Ten steps to being a successful business leader

Ten steps to being a successful business leader
If you want to be successful as a business leader, you need confidence in your abilities, your team’s abilities, and your strategic plan.

If you want to be successful as a business leader, you need to project a high level of confidence.

Stephen Lynch

You need confidence in your abilities (self-confidence), confidence in your team’s abilities, and confidence in your strategic plan (you followed a disciplined thought process to create a winning strategy and you have clearly specified what actions need to be taken to execute your plan).

Here are 10 more things that will help you be more successful as a leader:

 Self awareness

As mentioned above, a healthy degree of self confidence is crucial in a leader – but it needs to be tempered with self awareness. You are not super (wo)man. You have strengths and weaknesses like everyone else.

Acknowledge your weaknesses and take steps to make them irrelevant. Surround yourself with people who think differently than you, and who balance out your weaknesses. Encourage them to debate and challenge your thinking every step of the way.

Not everyone is cut out for leadership (and that’s OK)

A common trap (sometimes referred to as the Peter Principle) is where a strong performer in a functional role is promoted to lead a team of people, and begins to fail miserably at the new management role. Not everyone is cut out to lead people, and that is OK. Some people are better suited to being an expert in a specific area – and this needs to be encouraged with appropriate recognition, job title, and remuneration. Don’t make people feel obligated to lead a team of people just to earn a higher income and be perceived as achieving career success.

There are no right answers

As Peter Drucker said, a decision is a judgment. It is rarely black and white, it is more a choice between different options – and even your best decision has a high probability of being wrong eventually. Even the most effective decision eventually becomes obsolete.

Do what you think is right

Leaders must lead. Making decisions goes with the job. Gather a reasonable amount of data, involve other people to generate and debate a range of options. If everyone agrees at the outset, tell them to go away and come back with some counter viewpoints. Then follow your gut and do what you think is right.

Make fewer decisions

Effective leaders do not make lots of decisions - rather they concentrate on making a few important ones. They make the big strategic decisions, rather than try to solve lots of little problems. Leaders who like to run around feeling like a hero putting out every fire are actually ineffective. Slow down, and make better decisions. Deal with the underlying issues; focus on decisions that will have the biggest long term impact.

Make a decision and commit

As Drucker said, act or do not act – but make a conscious decision and inform your team of your decision. Don’t dither. The surgeon does not take out half the tonsils. You either operate or you don’t. If you have to change course, then turn the wheel and change course. If you never fully commit to a course of action, all you will ever do is change course. The hardest part of any decision is not making it, it is executing it.

Execution is the #1 challenge

Until you have broken your decision down into specific action steps and assigned single point accountability for the execution of each task, it is not a decision, it is just wishful thinking. Business execution software makes capturing and executing your decisions much easier.

 Man up / Woman up

We are all afraid at times - that is part of being human. If you are going to lead people in tough times, you will need to dig deep and be courageous. When your team sees worry and concern on your face, they lose confidence in your ability to lead.

You will fail sometimes

Accept the fact that you are going to fail on occasion. Check back and test how well your decisions played out, and learn from your mistakes. Even your good decisions have a finite lifespan. Be willing to admit your mistakes. Be willing to change your mind. The assumptions you hold about your business model and your operating environment will become obsolete sooner or later. Reality does not stand still for long.

Life is short. Have fun!

Why should you expect your people to be positive and enthusiastic, if they don’t see it in you? I tend to be a bit serious myself – feel free to remind me of this tip next time you see me!

Stephen Lynch is chief operating officer - global operations at, a company specialising in business execution software with offices in New Zealand, Canada and the US

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