A successful career doesn’t just require great ideas and a good work ethic — it also takes the right people. In order to work well with others, you’ll need to become a pro at leadership and management.
In my 18 years of professional experience, I’ve had to learn a lot of things the hard way. As an entrepreneur, I’m still learning day by day. And while I’ve had a blast learning with my peers, I can’t deny that it would have been helpful to know everything ahead of time. Instead, all I can do is share the knowledge I’ve built over nearly two decades of business ownership and management.
I’m putting these tips right into the palms of your hands, so you don’t take 20 years to learn them!
1. Never give up.
It’s cliché, but it’s the best tip I can provide. Entrepreneurship isn’t for the weak-willed and the giver-uppers. Rather, it’s for those who believe enough in their abilities, their ideas and the people they’re proud to call their team. Giving up on a project, no matter how big or small, isn’t just a disservice to yourself — it’s also a disservice to those you lead.
2. The people around you are everything.
An idea is a hundred times harder to execute when you don’t have the right people by your side. Find the best people possible for your project, and once you do, do anything and everything in your power to keep them.
3. Be both a mentor and a protégé.
The best professional relationships are ones that consist of mutual respect and learning. As a leader, it may be your job to expand on your team’s abilities and knowledge; however, you likely have just as much to learn from them as they do from you.
4. Be strong, not meek.
People have a hard time believing in leaders who don’t quite seem to believe in themselves. Even in times of instability, remain confident and positive. Second-guessing your choices and actions won’t just negatively affect your own attitude, but also those of your team.
5. A growing business requires growing people.
Nearly everyone is a work in progress. A positive professional experience not only involves development, but also a positive attitude on growth and learning. Forgive minor mistakes and strive to teach your team, not to shame them for messing up. Offer opportunities for your followers to learn and become better people. Acknowledge that while you may already be a good leader, you can always become a better one.
6. Failing is a reality — get comfortable with it.
I’ve never heard of a business that didn’t fail at something. Rather than dreading failure, learn to view it as a learning experience and an opportunity for — yes, you guessed it — growth. At the very least, don’t let yourself give up on a project (or even an entire business) just because you’ve faced a couple of failures.
7. Managing people through change is the hardest job you’ll have.
Whether it’s through personal change or environmental change, those you lead are going to struggle to adjust. Be patient and understanding, yet firm in your business’s needs. Be flexible, not a doormat. Finding and maintaining this balance will be one of the hardest jobs you’ll ever have.
8. Being a big fish in a small pond is the best chance for success.
You can’t manage the population of a giant pond as a small fish. Instead, reverse the circumstances. Don’t take on a team you can’t manage, and maintain overall authority in a respectful and non-domineering manner.
9. Focus your business on being the best at one thing, then expand.
Would you rather be great at one thing, or mediocre at a lot of things? Probably the former. When you’re first starting out, focus on making your business no.1 in a specific area. Once you master that, you can move on to bigger and better things.
10. To compete nationally, you must build a major-league team.
The national stage is packed with competition and talent. With a second-rate team, you might as well compete on your own. Instead, put a good amount of energy into building the ideal major-league team — one with a variety of skills, personalities and passions, but with a common goal.
11. Move quickly on people and operations that drag you down.
There’s no sense in holding on to people and projects that drag you or your business down. If someone’s attitude or skill level is sub-par and unfixable, let them go — even if it tugs at your heartstrings a bit. The same goes for operations that don’t quite seem to be working out.
12. Stay humble.
Don’t confuse ego with leadership. Strength is key, but power is not. Be the kind of leader you’d happily follow.
13. Sharp leaders are among the easiest to trust.
Being a great leader isn’t about sitting back and barking orders. Instead, it’s about getting your hands dirty and keeping your mind sharp. As a matter of fact, you should be the hardest worker at your company. This gives you a realistic idea of what it’s like to work at your company, which helps you lead more efficiently and build better relationships with your team.
14. Think hard about the operations you start — before you start them.
When you plunge blindly into an operation, you pull your team along with you. Make sure you aren’t getting yourself and your team into a giant mess before taking first steps. It’s better to be safe than sorry, here.
15. Don’t be greedy.
This one seems obvious, but you’d be surprised at how many leaders let greed overtake them. Don’t become gluttonous when it comes to money, power or resources — this includes taking on a larger team than you can handle. It’s unattractive in a professional setting, and it generally harms you and your business long-term. Instead, strive to share what your business takes in, and use what you have to better your community.
16. Don’t let others fail for you.
Take responsibility for both your successes and your failures. When you falter, let it be your fault. Don’t blame failures on someone else. Instead, hold yourself accountable.
17. If you think someone is taking advantage of you, they probably are.
This is simple. If someone is asking for favors with nothing given in return, not holding up their end of a deal, or refusing to maintain mutual respect, they probably view you as someone to be taken advantage of. Don’t be afraid to put a stop to it if it will help you, your team or your company.
18. The concept of being a good CEO is subjective.
Different types of companies require different types of CEOs. The way you lead will depend on your company size, team, goals and industry. Don’t worry if you see a great CEO who leads differently from you; you likely work within entirely different circumstances.
19. Crafting, evolving and sharing your vision is increasingly important.
As your company grows, your vision’s need for visibility grows, too. Don’t let yourself or your team get too comfortable with stagnant goals that may have already been met. Let your vision evolve and share it with those who need to hear it.
20. Remain positive.
The road ahead is paved with bumps and cracks. No one wants to follow a grouchy leader, so slap on a smiley face and stay positive, no matter the obstacles you encounter.
You may have begun as an excellent leader or an outstanding manager, but probably not both. As you build entrepreneurial experience, you’ll learn how to lead and manage teams. But you don’t have to wait so long to build your skills — just take 18 years worth of tips from me.