Jane Maudsley reflects on how she’s learned to stay true to her personality and keep her head above the water while leading her team
After months of seeing Trump and Clinton battle it out for the US presidency, it seems topical to discuss the challenges of leadership and various styles adopted by business heads. As a leader, I feel that it’s important to lead by example; to have a vision, create a value-driven culture, inspire, motivate and mentor those within the organisation. But while I have a clear idea of how I want to lead, there are challenges that crop up along the way.
When you google the word leadership, you find synonyms like authority, control, supervision and manager. While those are undoubtedly aspects of being a leader, there are far more qualities that come into play and you need to find a leadership style that gels with your personality. I don’t feel the need to rule with an iron fist at Little Voices, not only because it’s not called for but also because being controlling or forceful doesn’t come naturally to me. Leadership shouldn’t just be about control, management, supervision and authority. I’d rather come across as warm, friendly and approachable.
Of course a leader ultimately needs to call the shots but how that’s achieved is up to you. An effective leader inspires their team by creating a vision that can be achieved by everyone. They then execute that vision strategically and help everyone to make it a reality.
The problem is that when you’re just starting out, it’s easy to lose track of your vision as you fight to solve immediate operational issues, like getting customers through the door. You quickly go from feeling excited about owning your own business to being swamped with day-to-day tasks. But if you want your franchise to grow, you have to be able to see the business from a strategic point of view. This means processes, procedures and systems need to be in place that free you up. Leadership is often knowing when to step back and not trying to do it all yourself.
For example I used to do all of the singing teaching within my flagship franchise. I loved it and I was good at it. At the time, I thought I was the only one who could – and should – be teaching. But there are other fabulous vocal tutors who, with the right training and support, could keep the parents and pupils equally happy – releasing me to work on the business side of things. Had I not come to that realisation, my business would have suffered. I’m constantly learning to let go and trust that someone else might be capable of doing the job, perhaps even better than I could.
I’ve experienced every element of this business first hand, from the bookkeeping and marketing to sales and customer service. I know how I want it to be done but I also know that if I want the franchise to grow I need to have more quality time to think and implement growth strategies. To get to that point, everything has to be processed in the business so that someone else can take on the role. As the leader, I can then provide encouragement, inspiration and mentoring.
It’s also important to accept that once you’ve delegated certain tasks, people will make the odd mistake. What’s most important though is how you handle the problems and what kind of safeguards you put in place to prevent the same issue arising again in the future. The answer is not to go back to doing it yourself. As a leader – rather than a a manager – I prefer to turn to my colleagues and ask them a question so they can arrive at the answer themselves, rather than me figuring it out for them.
If you’re reflecting on your own leadership style, remember to stay true to your personality – especially when tricky situations arise. At the end of the day, we all want a successful business and how you lead has a direct impact on the kind of business you have.