5 leadership guidelines to become a successful young entrepreneur

You can’t afford to be a half-baked leader if you care about the growth of your company. A study by Jack Zenger and Joe Folkman of approximately 50,000 Fortune 500 managers shows that leaders, good and bad, affect the profitability of their companies.

The difference in the net income of organizations led by great leaders and mediocre leaders is as much as 102%.


For a young Nigerian entrepreneur, leading a band of contemporaries in an economic context that is both unstable and malignant poses a special kind of challenge. There is hardly enough time left to focus on "being a leader" when institutionalized corruption continues to stump your attempts at innovation. Or when you are still trying to find product-market fit. Or when government regulations appear aligned against your company. Thankfully, facing down these problems (and more) doesn't happen exclusive of your growth as a leader.  Truth is, you will owe your growth to your learnings from facing down these challenges. Here, we list five tips that will make you a true business leader, as opposed to a mere employer of labour:

1: Focus on learning, not leadership:

To grow as a young leader, know that leaders are made - by their experiences and lessons. When you focus on learning to grow your business, solving problems in creative ways, taking on challenges, and learning to grow as a person, your leadership skills will manifest freely. If you reverse these goals, though - to focus on leadership instead of learning - any appearance of leadership that you portray will be just that - an appearance. A lame costume.
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Richard Branson said, "My biggest motivation? Just to keep challenging myself. I see life almost like one long University education that I never had — every day I’m learning something new." Leadership begins when you forget yourself and focus on learning, growing and solving something new at every opportunity.

2: Be open and honest

Communicate clearly, honestly and consistently with your employees about the developments in the company. Share the good and bad news. This not only helps keep you accountable, it helps create a calm environment around your company. This is so because people are not being hit with unpleasant surprises time and again. Sam Walton, founder, and Chairman of Walmart articulates another clear advantage of being open to your team members: "The more they know, the more they’ll understand. The more they understand, the more they’ll care. Once they care, there’s no stopping them. If you don’t trust your associates to know what’s going on, they’ll know you really don’t consider them partners." Keeping an open line of communication means your team has a sense of ownership and have access to complete information to make informed independent decisions.

3: Listen to and observe everyone

There is an interesting illustration of the volume of valuable business information available to people at different points in the corporate chain: img-2 The folks at the top of the chain are close to clueless on the "true" state of affairs in a company. The ones on the front lines, bottom of the chain are the ones who really know what's going on with your customers and the business.
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It's why listening to, and observing every member of the team is not only helpful in making you a good leader. It might the mean the difference between the death and survival of your company. Listen to what your team members are saying (or not saying) and use the information to grow yourself and your business.

4: Be sympathetic

In his book, “Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Do not,” Simon Sinek contends that leadership is also a synonym of responsibility to people, not in a utilitarian way, but as a true concern for others, listening to and caring about the welfare of a team. Knowing your team members are human (and being one yourself) it's profitable to connect with them as human, not just workers with deadlines. While you still have to be tough, trade details about life and help your team members work through personal complications such as loss of a relative, a divorce or an accident. Always keep your emotions under control. Understand team members can make mistakes, and resist the urge to correct them while emotions are running high. Showing genuine concern in this manner will not only help you retain the best people in your company, you will be better able to understand other worldviews aside yours.

5: Accept blame for failure and share credit for success

“Leadership consists of nothing but taking responsibility for everything that goes wrong and giving your subordinates credit for everything that goes well.” - Dwight D. Eisenhower This is an age-long tactic for building influence and winning trust. The 34th president of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, displayed this quality better than anyone else. In 1944 while still a general in the US army, he wrote a note that would direct all the blames to him were the invasion of Normandy to fail:
"Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based on the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone."
Although the allies suffered many casualties, the invasion was successful.
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When things get hairy (and they will) in your company, be the first to own up rather than passing the buck. You should not fail to privately confront team members on their roles. Pointing fingers will only make sure you lose the confidence of your employees, your investors, and your customers. In the times when the company records success, humbly point to key team members who made it possible. These people will remain loyal to you in the larger scheme things. How are you growing to become a better leader in your company? Are there more guidelines you’ll like to share? Let’s talk in the comments. Featured image via mcafeeinstitute __ Are you a Nigerian entrepreneur with a transformative idea? Cranium One is a premium coworking hub that provides space for people to connect, collaborate and bring their ideas to reality. Learn more