First Person: 4 Attitudes of Successful Small Business Leaders

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When I first began my study of leadership in grade school, I was unaware of attitude as a component. At the USAF Academy, a top American school for leaders, much of what we taught and learned was through experience. We probably learned about the importance of attitude, but I was so busy resenting the disciplines I missed those lessons. So I learned about attitude and leadership later in life through experiences and my own studies.

Small Business Owners and Managers Are Leaders by Position

Attitude has a lot to do with how successful your small business leadership will be. It's important to you if you own or manage a small business because you are a leader by the very nature of what you do. Your employees will cooperate or resist what you want depending on the attitudes you bring to the job.

Gone are the days of leading by force or intimidation. Successful leadership involves winning the support of your employees, leading your team to victory in the marketplace.

What Employees Want in Their Leader

Your employees want a boss who demonstrates calm, clear thinking and has a vision for what the company is and can be. They want you to inspire their confidence by being supportive and by giving direction. They also want feedback.

As a small business consultant I have consulted over 170 clients. In those companies large enough to have employees, I found one of the biggest frustrations for employees was not knowing how they were doing at their jobs.

Some owners and managers have the attitude that if I haven't said anything, you're doing fine. That's not good enough for employees. Most want to know positively what they are doing well and how to improve. Being blindsided and fired without any advance notice that they needed to improve leads to lawsuits by disgruntled employees for unfair labor practices.

Marks of Successful Small Business Leadership

These four attitudes will earn the loyalty of your employees:

- Respect

- Appreciation & Recognition

- Empowering

- Trust


Although you are the' boss,' employees still deserve your respect. Avoid yelling at them. I know from experience it can bring on problems. As the vice president of sales and marketing for a small company in South Texas, I called the shipping and receiving clerk and his supervisor into my office. He messed up a big order for our largest customer. When I started yelling at him, his supervisor yelled back and my intended message was lost.

Appreciation & Recognition

Encourage people. Give sincere compliments for jobs well done. Avoid giving insincere ones. Interestingly, nonspecific compliments can backfire on you because they convey a lack of caring. In my experience, employees need and want to be appreciated.

Examples of recognition include Boy Scouts' and Girl Scouts' merit badges and awards plus the U.S. military's ribbons and rank insignia. Likewise, numerous companies give pins for years of service and to recognize outstanding customer service.


One of the most important things you can do for your employees and volunteers is to empower them to act on their own without having to come to you or 'go up line' for every situation. When your employee completes your training program and demonstrates competence and good judgment then authorize a degree of autonomy in accomplishing the job.

Keep in mind though, when you delegate authority, you still must follow up to review the decisions they are making and give them guidance and course correction so they can improve.


Over the years, most employees I've talked with care about their jobs. And they resent micromanaging. Frankly, I have always had so many projects to do to advance my employer's business or my own small business, I lacked the time to micromanage. By developing an attitude of trust in your employees to make the right decisions, you gain time to do the things only the owner or executive can to make your small business successful.

Successful small business leadership depends on the attitudes you bring to the job. Fortunately, you can change your attitudes to more productive ones. In this article, I covered four attitudes I found have served me well in earning the support of both employees and volunteers: respect, appreciation & recognition, empowerment, and trust. When you apply these attitudes, your success as a leader will soar. Additionally, you'll enjoy your position more.

*Note: This was written by a Yahoo! contributor. Do you have a small business story that you'd like to share? Sign up with the Yahoo! Contributor Network to start publishing your own finance articles.

More from this contributor :

First Person: The Power of the' Business Compliment'

First Person: 3 Areas to Improve Communications in Sales and Management

First Person: Marginal Utility Value and Motivating Employees


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