3 common leadership pitfalls of small business owners
As a management consultant, I frequently talk to CEOs and business leaders who own their own companies. Many of these leaders feel the need to focus on financial ownership and their products at the expense of employee and customer leadership. And many are surprised to learn that there is a direct connection between leadership and revenue growth.
There are many checklists of how to become a leader. There are also lots of examples of business leaders like Oprah Winfrey or Sheryl Sandberg who have managed to combine business success with an enormous focus on mentoring and service. Sometimes, its important to think about the non-leadership or opposite characteristics to illustrate the point. Otherwise stated: If you dont know what the problem is, you cant fix it. Here are three that come to mind:
1. Hubris and Leadership
We only need to look at the example of Lance Armstrong and the cycling association to know that pride goeth before a fall. [1> Thats hubris in a nutshell. Many owners of companies or people who achieve notable success in their field frequently fall victim to a case of extreme self-importance. Recognizable symptoms of this within business organizations include a lack of willingness to discuss and learn from mistakes and a lack of honesty. Both of these symptoms over time will create a high turnover rate of both customers and employees. Look at any company or organization you know where there is a self-important leader at the helm and ask the question: how many clients would recommend this company and how many employees have stayed there for more than 2 or 3 years? James D. Robinson III, former chair and CEO of American Express and Founder of RRE Venture, has a Leadership One through Ten list. Number 6 in the list says, Integrity matters around the clock. The same goes for humility. Check arrogance in any job at the door! Beware the illusions of success. [2>
2. Greed and Leadership
Following right on the heels of hubris is greed. This one is fairly easy to illustrate with numerous lessons of Wall Street and the finance industry. One of the most sensational is the subject of a new Martin Scorsese film, The Wolf of Wall Street[3>. If you have the stomach for it, go see this true story of greed at its worst. Many leaders of companies focus on whats in it for me? and on living the high-life and they mentor their employees to do the same by example. This breeds an organization that is based on self-importance vs. collaboration. It also breeds one that doesnt develop generosity and acts of kindness. Observe the messages of the new leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, winner of the 2013 Time Person of the Year. The Time article reports that he (the Pope) told a gathering of his diplomats that he wanted them to identify candidates for bishop in their home countries who are, he said, gentle, patient and merciful, animated by inner poverty and also by outward simplicity and austerity of life. [4>
About the author
Andrea Cotter, President and Founder, ACotter Global Brands. Andrea coaches executives and teams helping them to put in place strategies and communications that will take them to the next level. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Strategic Communication at the NYU School of Continuing and Professional Studies.
During a 30-year career at IBM Corporation, Andrea Cotter held many integrated marketing and communications roles for various IBM products and services and executive roles as Global Director of Linux and of Healthcare and Life Science Marketing. At UPMC in Pittsburgh, PA, Andrea was SVP of Communications, responsible for enterprise-wide brand marketing, advertising, clinical marketing and public relations. Most recently Andrea served as temporary President of a brand consultancy in New York, New York.