What It Means to Be a Leader in the 21st Century

business leaders

In February 2017, The Alternative Board surveyed hundreds of business owners to find out what it means to be a leader in the 21st century. According to the results, the large majority is very positive about the state of small business ownership. In fact, 95% of those surveyed have a positive outlook moving into 2017, with 62% expecting to increase their staff in the upcoming year.

So what exactly do these highly positive entrepreneurs have in common? According to the stats, more than you’d think! We’ve broken down some of the statistics to find out how leaders are operating in today’s fast-paced, web-driven environment, and what every entrepreneur (and wantrepreneur) can learn from them.

  1. Today’s leaders are driven by positivity. It seems the old adage about faking it until you make it is a real driver for business owners. The number one trait the surveyed business owners reported having was positivity (47%) closely followed by confidence (30%) – both of which outranked passion (27%), personability (26%), decisiveness (23%) and focus (16%).“The most positive entrepreneurs are often the most successful,” says Serial entrepreneur Jen Groover. “There often are just too many obstacles facing business owners to let negativity get in the way.” To harness the power of positivity, Groover recommends business owners recognize failures as learning lessons and surround themselves with positive people.
  2. Business owners in the 21st Century could be delegating more. The majority of the business owners surveyed (67%) agree the area they most need to improve in as a leader is “holding others accountable.” This is likely why 86% of them are working over 40+ hours a week, with the average business owner working nearly 50.According to Bob Dodge, Senior Vice President of TAB Denver West, a reluctance to delegate often comes down to entrepreneurs’ “own personal wiring.” David Levesque, President of TAB Rochester suggests it’s a lack of process. “The key to profitably growing a business is delegation. The key to effective delegation is good” TAB Hawaii Business Coach & Facilitator Valerie Koenig agrees. “Having a process in place allows companies to scale from one to five to twenty employees, but it is a boring and thought consuming task, so many owners never take the time.”
  3. Business owners still value face-to-face communications over telecommunications. Yes, the 21st century is best known for its technological growth and instant communication channels, but entrepreneurs still rely on face-to-face meetings. According to the survey results, the majority of their communications (39.9%) are handled face-to-face, more than online (33.8%) or over the phone (26.3%).“[The] prioritization of speed over face-time grossly underestimates the power of human interaction and the importance of face-to-face communication,” writes Mina Chang in Forbes. “If the point of business was simply to accomplish as many tasks as possible, then yes, an email would probably do. But that’s not what real leadership is about.”When taking over the CEO position of Linking The World, instead of sending out forms and questionnaires to the company’s branches across the world, Chang spent an entire year traveling from office to office. “I met with our teams on the ground, asked questions, and listened to their concerns. These face-to-face interactions built trust, understanding, and a real sense of a shared mission, and this has made all the difference in the world.”
  4. Experience trumps education on the path to success. Only 2% of the business owners surveyed believe an MBA is the most important business training to become an effective leader. Instead, the majority selected “management experience” (40%), closely followed by business coaching (36%).“Generally speaking, an MBA is not necessary for success,” says Blair Koch, CEO of TAB Denver West. “What you learn from your real-time experiences in business typically cannot be replicated in an academic environment. You learn more from your failures than your successes.”
  5. Entrepreneurs could do a better job of planning. Entrepreneurs with detailed plans are in the minority. Only 43% of entrepreneurs believe they have an effective strategic plan, and only 44% are satisfied with their succession plan. Considering the majority of business owners believe their top responsibility as a leader is to “fulfill their vision, mission and goals,” it’s surprising they don’t have a plan in place to reach those milestones.TAB UK’s Operations Director Jo Clarkson recommends entrepreneurs kick off their planning by defining its purpose. “Create a working document that you monitor, measure and hold people (yourself included) accountable to.”

Based on these survey results, today’s leaders can best be described as experienced professionals with a lot of confidence and a knack for communication. What they might lack in delegation and planning skills, they make up for with positivity.

While it may seem that today’s leader must be tech-driven above all else, it seems a dose of optimism is exactly what they need to keep jumping hurdles. If you’d like to improve your leadership skills, The Alternative Board offers a unique peer advisory model that can help you overcome your toughest business challenges. If you’d like to learn more, get in touch with a local board.

 

Becoming a Mentor Can Make You a Better Leader

great leadership through mentoring

Chances are, most successful individuals have benefited from being mentored by a CEO, owner or another business leader at some time in their professional career. If you’re among this group, you’ll likely remember how valuable the experience proved to be.

Generally speaking, mentors work with talented employees because of a sincere desire to see them succeed. “The goal isn’t to master a particular skill, reach a specific goal, or bolster the company’s knowledge base,” notes marketing expert Jodie Shaw. “Although it can involve tasks and timelines, it’s really about helping the mentee grow and develop as a professional over his or her career.”

What about the benefits inherent in being a mentor?

Taking on the role and responsibilities of mentoring may seem time-consuming and lacking in any clear ROI for the business leader involved. But this is a narrow interpretation of what becoming a mentor actually means. In fact, sharing your wisdom and experience can prove to be immensely helpful and satisfying to the person in this role. Here’s a brief look at some of the benefits involved:

Mentoring requires that you stay up-to-date on industry trends. The skills and knowledge that enabled you to achieve leadership status can sometimes get stuck in place. Market conditions change. Industry trends come and go. Becoming a mentor means you need to reaffirm an interest in the most up-to-date events in your field, so you’re not dispensing inaccurate or unhelpful advice to the mentee. As a result, you supplement your own knowledge and experience at the same time.

In some cases, you may be mentoring an individual who has attended industry-related academic courses and/or gathered more recent with changing industry trends. In the course of your mentoring sessions, it’s probable they’ll share with you the latest developments in the field, so you’ll benefit from the exchange of views, too.

You’ll see your leadership skills enhanced. As a mentor, you may find yourself expressing views and insights in ways that might surprise you. During your mentoring sessions, “you have the chance to reflect on and articulate your own expertise and experience—something you probably don’t take the time to do otherwise,” notes business author E. Wayne Hart.

Also, Hart adds, mentoring may help you “view the organization with a fresh eye towards its functions, politics and culture.” Such insights may prove very useful in devising new strategies to change the workplace culture for the better.

Expand your professional network. A successful relationship with a mentee generally results in a broadening of the mentor’s own professional network. For one thing, if the person you mentor goes on to become a leader in his or her own right, you’ll have a valuable, high-level (and likely very grateful) contact that might result in more business for your organization.

Yes, mentoring requires time and occasionally some added patience, as the person you mentor struggles with his or her personal and/or professional challenges. But the benefits you receive as the mentor—personal satisfaction, greater industry credibility, an enhanced ability to listen closely—far outweigh those disadvantages.

A CEO peer advisory board is another way of mentoring—with tangible benefits for any business owner’s company. Contact a local TAB Board to learn more about membership.