Lots of articles and guides for learning to be a leader, in life and at work appear. There is probably no one way, no one answer for everyone. In order to get what we need for those who are leading a startup in a global context like the current one, we interviewed Judith Eberl, Managing Director of JuPantaRhei, who in the coming weeks will hold a mentorship session on the same topic, reserved to the fintech of our community.
What are the essential soft skills to lead a business?
Leading a business is tightly connected to leading yourself and leading people. As a business leader you need to have a vision, think strategically, evaluate risks and drive performance. But you cannot grow the business if you are not able to manage yourself and that starts with self-awareness which means having a deep understanding of your own feelings and emotions, of your own weaknesses and strengths and of your own values and capabilities. But a business leader needs also be able to lead people, to motivate them to work towards the organisation’s vision and to grow and develop them.
Three things a leader should never do
- Leaders often times say very quickly when something does not go the right way. But when it comes to expressing recognition and gratitude, they forget to do so. Leaders should never forget to give praise, also publicly, to someone that has made a contribution to achieving a certain goal. If a leader does not show gratitude, people feel forgotten, ignored, pushed to the side, and they resent it.
- A leader should remember that emotions are contagious, so are negative emotions. When someone gets angry, he/she is usually out of control. That’s when a leader should not make destroying or cutting remarks or act in a negative way. Behaving like this, people will start avoiding the leader and are less willing to support and work alongside.
- Leaders should not jump to conclusions too quickly. We often judge others or grade what they say very quickly, even when they try to help us. When leaders want to impose their standards, people get hesitant and defensive. A leader should therefore be open and seek for different perspectives and diversity in their teams. A leader should actively listen, trying to understand the perspectives of others and be open to different approaches.
How can you foster the growth of your team: examples/practical actions?
When approaching our teams, we have to remember that each team member comes with his/her own background, experience, capabilities, skills and competencies. Furthermore, each individual is driven by different motivational factors. A good leader has to address each team member, having clarity whether the person has the necessary competencies and the motivation to perform the specific task/activity and adapt its leadership style.
When we have team members that have the necessary skills and a high motivation, leaders should focus on coaching them. Coaching really aims at unlocking a person’s potential to maximise their own performance. It is helping them to find their way to reach the objective, based on their natural talent and strengths. Coaching is a two-way-communication, based on trust and mutual respect and the role of the leader coach is to create the right context for each individual to grow and succeed. Listening and questioning are some of the key elements of coaching.
What techniques can help to better identify strengths and areas of development for those leading a business?
Self-awareness is the starting point and it means being conscious of the effect that our feelings and emotions have on ourselves and on others. We cannot change our emotions, but we can decide how to go about them. But it is also crucial for a leader to understand how others see them. This is where open and continuous feedback comes in. In organisations where there is a feedback culture, direct communication and open conversations are happening on an on-going basis. Business leaders should seek for feedback being open-minded, curious, self-reflective, willing to change and adapt.
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