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Cultivating Leadership During Turbulent Times

It’s no secret that 2020 wasn’t the year business owners were expecting. Plans were derailed, companies struggled and finances were hit hard. But as we work our way through to the last quarter of the year, I’m extremely hopeful for the future. Throughout my career, I’ve dealt with a stressful business situation or two (OK – many, many times) – for example, the stock market crash of ’08 that occurred right as I stepped into the role of publisher and CEO at the Omaha World-Herald. 

Looking back, those struggles made me a better leader and taught me the importance of cultivating leadership within your teams as well. At Smith Kroeger, we follow the same model. We want everyone on our team to feel empowered to speak up, take action and share their ideas. 

If you’re a business owner looking to promote from within more often, retain your new talent for years to come or just want to encourage your teams to feel empowered to take on more leadership roles in general, I’m sharing a few ways to get started cultivating leadership within your organization:

1. Remind them what they’re capable of.

  • That’s one of the biggest roles you can play as CEO, reminding your team that sometimes they’re capable of far more than they’ll admit to themselves. Remain a steady example for them by getting out of your own comfort zone as well. Encouraging them to take on new challenges and allowing them to tap into different work or departments that they’re interested in has the potential to open up a new path for them.

2. Ask questions.

  • Even the “dumb” ones. If I don’t know something, I ask, because I don’t know everything. I’m a lifelong learner – and asking questions gives everyone else in the room permission to do the same. This is one of the easiest, yet most often overlooked ways your team members can continue to grow and learn from each other.

3. Trust your gut.

  • Or rather, trust your employee’s gut. If they express a strong stance and truly believe a particular action will drive results, encourage them to trust their gut. This is a win-win: It lets them know that you believe in them, and it allows them the permission to fail (and to learn from any so-called “failure”). This is imperative to being able to expand and grow as a business, as well – you need to be able to trust your people to work on behalf of your brand without feeling the need to overshadow or handhold.

4. Remember the give and take.

  • Think about any partnership in your life. Whether it’s romantic, a friendship or a business partnership … if any one side takes advantage of the other, it won’t thrive and it very likely won’t last. This is where the “trust your people” comes into play again. Trust that your people are doing their best work and provide ample reason for them to trust you and have faith in your business’s direction. 

These are some of the best ways I’ve personally found success in cultivating leadership on my teams. Throughout my years of experience managing teams as CEO, publisher, president and now owner of a marketing communications agency, I’ve learned that it’s of course not a one-size-fits-all situation. So, don’t forget to bring it back to the basics and put the time in to truly get to know the people at your organization as well.

What are your tips for business owners and cultivating leadership from within? I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, feel free to read through our Smith Kroeger blog for more tips and industry insights, and follow us on LinkedIn.