The most important leadership qualities to have today

Welcome back to Leader Talk! In episode 61 we spoke to the incredible Sharon Williams, founder and CEO of Taurus Marketing.

Sharon Williams is a business leader known for building people, brands, and businesses with her award-winning solutions and unique and proven methodology, The TaurusBullseye©. With over 29 years of experience, Sharon is a sought-after speaker offering strategic marketing, PR, growth strategies, personal branding, social media, creative, crisis, IR and government relations delivered with a personalised and ‘No Bull’ approach.

In this episode we chat about the important qualities every leader should strive for, overcoming adversity and embracing failure.

Want to learn more? You can read or listen to our chat with Sharon Williams on YouTubeSpotifyListen Notes, or Player FM. It’s also available anywhere you listen to your favourite podcasts via Buzzsprout.

Authored by Sharon Williams, Founder and CEO of Taurus Marketing.

The business world is constantly changing, so the skills needed to be a good leader are also evolving. While bosses of bigger companies require their own unique set of skills, leaders of small and medium-sized businesses face different challenges. What qualities do SME leaders and owners need to not only survive but thrive in today’s business world?

The most important qualities
The characteristics of leadership evolve as the world evolves. Indeed, at this time, the most important qualities for leaders of small to medium businesses are tenacity, resilience, and the ability to keep going when you feel like giving up. SME leaders encounter unique challenges in unique circumstances. Health issues, marital issues, financial setbacks, people challenges, or unforeseen market fluctuations all hit SME owners differently than they would big enterprises. It’s during these difficult moments that leaders must find the ability to keep going. The first step is loving what you do so it doesn’t feel like work. Passion for our work becomes the driving force that helps us hold on and deal with whatever obstacle comes next.

Technology and AI continue to advance, but it’s important to recognise that technology still lacks the ability to understand human emotions and empathy. As leaders, it’s our job to interpret emotions and read the signs that technology cannot. Maintaining empathy and extending grace towards clients and employees are also essential traits in today’s leadership. It may not always be easy, particularly on challenging days, but as leaders, we must remain careful, controlled, and mindful of our position.

Overcoming adversity
If you feel that you lack tenacity or resilience, there are ways to change that mindset. One effective approach is to have people you can call. Navigating the entrepreneurial journey can be daunting, especially for those without prior business experience. I myself didn’t go to university or have experience running a business or even working in an agency before I started my own. SME leaders must tap into the power of networking.

If you’ve started your own trade business, for example, you may not have had experience running your own business before. It’s best to talk and learn from others who have already gone through similar experiences so you can learn quickly and correctly. Whether it’s talking to experienced professionals in your industry or seeking advice from entrepreneurs outside your field, building a network lets you understand what works and what doesn’t. Remember, you don’t have to face challenges alone – there is help available.

Secondly, in the post-pandemic era, it is more important than ever for SME leaders to prioritise their mental health. Fatigue, lack of sleep, poor nutrition, and overall unfitness can hinder your ability to handle the pressures of running a small business effectively. Taking care of oneself physically, emotionally, and mentally is important in making challenges easier to manage. Many small business owners, including myself, have pushed themselves to the point of exhaustion at some stage. Take a step back from the relentless cycle of work, look at your situation, and see what you can do to help yourself.

Embracing failure
Building resilience in your team is another crucial quality for leaders. Since I moved to Australia, I’ve noticed a prevailing low tolerance for failure, which is unfortunate for a country known for its pioneering spirit. Unlike in North America, where failure is seen as a stepping stone to success, we often shy away from discussing our failures openly. However, failure is an integral part of the learning process. It’s only through our mistakes and setbacks that we learn. As small business owners, we face daily challenges, and it’s important to embrace failure as an opportunity for growth.

Building resilience requires aligning core values and purpose within a team. When people share a common vision and support one another, they can overcome any obstacles. If someone in your team doesn’t have resilience and chooses to leave, let them go and find someone who can bounce back. Non-resilient individuals can be destructive to the culture we strive to maintain. Letting them go allows us to create a space where those who are committed and resilient can flourish.

On that note, finding the right talent for your small business is challenging. I’ve hired people through hours of psychometric testing and recruitment agencies, but then I’ve also hired people from just having chats with them. There’s no concrete formula for hiring the right talent, but at the very least, you should hire people based on shared core values, beliefs and aspirations. Actively seeking recommendations from trusted networks, utilising platforms like LinkedIn and Facebook ads, and exploring potential candidates within competitor companies can be valuable recruitment strategies.

The power of personal branding
First impressions matter now more than ever. Within a matter of seconds, people form judgments about us based on our appearance and presentation. Whether you’re a builder, plumber, painter, electrician, or gardener, the way you greet someone, your conversation, and your overall image can have a lasting impact. This is where personal branding comes into play—it’s about consciously shaping how you want to be perceived by others.

Your personal brand is who you are and how you come across to others. Being intentional and purposeful in how you present yourself can help you establish a strong personal brand that differentiates you from your competitors. This includes fundamental principles of respect, manners, and integrity. Being polite, clean, and considerate doesn’t cost money; it’s simply good practice. As a tradie or professional, taking off your shoes, cleaning up after yourself, and showing genuine care for your customers can leave a lasting impression and strengthen your personal brand. Remember, you are the captain of your personal brand.

Authenticity is at the core of personal branding. There should be no difference between your professional and personal identity. Even though you have to be fit for purpose by dressing or acting appropriately in certain situations, you should still be the same human being. The way you behave personally and professionally should align with your standards and core values.

Building and nurturing your personal brand requires effort and strategy. One thing you can do is leverage local marketing channels. If you own a restaurant, for example, promote it on LinkedIn, local community publications, and targeted Facebook ads to attract local residents. Use humour to engage your audience and create a memorable brand experience.

You could also embrace branding opportunities. Invest in clear signage, collaborate with local radio stations, place ads in local papers, partner with schools and churches, and organise themed nights or special promotions to draw attention to your business. PR plays a vital role in building a brand. Seek media coverage in relevant publications to showcase your expertise and create a positive image in the eyes of your target audience.

Finally, every business needs a database of customers. By nurturing this database through newsletters and targeted marketing campaigns, you can increase customer loyalty and encourage repeat business.

In the end, personal branding is about being true to yourself and behaving with purpose. By consciously building your personal brand, you can create a positive perception that sets you apart from the competition and attracts customers who appreciate your authenticity and commitment to excellence.

Differentiating your brand
In a competitive market, it will be difficult to differentiate your brand from the rest. Not everyone will resonate with your brand, and that’s okay. The goal is to attract those who align with your purpose. By creating a brand that reflects your purpose, you allow people to easily reject or embrace you.

Staying relevant and reinventing ourselves is essential. Don’t rest on your laurels; continuously explore what’s happening in your industry and strive for improvement. If you need to rebrand, rename products and services, introduce new offerings, or change your colours, feel free to if it means you’re staying in tune with your market and adapting to people’s needs. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) like us have the advantage of being nimble and agile.  Leaders of big corporations may struggle with change, but we can easily seize opportunities for growth. Change is a strategic move to stay relevant in a dynamic business landscape.

In the ever-evolving world of leadership, the qualities that hold the utmost importance for leaders of small to medium businesses today are tenacity and resilience. Furthermore, prioritising mental health, embracing failure as a learning opportunity, building resilience within teams, and establishing a strong personal brand are essential aspects of effective leadership. By staying relevant, embracing change, and adapting to the needs of the market, SME leaders can seize opportunities for growth. In this dynamic business landscape, how will you cultivate these qualities to lead your business to success?