Big Leadership Skills for Small Business Leaders

The internet is teeming with articles outlining someone’s ideas of necessary leadership skills you need to develop. A good number of those articles base their thoughts on the examples of C-Suite execs in Fortune 500 companies. While there is certainly some great advice we can cull from the example of such leaders, those of us overseeing small businesses may need to tackle different challenges by leaning on skill sets not highlighted in a piece rooted in a CEO of a multinational conglomerate.

Whether your employee roster looks more like “Me, Myself, and I” or several dozen in-house team members and outsourced support, the following skills will help you succeed as a leader of your small business. 

Roll Up Your Sleeves

In large businesses, senior executives may be removed from the day-to-day functions of the business as they focus on the big picture. They depend on the managers under them in the org chart to handle specific departments and business functions. 

In a small business, however, the CEO isn’t just responsible for setting the mission and vision of the business, she’s also on the front lines meeting clients, mentoring new employees, and figuring out how many K-Cups to order to keep the Keurig well-stocked with caffeine during the week. As a small business leader, you’ll need to balance the dreaming and planning aspects of leading a business with the more hands-on tasks involved in keeping the engine running. 

Jack of All Trades – Sort Of

The more leaders a business has (as in, the bigger it is) the more individual execs can specialize in their area of expertise. When you alone are the C-Suite, you’re ultimately responsible for all aspects of your business from finance to lead generation and human resources. That doesn’t mean you have to do all the work yourself. Delegate and outsource tasks that are not in your wheelhouse. 

You can hire an accountant to manage your books. You can partner with a marketing agency to build your website and guide your lead generation efforts. You can hire a great office manager and a sales team. Ultimately, however, you’ll need to have at least some general understanding of the way business functions across the board – not just how a specific department functions. 

Be a Mentor

Small business leaders have an unique opportunity to work closely with their staff. You’re there in the trench with your team. Seize that opportunity to help your team members develop their business skills. Empower them to take on responsibility, expand their skill sets, and grow in their field. You’re not just a manager, you’re a mentor. 

Bonus: as your team develops their skills and abilities, they’ll be contributing to the growth and development of your business and they’ll be ready to step into new leadership roles as your company staff and revenues expand. 

Personal Development & Care

Growing a business is hard. As noted above, sole proprietors and small business leaders are also feet on the street not just overseeing the day-to-day but carrying some (or all) of the workload. There can be long days and full weeks. Make sure that you’re also taking the time to rest and recharge. Take days off. Take a vacation. Make time to develop outside of work skills and hobbies. Go ahead and sign yourself up for that watercolor class and then squeeze in a yoga session later in the week. Burnt out, overtired, stressed leaders are not successful leaders. Give yourself time to be off the clock.

While we’re talking about skill development, you launched a business based on a specific skill set you had or a product or service idea you’ve developed. Small business ownership, however, requires you to wear many hats – often hats you’ve never tried on before. Make space for you to develop those skills too. Take a marketing class through your local community college. Join an industry group or your local chamber of commerce and attend networking events. Read business books. Listen to podcasts. Hone your skills.