One of the best ways to gain proximity and to really witness and learn how great leaders do it is to work for or with them. It provides a whole new level of insight into the way they think, act, and execute.
This will definitely give you more visibility when you are looking also as a leader to put the essence of your story and fill in the blanks of an outstanding pitch deck template.
You may still have the opportunity to go work for a great company and see how things are done at a massive scale. Or if you are at the tail end of a current venture, then you might sell your company to a leader you admire and go work for them during your vesting and earn out period, before going at it again on your own.
Build relationship with your peers
Many highly successful founders have credited their relationships with their peers for helping them get through the journey, including fundraising campaigns and navigating exits. Some just offer a great support network. Others have been where you are now and can share how they did it well, or not. Others you can share with and help them.
This can be other entrepreneurs, founders, industry experts, and CEOs. They can be in diverse positions or even at what some may see as your competitors.
Improve your communications
Great leaders learn to communicate well. That doesn’t mean you can’t be an introvert and still become an effective communicator and great leader either.
No matter where you are now, you can probably build on your speaking and pitching skills, storytelling abilities, effectiveness in sharing the vision, and getting buy-in.
You can get help in bolstering your public speaking, talking one on one, sharing written communications and presenting. These are only some skills and ways to become a better leader.
Develop your empathy
Some people just seem to have a higher natural level of empathy. Yet, this is also something which can be learned and built on.
If you truly want to lead, and not just be a micromanaging tough boss, then you’ll find empathy a powerful talent to have.
Being able to understand others, and put yourself in their position, and work with that information can go a long way in developing your people to lead.
Perhaps above all, becoming a better leader may rely on your listening skills. You have to be able to listen well to be empathetic, to understand what customers need, to be attentive to teams and investors, to get where the market is going, and to ultimately become an admired and respected leader.
It takes work, but it is a learned skill which you can master too.
Spend a lot of time on the front lines
The two above points come together here too. You can’t listen or get what to have empathy about, gain the maximum respect and trust of your teams and partners or really stay in mastery of your business without this.
Spend a lot of time on the front lines of your business. That means in customer facing positions in the trenches. Including talking to customers and working alongside your troops. As well as a customer of your own business, and going through that experience regularly.
Take time out
You shouldn’t have to wait to sell your company for 10 or 11 figures to finally take some time out. In fact, getting to that level might rely a lot on you doing this regularly.
To be a great leader and perform at your best, you need quality time to reflect, decompress, get objective, avoid burnout, refocus and recharge. Use this down time to learn the different ways to become a better leader.
It may feel the opposite of what you want to do sometimes, but it is always the best policy. To the best extent you can, and within the legal and sensible bounds of your business, you will gain a lot of credit as a leader the more transparent you are.
Your people will respect you a lot more, be better equipped to do their jobs better, and will trust you more.
Lead with the example you want to see
Just as with parents and their kids, others will copy what they see you do, not what you tell them to do.
If you want them to show up reliably, treat others well, work hard, be honest, and go the extra mile, start doing that.
Reward what you want, discourage what you don’t
You’ll get more of what you incentivize and less of what you punish. You can set up a similar reward and punishment system for yourself as you lead by example. You can promote and bonus people based on those same behaviors. As well as demote, penalize and fire those who aren’t following the lead.
Empower others to their full potential
You’ll get more of the results you really want, and you’ll be able to spend more time out in front leading and growing if you focus more on empowering others to do their best work on their own, and less on micromanaging them.
These are just some of the ways to become a better leader. Now start by prioritizing them, scheduling them and taking action.
Article contributed by Alejandro Cremades, a serial entrepreneur and the author of The Art of Startup Fundraising.