Before leading the company, as a business executive, you need to lead yourself first. It is very difficult to lead other people unless you lead yourself first, and the business is not going to do better than yourself. What you are is what the business will become. For business progress and growth to be visible, it is dependent on the management of resources under one’s control and command – and in this case the business leader himself or herself. It is pointless to expect much from others when the business executive cannot give much of himself or herself. Comparing successful businesses and the mediocre ones, the successful ones are run by people who lead themselves well – and these people know their strengths and their weaknesses.
People who are known for having done an outstanding performance or work are also known for having systematically organized themselves in finding what they are good at. They know what they need to learn, and they also know what they need to improve on. No-one was born a universal genius, and no-one will ever be a universal genius, everyone has a limitation when it comes to what they know. It is only the business leader who acknowledges that there is a limitation to what he or she can know and understand who becomes a great business executive. The business leader who has clouded judgement of what they know tend to be the worst in business management.
To be a good business executive, find out what you are good at and ensure that you are placed in a position where your strengths produce the best of results for the business. One can only become the best or a top producer if they work in areas of their strengths. However, as you work on your strengths, do not forget your weaknesses – everyone has weaknesses! Work on improving your weaknesses, as they may destroy your reputation as a business leader. Studies do reveal that almost everyone tend to remember negative things more strongly and, in more detail, therefore as a good business leader do not turn a blind eye on your weaknesses. Trying to conceal your weaknesses maybe the worst thing that you can do – when you work on them, your subordinates will appreciate more and even help you.
What differentiates organisations is the way the people lead themselves. An organisation that has people who need a command to function is an organisation that has a limited life span. It is also the responsibility of the leader to place people in places of their strengths. First place people in areas of their strengths and then develop them, in such a way, they produce better results. If you place people in wrong places, especially places of their weaknesses, and hope develop them to be better will be a mammoth task. Leadership is by example, no matter how small your business is, set the right examples. Very few leaders of businesses are setting good examples these days and blames are on the economy. One does not lose good leadership values because the economy is bad, instead it is time when the values of the leader are tested. The values of the leader are not what is on the company documents as ‘values’ but what the leader live by.
What the business leader does, the people copy, and even do it in excess. It is said that what the parents do in moderation their children take to excess. Therefore, if the business leader fails to lead himself or herself, so will the subordinates. As a result, the most important area where the business leader needs to take cognizant of is his or her behavior. If you cannot control your behavior in an acceptable way, it is difficult to control the behavior of others. Personal behavior and personal ethics are of importance for every business leader if the organisation is to be profitable and grow. If you are to take inventory of your behavioural values, would you say you are happy with the kind of person you are? Do you keep your promises? Do you cut corners? Are you betraying the future of the business for an immediate short-term benefit? Are you satisfied with the way you run the business?
It is very easy to fool people outside your business, but you cannot for long fool the people who are inside the business. They know and understand who you are, even better than yourself. And, the way you behave is the way they will too, sometimes. Whenever you give a wrong example, a wrong signal is sent to the people in the organisation and you will corrupt the whole organisation. Consequently, good leadership starts with good leadership of self for performance and results. Furthermore, business leadership involves working with people, and people learn and understand better by imitation, therefore set good examples to be imitated. Have respect for subordinates and they will respect you.
Nevertheless, the results of the business do not come from one source, they come from both internal and external factors. Directly and indirectly, they also come from both customers and non-customers. Some customers will not buy from your business and other investors will not invest in your business – it’s a business point to remember! As a business leader, you do not only set an example to the internal factors, but the external factors as well. The outside world can destroy you and the business faster than the internal world. One of the dangers facing business executives is that they absorb themselves more in the internal issues and ignore the external issues. It is pointless to pretend to be a self-leading leader inside the business and have a disorganized life outside – the performance of the business tends to follow who you are. Also, to be a better business leader, it is wise not to over depend on reports, be in touch with the outside world. Reports can be manipulated to suit what you want or what you are!
However, the other challenge that cause business leaders to fail to lead themselves is success. When success is ringing bells, so will be failure – and few rises again from the failure. In their paper titled The Bathsheba Syndrome: The Ethical Failure of Successful Leaders, Dean C. Ludwing and Clinton O. Longenecker give a better understanding of how dangerous success may be. To quote from their introduction, “The story of David and Bathsheba is familiar in a variety of traditions. Accounts of King David’s life are contained in both the Old Testament and the Torah. These accounts describe a leader with humble past, a dramatic and rapid rise to power, strong organizational skills, a charismatic personality, an eclectic approach to problem solving, a strategic vision for his people, and a man of high moral character.”
“In his day, he was a man who had it all. He had power, influence, wealth, physical comforts, loyal servants, a strong army, and a growing prosperous country. He was a king. Yet despite both the quality of his life and his moral character, King David was a leader who got caught up in a down-ward spiral of unethical decisions that had grave consequences for both his personal life and the organisation that he was called upon to lead and protect. David’s failings as a leader were dramatic even by today’s standards and included an affair, the corruption of other leaders, deception, drunkenness, murder, the loss of innocent lives, and a “we beat the system” attitude when he thought he had managed to cover-up his crimes. The good, bright, successful, popular, visionary king, David, was nearly destroyed because he could not control his desire to have something that he knew it was wrong for him to have – Bathsheba.”
“Was David a leader lacking in principle? All accounts indicate that David was a man of strong principle and discernment. Did David abandon principle in the face of tough competitive pressure? At the time of David’s indiscretion, he had just finished a series of triumphant campaigns and was riding the crest of success and popularity. Was David’s a poor choice in the face of subtle, competing goods? David clearly knew the gravity of the violation he was engaging in and clearly knew the penalty if exposed. How did David, a good, talented, and successful leader get entangled in this downward spiral of events? Could his fall have been prevented?”
A good leader does not put the guard down, especially after being successful. It is in such times that you may lead the business on a downward trend, when you feel victorious and unconquerable.
Still to quote from Dean C. Ludwing and Clinton O. Longenecker article, “The hard-working division president of a west coast plastics company was recently dismissed from his job because of gross abuse of his expense account, an affair with his secretary, and rumors of a drug problem. The CEO who fired him stated, “He was one of the brightest and best people I have known, and I have never known him to do anything wrong in his life until just recently. Then he self-destructed.”’
To be a good business leader, you must lead yourself successfully before you lead the company. Never get tempted to think more highly of yourself than you ought to!
Batanai Kamunyaru is a business writer, speaker and coach. He can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or +263 718 852 489.