Being the Boss: 3 Imperatives to Great Leadership

Being a successful entrepreneur mandates one have top-notch leadership skills. And according to Linda A. Hill, professor of business administration at Harvard Business School, not being able to identify your strengths and weaknesses and properly build and maintain relationships can cost your business valuable growth opportunities.

Leadership isn’t about getting things done yourself — it’s about accomplishing things through others, says Hill, co-author of Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader (Harvard Business Review Press). The book, scheduled for release January 13, 2011, highlights what Hill believes are the most important rules to effective workforce management. Here are Hill’s three leadership imperatives:

Manage yourself. Entrepreneurs have to be aware of the influence they have on their ventures. With fewer checks and balances than someone managing a team in a large corporate entity, it is even more important for an entrepreneur to be aware of his or her strengths and weaknesses. “If you’re the owner of a business, we know how you behave and how you do things has a major impact on the culture of the organization and the kind of outcomes you see in the organization,” she says.

Manage a network. When people think of managing and leadership, they tend to think of those who report to them. But real management is about influence — both within your organization and outside of it, asserts Hill. Both require effective management. “If you’re not managing your team right and get that working right you’re not going to be able to manage the network of relationships you need to manage to create the conditions necessary for your organization to be successful,” she says. For example, a CEO focusing solely on managing the internal network won’t have the time to maintain relationships clients, suppliers and vendors — those who can help identify opportunities within the industry.

Manage a team: Many managers never grasp the critical difference between creating a team and simply managing a collection of individuals, says Hill. “A lot of very senior people have a tendency to manage one-on-one and think that’s the same as managing a team,” she says. “There’s a difference between getting your one-on-one relationships right as compared to building a team and thinking about putting the right culture in your organization so people will have the right attitudes and values you need to them to have to get the business done.”

There’s no cookie-cutter formula for finding the right balance of time and resources when it comes to focusing on these imperatives, so each entrepreneur will have to determine what works best for them. But particularly when business conditions are poor and competition is fiercer than ever, it’s clear that the old rules of business are outdated. “In today’s dynamic business environment, we all have to be prepared to reinvent ourselves time and again and reinvent our organizations,” Hill asserts. “What that means is we need to make sure that there’s a tight connection between doing our daily work and also learning and evolving over time.”

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