Most bosses tend to see themselves as leaders even if they are not. Leadership comes in all shapes, sizes and forms but is one of the most misused buzzwords business academics and consultants like to pontificate about.

Most bosses tend to see themselves as leaders even if they are not. Leadership comes in all shapes, sizes and forms but is one of the most misused buzzwords business academics and consultants like to pontificate about.

So what is leadership? Leadership is a social skill used to help groups function. This skill is not just unique to humans as wolves, ants, geese and many other creatures follow the same principles. How do geese decide which goose leads the formation? How do ants determine which ants search for food and which ones guard the queen? Who knows, but they do it. Start by understanding leadership is not optional. For animals, leadership appears to be an instinctive survival strategy that naturally evolves to ensure the survival of the group. In today’s environment, leadership might be defined as the survival strategy that evolves to protect one’s business.

Let’s start by reviewing some of the traits of good leadership:
  • Leaders are goal and accomplishment driven.

  • Leaders gain commitment, not compliance.

  • Leaders do not sacrifice today for tomorrow.

  • Leaders are good communicators.

  • Leaders have earned the respect of those around them.
Now let’s talk about bosses. Bosses seek compliance; take the threat away and performance disappears. Leaders seek commitment and employees driven to a common goal whether the boss is standing there or not.

Seagull Bosses

Too many contractors let their managerial style merely be one of personality and act more like seagulls than managers. When seagulls come into the job or situation, they tend to squawk, dump on people and leave. Rarely is such behavior useful long term. As discussed, seagull bosses follow several patterns and can closely mimic personality. The following is a list of the most common seagull boss species:

The Mercedes Gull: This species of gull can be recognized by their shiny new cars and tendency to arrive at the job in style, complain about losing money and then ride off into the sunset. This species does not remember what it was like to be an employee and fails to see the hypocrisy of their actions.

The Denial Gull: This species loves to fly around and pretend everything is OK. Some folks believe they evolved from the ostrich, which loves to stick his head in the sand.

The Squawking Gull: This species loves to make a lot of racket but rarely ever actually pecks anyone. While they make a lot of noise, no one really pays any attention to them. They are merely seen as a nuisance.

The Panicked Gull: This species, whenever frightened - which is frequently - jumps in and tries to show everyone how to do the job they already know how to do. Such fears are usually short-term focused and rarely useful.

The Frozen Gull: This species appears to be frozen in the office and spends most of the day staring at four walls and moving paper from pile to pile pretending to be working and changing the situation.

None of the above seagull bosses are effective in instigating change. They react to their own emotional needs and personality rather than logically communicating the issues at hand. 

Improving Leadership

So where does leadership begin? It starts with accountability. Unfortunately, business owners can find it difficult to find anyone to be accountable with. We feel one of the primary purposes of our networking groups are to help business owners stay focused. By openly reviewing yearly performance and goals, we establish a pattern of assistance and credibility. Communicating these needs to employees allows business owners to lead their organization in a positive manner. The following four steps can work as an action plan to improve the leadership of your company.

1. Develop a vision for where you want your company to be in three years. With the current recession, many business owners have become so short-term focused. They are losing sight of the long-term plan. Fix things in the short term but have a long-term vision in place.

2. Institute some type of structured communication process. This might begin with simple things like weekly sales and production meetings, but such meetings do not communicate the broader goals of the business. Consider a short quarterly meeting to talk with key individuals. Be careful of what you say and you need not communicate specific financial details. Your employees want to hear there is a plan in place for the company moving forward. They don’t want or need to hear ownership bitching about the economy, the government, etc.

3. Be visible. You don’t have to be on every job every day but an owner who never shows up on the job is an owner employees perceive to have plenty of money. Be strategic in how you spend your time. Use your day planner to coordinate interactive meetings with employees throughout the year. Try to interact one on one with key employees at least once each quarter.

4. Don’t think of your business as a job. As we grow older we can fall into a pattern of going to work every day and following a pattern of duties. Owning a business is and will never be a job. No matter how big of a pain it might be, your role is to be strategic and lead your company. You are not a postal worker. You signed on for this role and you must keep it alive and active, even if you are getting a little bored with the process.

Leadership is accomplishing goals through others. Make sure your organization has a plan and you are communicating it throughout the company. Your company, people and family are depending on your leadership skills.