Since leaving the corporate world almost three years ago, I’ve discovered that starting a new venture, especially one where your success (or failure) rests squarely on your shoulders, can be overwhelming. From developing your business case to copious amounts of paperwork… I mean, ahem, to learning the administrative side of running a business and building your team, things aren’t always as glamorous as the glossy quotes on Insta would suggest!
However, alongside the many lessons I’ve come across during my pursuit of a thriving business, I’ve had time to think about what it takes to be an effective leader. Scratch that; how to become a damn awesome girl boss who leads with integrity, inspiration, empowerment and sincere enthusiasm for the success of her people. Ironically, I didn’t begin my leadership ‘wish list’ until after I went out on my own. Truth be told, in the beginning I was still looking at job postings and, despite my self-employment status, frequently musing about which places emphasized work-life balance or encouraged employees to put their families first. That lasted until my colleague (and friend) finally asked me why I was looking to other organizations for the perfect job when the opportunity to develop exactly what I wanted was literally at my fingertips (remember that business I had already started)? Cue the eye-opening moment that sparked my mission to define the type of leader I aspire to be. Here are some of my favourite traits:
- Be the person you’d want to work for. For me, this means surrounding myself with inspiring people who possess the qualities I personally look for in a leader. This includes confidence, thoughtfulness, being present, honesty, enthusiasm and integrity to name a few.
- Talk less, listen more. My first corporate boss told me that true leaders gain more from listening than from speaking. With an understanding that my desire to be heard should never overpower the value of what I can learn from listening to those around me, I aspire to give my team my full attention – regardless of the topic – and listen WITHOUT an intent to respond but WITH the intent to hear and understand.
- Always be you. Two words: honest and authentic. I’ve learned that being a good leader means not being afraid to let others know the “real” you. Trust is built when you share your beliefs, dreams, goals, strengths AND weaknesses (odds are your team already has figured out the last part and love you anyway!).
- Know when to step aside. Giving your people the freedom to do what they do best is not only a key leadership trait, it’s good business sense. One of the best parts about having full discretion over my team – and my time – is the opportunity to surround myself with talented people who are as committed to doing excellent work as I am. Great leaders aren’t intimidated by someone more knowledgeable than they are. Instead they recognize the value their team members bring to the table and will happily step aside so they can do their thing.
- Walk the talk. It’s fine to talk about work-life balance, but if you want your team to trust you and buy into your vision, you’ve got to lead by example. Don’t tell them to not check email while on vacation then spend your time off responding to messages non-stop. Remember that being a leader means inspiring those around you, being the change you want to see and leading how you’d want to be led.
So… now that you know my list, I’m curious, which traits are on yours?