Thinking About Scaling Up? First Embrace These Three Leadership Strategies

This article was originally published on Scottish Business Insider.

For those of us not satisfied with the status quo, the growth and expansion of our business serves as a reoccurring thought that becomes less avoidable with every passing day. In addition to ensuring there is sufficient capital, a solid infrastructure, and the necessary customer base, leaders must consider ways they can unlock the potential strategic leadership within their organization.

I’ve heard many leaders avoid conversations about incorporating a more strategic leadership approach. They say things like, “It will happen organically when the need arises,” or “We can deal with that once an acquisition is on the horizon.” The problem with procrastinating, however, is that the bigger you are, the harder it is to change course. It’s the difference between turning a cruise ship and a kayak.

Instead of waiting until it’s too late, here are three leadership principles that will ensure you and your team are ready for growth before it becomes all-encompassing.

A company that fails together, thrives together

Growth is reliant upon a culture of innovation and risk taking. And this is not possible when the repercussions of failing outweigh the advantages. In businesses where failure is unacceptable, people play it too safe, or even worse, let problems percolate so as to avoid having to admit that a decision is not working out.

We forgot that failure is never an acceptable outcome; instead, it is the means to acceptable outcomes.”—Jeffrey Rothfeder, author of Driving Honda: Inside the World’s Most Innovative Car Company

For the company to progress, we need the team to fail fast, learn from it, and move on to the next challenge. As leaders, this means commending those who own their missteps. It means avoiding the stigma that a mistake is a reputation or promotion killer. It means making failure and the discussion of solutions a common practice.

You can’t do it all

If you want your business to remain the same size it is now, there’ a chance you can do every job, or at least have your finger on every decision being made, regardless of the minutia. If, however, you intend to grow, it is time to work with others. This is the Power of Collaboration, which states “the key to achieving a goal is to involve others.”

In preparation for growth, we need to push power downward, empowering others at all levels to make decisions. Distributing responsibility is an effective way to build proficiencies, increase personal accountability, and test how people handle their newfound freedom.

There is no goal line when developing leadership skills

The problem with being a great leader is that there is no “perfect.” It is like the Buddhist concept of impermanence—we undergo a constant process of change. We can either fight this idea and become stagnant or accept impermanence and strive for continuous learning.

If you choose the latter, some pressure is lifted. By accepting that you are always acquiring knowledge, you are also accepting that you do not (yet) have all the answers. This has the added benefit of giving others the opportunity to be the expert…and what’s more strategic than creating a forum where the team can share ideas?

We need to develop the skills necessary to lead larger-scale transformations, and we need to do it before we scale up. This will pave the way for the team so they are ready for the incumbent expansion. Encourage evolution as a key to success. After all, those who don’t become extinct.

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