not commonly linked with profit, or shareholder return. Yet these leadership qualities will make or break a business.

In smaller enterprises, the owner or key leader will need many of these traits to succeed. As the business grows, or in a larger corporation, the characteristics can be spread among a team of senior leaders (provided the team is well-led). In both scenarios it is leadership that is the heartbeat of business success.

Leaders are rarely born; there is a development process to the craft of leadership, and this demands intentionality from us to grow our leadership. No one drifts their way into becoming a better leader. But investing in your leadership by going where leadership is taught and modeled brings huge dividends, because everyone wins when a leader gets better. 

Leadership expert John Maxwell is famous for saying that "the true measure of leadership is influence; nothing more, nothing less." Everyone has influence to some degree, so the question is not whether you have influence, the question is whether you are stewarding it or not. This challenges me to remember that a great leader isn't someone who leads; a great leader is someone other people want to follow.

So let me encourage you: heed any unusual symptoms in your business that could point to a heart issue. How is your leadership? Could it be better? Of course it could! What will you do to improve?

You are a leader. Your job is to grow as a leader, to steward your influence, to stay fired up, to get inspired, encouraged and equipped. Then your business, organization, enterprise, family, neighborhood, city will benefit from you becoming someone others want to follow. Everyone wins when a leader gets better!