Owning and operating a business isn’t something you take lightly. It requires a huge leap of faith. It’s exciting to live your entrepreneurial dream but it's also innately scary because there's no guarantee you'll succeed.
As the leader of your business, you’re the one with the ultimate accountability for the business’ success. That's a heavy responsibility to bear.
Two leadership commitments you can't ignore
When you get into business, you make two significant and serious leadership commitments:
- To yourself. You've given up the security of working for others (perhaps even a steady pay check) to follow your passion and vision. Stepping away from the familiar requires a great deal of courage, and you owe it to yourself to put your absolute best foot forward to achieve your vision. Nobody else will do it for you.
- To everyone else. You've made a commitment to all of the people who are impacted by your business: your family, your partners, your investors, your employees and your customers. All of these people rely on your business to various degrees and all have a vested interest in your business succeeding.
For many of us, it's easier to focus on the commitments we make to others than to those we make to ourselves. We can't stress enough however, how important it is to honor the commitment you've made to yourself.
Leadership takes self-knowledge
If you’re feeling as though you’ve lost touch with your own motivation and commitment; consider what James Kouzes and Barry Posner said in their book, The Leadership Challenge:
Leadership is an art, a performing art. And in the art of leadership, the artist’s instrument is the self. The mastery of the art of leadership comes with the mastery of the self. Ultimately, leadership development is a process of self-development. The quest for leadership is first an inner quest to discover who you are. Through self-development comes the confidence needed to lead. Self-confidence is really awareness of and faith in your own powers. These powers become clear and strong only as you work to identify and develop them.
Knowing yourself well—really and truly well—is central to your ability to lead and to realize the commitment you made to making your business dream a reality. Self-knowledge will give you the insight, the strength and the confidence you need to lead because to lead others, you first need to lead yourself. And to lead yourself, you have to know yourself.
It may like "self help", but the truth is that the role of the leader is the role of the self. Think about it. The word “leader” carries no connotation of the work or tasks involved, like the words “plumber” or “programmer,” “teacher” or “engineer,” or even “manager” do. Rather, “leader” evokes personal qualities like vision, strength, integrity, honesty, confidence—or whatever your particular definition is.
So if leadership is about the person, and not about the work, to become a powerful leader you must work on yourself as a person. You need to know yourself, and continually develop yourself to be more and more of the person you want to be.
Take a look in the mirror
Often, under the pressure to do right by others, you end up ignoring that first and vitally important commitment: the one you made to yourself. Many small business owners cite “not letting others down” as the main reason for persevering in a barely surviving business long after it’s stopped giving them the personal satisfaction or the financial rewards they wanted for themselves. Don’t let it get to that point for you.
Remember to honor the commitment you made to yourself when you started your business. The commitment to create an extraordinary business. The commitment to lead your company to success with clarity, purpose and enthusiasm. If you feel lost, take a look in the mirror and re-acquaint yourself with the entrepreneur, the business owner, and the leader who got you where you are today. They may need some nurturing, some support, or some guidance—but they're there.