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Learning from Leadership: Wisdom for Small Businesses

account_circle Team

Key Takeaways

  • Your small business needs stong leadership and constant focus to compete and thrive.
  • Strong business leadership inspires and motivates your team.
  • Follow the examples set by great business leaders to build your brand and achieve success.

In Shakespearean terms, some leaders are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. No matter your circumstances, you need to develop a strong leadership style to successfully achieve your small business goals.

To keep your small business competitive, it’s important to reflect on leadership, evaluate how you lead and identify areas where you can improve. Here is a look at leadership and some guide points that can be applied to your small business.

Defining leadership.

In today’s competitive business world, strong leadership is critical. However, 70 percent of the small business workforce says we need a definition of leadership

Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner, longtime leadership researchers and co-authors of The Leadership Challenge, say that good leaders effectively blaze trails, inspire a shared vision, challenge the process, and enable others to act. The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), which has been conducting scientific leadership development research for over five decades, calls it “a social process that enables individuals to work together to achieve results.” helps small business owners discover their leadership style in this blog.

No matter what your definition is, developing a consistent and self-aware leadership style that leverages your talents and entrepreneurial spirit will benefit your business. 

Presidential leadership examples and wisdom. 

Many U.S. presidents have demonstrated great leadership during times of war, turmoil, crisis and strife. As the sign on President Harry S. Truman’s desk in the Oval Office read: “The Buck Stops Here.” Great leaders do not avoid responsibility. Truman’s time in office was defined by accountability and integrity. He accepted responsibility for his actions, most notably his decision to utilize nuclear weapons to end World War II.

While best remembered for his legendary honesty and being our first president, George Washington’s leadership skills are often overlooked. Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow brought them to light in his book, Washington: A Life. Wrote Chernow: “Once Washington had set his sights on independence, his vision was unblinking, and his consistency proved one of his most compelling qualities.”

One of our most revered presidents, Abraham Lincoln preserved the Union during the Civil War and ended slavery. Facing these two major issues, Lincoln offered many lessons in leadership, which lawyer and statesman Eliju Root cited in his document: “Lincoln as a Leader of Men.” Among Lincoln’s greatest qualities of value, wrote Root “was his genuine appreciative sympathy for all his fellow man.” Root also pointed to Lincoln’s “sense of proportion,” and “subordination of himself to the cause.”

Why effective leadership is important.

Leadership is important for any business on a quest for success but is especially critical for small businesses. Your business has fewer employees and without strong guidance, it can quickly unravel.

Leadership is crucial for growing your business, reaching goals, motivating employees, establishing communication and setting a positive example for your team. Above all, blazing a leadership path will create a belief you can accomplish more with your business. Leadership equals vision. 

Ways to become a better leader.

Evolving into a better leader can significantly impact the success of your business and give you the competitive edge to outlast your competitors. It can also launch your small business to a higher level.

Take the lead with your hardworking team by rolling up your sleeves and working with them, not above them. Your employees will love you for it. Good leaders also provide positive and constructive feedback to their employees, which will motivate them to improve, grow and learn.

Become a lifetime learner. If you are not learning, you are falling behind. As a small business owner, you need to understand your industry, market and competitors better than anyone on your staff. Read and research the landscape. 

Embrace new technologies and set an example for your team. Be progressive by maximizing your budget with online marketing that includes a website, social media, SEO content, email campaigns and eCommerce opportunities. Enhancing your online presence will build trust and credibility with your customers and establish your business as a market leader. 

Remember, you’re never in this alone. Smart business leaders are open to advice and support, and develop a circle of trusted confidants to provide counsel and share ideas.

Learning from leadership. 

Truman, Washington and Lincoln all secured their legacies because they were superlative leaders. All three, each in their own way, had a strong vision for our country, effective crisis management and communication skills, the courage to make unpopular decisions, integrity and character.

In tough times and situations critical to our nation, they persevered by remaining agile and flexible and seeking counsel to weigh all their options. While these presidents served many years ago, their lessons in leadership remain invaluable today.

 “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

            - President John F. Kennedy

Lead Your Small Business to Success

You don’t have to be in the Oval Office or a high-powered executive to be considered a great leader. While natural or born leaders do exist, you can learn to become a stronger leader by embracing these lessons when running your small business.


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Images: Shutterstock