Business Lessons from Five Great Leaders

As the owner of a small business, you want your company to be successful, and you’ve done everything in your power to make it so. But are you doing everything you can to be a truly successful leader?

Lesson 1: You're only as strong as your least experienced team member.

"When we went to Afghanistan, it was important to work with people in the community. We talked to tribal leaders and… tried to explain why we were in their country… Everyone in [your] organization is responsible for building and sustaining your brand."

- Lt. General Frank Kearney, US Army

Just as young soldiers represent the nation they’re fighting for, your employees represent your business. Trust should be maintained from the bottom to the top so that your brand is properly represented.

Lesson 2: Innovate and nurture relationships with your employees.

“It’s important that the company be a family, that people feel that they’re part of the company, and that the company is like a family to them. When you treat people that way, you get better productivity… We should continue to innovate in our relationship with our employees and figure out the best things we can do for them.”

- Larry Page, CEO of Google

Your job as a leader is to make sure every employee has opportunities to grow, and that they feel they’re having a meaningful impact on the company as a whole. You don’t have to go as big or as bold as Google, but working to build a community within your business can help foster unity and teamwork.

Lesson 3: Continue to interact with customers on a personal level.

“Not allowing yourself to become insular is very important – maybe the most important thing, I think, as a CEO… Between customers and employees and the press, you get a lot of feedback. The bigger thing is processing and deciding what to put in the distraction category vs. where the nuggets are.”

- Tim Cook, CEO of Apple

True leaders must find a way to get unfiltered feedback. One way to foster those relationships is to spend plenty of time in the field interacting with employees or customers. Have open ears to criticism and an open mind to change, even when it’s not the most positive.

Lesson 4: Fearlessly go with your gut.  

“There are moments in our lives when we summon the courage to make choices that go against reason, against common sense and the wise counsel of people we trust. But we lean forward nonetheless because, despite all risks and rational argument, we believe that the path we are choosing is the right and best thing to do.”

- Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks

For a small business owner, passionate conviction and fearless decision-making isn’t where it ends. You must believe in yourself and your vision in order to succeed. If you don’t demonstrate how much you believe in your business, then not many other people will either. Decision-making is only as good as the strength of the conviction behind it.

Lesson 5: Never regret trying and failing.

"I was not going to regret having tried this. I was not going to regret trying to participate in this thing called the Internet that I thought was going to be a really big deal. I knew that if I failed, I wouldn't regret that. But I knew the one thing I might regret is not ever having tried. I knew that that would haunt me every day."

- Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon

Every successful business owner will fail, and it hurts. But only the true leaders realize that some failure is just a stepping-stone towards success. The only time failure becomes permanent is if you don’t learn from it.


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