Lead Article (Self-help topic – LEADERSHIP)

With a US election only moments away, I started thinking about the value of leadership and, in particular, how important good leadership is in a business.

The concept of leadership is quite interesting. You might say that it is obvious that the US will soon have a leader called Obama or Romney. In a business sense, it might seem obvious that the CEO is the ‘leader’. I see leadership in a slightly different light – particularly in a small business.

Leadership is not granted by a title and, in most countries, it certainly isn’t expected as a birth right (although there are still a few monarchies that exist). In small businesses, leadership is grabbed by people who want to make a difference. They say the world is run by those who turn up, and a Chinese Proverb says “Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow”. In my experience, people who lead by their actions and deeds show true leadership. Someone you know who does a power of work within the business – no matter their title – that is leadership. The admin officer who organises the charity golf day; that is leadership. The accounts officer who drives a change in procedure in the business; that is leadership. Anyone can be a leader. Anyone can inspire. Leaders have conviction in their ideas and follow through to the end. They don’t easily give up and decide that it is all too hard. In fact, there are times when a person within a business has a title and they are a leader in name only because their actions demonstrate a lack of leadership.

One area that is often cited by employees as an area where their bosses show a complete lack of leadership is in decision-making. Leaders need to make decisions. Sometimes there are hard decisions to be made and the modern attitude seems to be that if no decision is made, it will all just go away. In some cases it does – but in the vast majority of cases the issue grows and the decision to be made is even harder. I always say that a great leader can make decisions. If the decision is wrong, then don’t be scared to make another decision. The only people that don’t benefit from this advice are bomb-disposal experts – sometimes they don’t get the chance to make another decision. For everyone else though, they need to make decisions in a timely fashion with all of the available information they have at hand.

One of the problems I see with society and leadership in our modern world is that many ‘leaders’ are scared of offending anyone. The only way to never offend is to never do anything. Leaders have critics. Leaders have beliefs that may disagree with others. Leaders are sometimes so focused on their passion that they rub some people the wrong way. Modern politicians are sometimes so scared of offending that they don’t lead, they follow – follow public opinion; follow surveys; and lead by graphs. Leaders must have a vision and let people see their vision. I say that we shouldn’t be scared of offending people with our ideas – we just need to do it in a really nice way.

Sit back and have a look at your business and the leadership qualities within the bosses in the business. A lack of leadership and vision within a business can have a significant impact on the bottom line.

Tell me if you believe you have real leadership within your business at md@smallbusinessrules.com.

Science Quiz Question

Everyone knows that water in the solid state (usually referred to as ice) will float when placed in water in the liquid state. We all assume this is ‘normal’ behaviour because we see it occur so often. What happens though when other liquids are frozen? Do other substances behave the same as H2O? Would frozen Olive Oil, for example, float in liquid Olive Oil?


Science Quiz Answer

The answer to this question comes back to the age-old question. What is normal? Usually someone thinks something is normal if that is what they are most familiar with. Most people don’t see a substance in its solid, liquid and gaseous state simultaneously – as we do with water – so it is normal to think that a substance we see a lot of is ‘normal’.

Liquids expand when they are heated and contract when you cool them. Water has a curious property. Water contracts as you cool it down until it reaches 4° Celsius. Then it starts to expand until it reaches 0 – at which point it has expanded by 9 per cent. This is not normal.

Ice floats because it is less dense than water. The volume of water it displaces is greater than the mass of the ice therefore it floats.

Olive Oil behaves differently. As you cool Olive Oil down to its freezing point (~4° Celsius) it keeps contracting. As it does, its density increases. A frozen lump of Olive Oil is denser than liquid Olive Oil therefore it will sink.

How Olive Oil performs is, in fact, the ‘normal’ thing for a substance to do.

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