When you’re ready to expand your small business and start taking on employees, consider how to lead your team in a way that adds value to them and benefits your company. Value-added leadership doesn’t always come naturally, especially if you’ve previously been part of a corporate culture that’s adopted a conquer-and-rule approach to leading its people. Adopting a few simple strategies can help you bring out the best from your team and gain the commitment you need to continue growing your business.
What Is Value-Added Leadership?
Value-added leadership is one that prizes collaboration and doesn’t take a ‘me first’ approach. For example, a value-added leader doesn’t kick off the ladder after climbing to the top to stop others following behind or gain self-importance through belittling the efforts of others. To add value through leadership, you need to value your team members genuinely and find the best ways to serve them. You also need to encourage innovative and creative thinking and be able to embrace change.
Adding Value as a Leader
Start by adopting the mindset that you are working with them rather than having them work for you in the old-fashioned master/servant role. Focus on bringing out the best in your employees by offering to mentor, train, and develop. Demonstrate that you notice their achievements by offering praise and thanks for a job well done. Instead of trying to catch them in the wrong, help employees learn from their mistakes or failures. Some of the best products arise from abject failure, as shown in the example of bubble wrap that is vital to virtually every mail room in the country yet was originally developed as a trendy new wallpaper. Don’t let fear of failure and accompanying retribution hold back your more creative team members from experimenting with new ideas.
Show that you genuinely welcome and listen to their opinions and contributions. It is not a sign of weak leadership to change your mind or adopt a new course of action because of honest feedback from your team. Their perceptions, especially when operating at ground level or dealing more closely with your customers, can be more realistic than your more distant notions of how things are in your business.
Ongoing Strategy for Value-Added Leadership
Learn to delegate and trust by empowering your workers to make day-to-day decisions. If you have appointed effective, skilled people, assume they are competent enough to act with integrity, and allow them to use their initiative without needing to seek approval from you at all times. This gives you the mind space to focus on more strategic thinking, while your team’s motivation, sense of pride, and commitment to your business grow thanks to their ability to act with autonomy.
Taking this less hands-on approach might feel risky for those used to tighter command and control approach. And of course, you are still ultimately responsible for the performance of your team, and you should be ready to step in when things go wrong. But if you’re confident that your team fully embraces your company’s mission, vision, and values — and agrees on clear goals that they are all working toward along with measurable outcomes for which they are held accountable — you’re creating the best climate for continued business growth.
As your business grows, you can promote leaders from within, selecting employees who have learned these vital value-added leadership skills. This allows you to continue to embed a value-added approach within your company ethos. If you and your leadership team continue trusting, mobilizing, and motivating your people to collaborate and innovate to achieve your business goals, you stand a far greater chance of success.