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Four key things you must understand to be a better business leader

Written by David Fort on Thursday, 28 March 2019. Posted in Leadership, People

Gone are the days of creating a business legacy by promoting the achievements of a company figurehead and today millennial magnates must materialise a legacy in new ways

Four key things you must understand to be a better business leader

Being a great leader is different today that what it used to be. The business model that depends on one formidable head honcho to steer the ship is out-of-date and it can’t sustain consistent, long-term results in today’s business environment. So what does it mean to leave a legacy today and how can you build one?

(1) The loyalty legacy

Today, consumers care more than ever about supporting businesses that do good. Success isn’t just based on who makes the most money any more and similarly, good leadership is no longer about telling people what to do.

Modern legacies are built on treating people well. In recent decades, people want more from their employers – they want work to have meaning and to feel appreciated. Giving people autonomy, flexibility and genuinely valuing their contribution can help your business create a high-performance culture. And once established, positive cultures are often self-perpetuating. 

A good culture helps the business thrive under future leadership but it can also boost profit today. Attracting and retaining talent is a key challenge in most industries and helping people enjoy work is vital for achieving this. Leaders can’t be complacent if they want to keep top talent and failing to recruit properly quickly hits the bottom line.

(2) Employee trust equals no tax

As well as making more money now, a happy team can have big future benefits for business owners. With a loyal and motivated team who care about the business, owners have an attractive option open if they decide to sell. Turning a company into a shared ownership trust – where the company’s shares belong to its employees – is the only way to sell a business without paying tax.

If this sounds like an appealing way of selling your business, remember it will only work if you’ve already built your legacy through a solid team, positive ethos and good management style. For people to want to buy the company, they need to be loyal to the business, not just their paycheck.

(3) Learn to lead, not manage

Building a legacy through trust and employee empowerment is easy in theory but how do you make it a reality? Realistically, leaders are sometimes frustrated with their team or want more from them. But if they express this poorly, they can lose employee trust and satisfaction, sabotaging the legacy they have built.

If you’re in this situation, take a step back. Owners often jump in and try to fix problems but empowering team members to manage the problem is often better and stops you getting bogged down. There’s a big difference between working in a business and on a business – make sure you’re doing the latter.

This can be tough. Many leaders need to retrain to achieve it, so it isn’t an instant fix. Mentors and business coaches can be extremely valuable: they will refine leadership skills and help you get perspective on how to create your legacy – but their services are often overlooked. 

If you think you don’t need a mentor, think again. This is an extremely shortsighted opinion but surprisingly common. Top sportspeople work with coaches for their whole career to stay successful but many leaders never even consider being coached in running their business.

(4) A legacy for today, and for tomorrow

Today, a business legacy is about caring about the future – of the business, the team and the clients. Increasingly, respect for leaders and businesses comes from the way they treat people and from their customers’, employees’ and partners’ opinions of them.

If you want to leave a legacy, begin now. Cultivating a good working culture will tackle some of the biggest challenges businesses face today. It fuels employee loyalty and means that talented people don’t begin to look elsewhere. All of this will make your business worth more today, as well as in the future.

Even better, with the right culture in place, your leadership legacy quickly becomes self-perpetuating. It inspires people to keep your business a positive and profitable place to work long after it leaves your hands.

About the Author

David Fort

David Fort

David specialises in advising expanding owner-managed businesses and offering bespoke services to company directors as their businesses develop, particularly in areas of wealth creation and asset protection. He is accomplished in accounting, audit and management. David has previously served as a member of the Haines Watts Group board. 

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