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May 10, 2014

SCORE: Are you a manager, or a leader?

TERRE HAUTE — If you’re going to be successful as an owner of a small business, particularly one with employees, you have to perform both roles well: manager, leader.

Hundreds of books have been written about the qualities of good leaders, but perhaps the best distinction comes from management expert Peter Drucker: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

You’ve already demonstrated leadership qualities by taking the initiative to start a small business and committing yourself to its success. Translating that vision into a culture that will inspire and motivate employees to do their best is not always easy. But like most every other business skill, leadership skills can be learned.

The foundation for leadership is a positive attitude — the belief that you and your team can do whatever it takes to accomplish your goals. But don’t let confidence cloud your vision. You may have some good ideas, but employees and advisers may have better ones, plus information and perspectives you haven’t considered.

That’s why Rieva Lesonsky, founder and CEO of GrowBiz Media, advises against surrounding yourself with people who always agree with you.

“Why bother to put together a staff of intelligent, talented people if you’re not going to listen to them,” she asked. “Enjoy the debate, and listen to all sides and opinions.”

Good leadership is also a product of learning as much as possible about what motivates your employees. One may thrive on finding creative ways to solve problems, while another appears to excel in a structured environment.

“You don’t have to get too personal,” Lesonsky advised, “but by understanding the issues that may affect each person’s job performance, you’ll be better able to motivate and lead them.”

The best leaders are also the best communicators, especially when it comes to establishing expectations for each employee’s performance.

“Good people stay when their motivators match the company’s,” said entrepreneur and author Barry Moltz. “If they get out of balance, the person leaves or is fired.”

That’s why frequent performance evaluations are so important, Moltz added. “You and the employee can share perceptions of his/her progress, see how well they match up with each other’s expectations, and where adjustments may be necessary.”

Leadership also means being able to share bad news with employees. “Withholding information is one of the biggest mistakes companies make,” Moltz said. “With so many information resources and ways to access them, you have to assume that nothing is really secret anymore. So share as much as you can, and remember that employees appreciate honesty, and the opportunity to help. Get them involved in finding a solution.


You can learn more about leadership, management, and other small business skills at SCORE, a non-profit organization that offers a wealth of information resources, training and free, confidential counseling from more than 13,000 business experts. For more information, visit


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    March 12, 2010