Do SME’s really need to invest in leadership?

Whilst there are plenty of interesting articles about AI and the future of automation in business, the truth is that there aren’t many business owners that can foresee a day when people will be totally eradicated from their operation. This goes some way towards explaining why the coaching industry is reported to be worth $2BN globally and a whopping $366BN gets spent each year on leadership development around the world.

A Wiki definition of leadership roles are ‘those that facilitate execution of a company’s strategy through building alignment, winning mindshare and growing the capabilities of others.’ Big corporates continually invest in the development of their leaders and succession planning for their key roles but what about smaller businesses? Is there really a case for leadership development when you run an SME?

If you want to grow, then the answer is yes. When businesses are going through a period of (often rapid) growth, a critical factor in its success is the strength and quality of the leadership team. Without effective leaders, businesses can get held back and growth becomes dependent on the owner or founder. To take a business from being the idea and creation of one person, to something that is shared as the professional focus of a group of people is no mean feat. It requires the ability of the founder to trust and empower others to deliver whilst they continue to innovate and focus on the areas for future growth.

This is where the leadership development and coaching world naturally collide. Often a founder needs help from a coach to be able to step back from the core tasks and trust the team beneath them to take ownership for their individual parts, and unless it was initially set up with the skillsets in mind for growth, the team beneath them will need leadership development. This doesn’t have to be in a traditional hierarchical way – more businesses are recognising the need for leadership skills to be spread throughout the organisation. Whatever structure is right for that particular business, creating a culture where autonomy and accountability is encouraged at all levels is key.

One of the biggest challenges I see amongst SME leaders is finding the right balance between operational and strategic tasks. Unlike a big business, there usually isn’t the luxury of different tiers of management to be able to free people up for the ‘blue-sky thinking’. Getting your hands dirty as well as inspiring and motivating the team is par for the course but ultimately this will stifle your progress.

A successful SME leader knows when to step-back, empower and coach staff to deal with problem solving on their own. This is an investment in the long-term leadership potential of the business. The saying goes that ‘what got you here won’t get you there’ so if you are serious about growing your business, it might be time to give us a call!

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