C-A-K-E. That’s what you need to be a leader with vision

Would you like a recipe for successful leadership to guide you in your business life? According to Michael Shinagel, the longest serving dean in the history of Harvard, despite the thousands of leadership books and articles published very year there is a leadership paradox

The paradox is that no single leadership recipe will satisfy all our needs. Different circumstances call on difference skills, attributes and experience from leaders. For example, leadership in an SME will be significantly different from leadership in the military, or in a community campaign group or social enterprise.

It’s liberating to know we don’t have to be clones of Winston Churchill, Angela Merkel, Vice Admiral Lord Nelson or Nelson Mandela. If a one-size fits all model of leadership is as impossible as nailing jelly to the wall it means you can focus on the leadership needed for your specific circumstances.

Forget Jelly. What small business leaders need is C-A-K-E

Here are some ideas on essential ingredients you can mix together to become, or develop further as the successful SME leader you want to be. I use the acronym CAKE – Creating your culture; Adjusting to the environment; Knowledge-building; Explaining your business vision.

Creating your business culture – your business needs an emotional heart that employees, customers and other stakeholders can relate to. Your values play a key role in creating a culture that will attract people to work with you and to develop the business over time. Culture is one aspect of your business that should remain constant from start up to mature company. You can hear more on this from serial entrepreneur turned venture capitalist, Michael Skok in his i-lab lecture.

Adjusting – tap into what’s going on in society/ politics/economics/ your industry. You need to understand the wider context in which you are operating so you can be flexible in your tactics to achieve your goals. Of course it is also important to listen to your customers and suppliers. If they give you feedback on your product or service listen to them and be responsive.

Knowledge building – keep learning and building your knowledge both personally and in your company as a whole. This means remaining curious and asking questions. Some will be answered via research and always remember that employees are very often a knowledgeable resource. It’s a truism that technology is changing rapidly and it has never been more true that if you snooze you’ll lose. As a business leader you need to know yourself. Be honest about your skills. What are you good at? Where do you need support? Do you need a mentor or coach to challenge you and to provide a sounding board for your ideas?

Explaining your vision is vital – not just once but regularly. People need to know what your business is about in a way that encapsulates what makes it special and exciting. As a business leader you are the face of your business. You need to sell your vision to get yourself and your business known at every opportunity so make sure you messaging is consistent in person, on social media and your promotional material.

Your employees need to both understand the vision intellectually and connect to it emotionally. That way they will make the most of the important role they will play in achieving it.

Always remember…

No business is the same. You will weigh up these ingredients and use your judgement in how you combine them. By using them to good effect you will be a leader of your business who is trusted as a business leader with integrity and with the vision and drive to succeed.