The Top 5 Lessons in Leadership Learned the Hard Way.

How to be a leader?

Question mark intended. In all honesty, I really didn’t know for a long time.

This is something that many professional women may question in themselves every day, whether they run their own business, have direct reports, or even have children that they are trying to grow into functioning human beings.

As a business owner, I question myself every day—am I doing the best for my people?

When I opened the doors of my brick ’n’ mortar, I had ample business experience and an overflowing client roster, but I had never employed people or even considered that I would have some responsibility in nurturing their development alongside growing the business.

While I was most concerned (almost panicked) about making sure all my staff would always be paid, I assumed that if I offered a nice place to work and kept their hours full, that would be enough.

It wasn’t, and I had to learn some important lessons along the way.

As I pondered where to start with being an inspirational leader, I realized that I really had no idea. In my previous work experience, I had a wide variety of leaders that used many different strategies to influence. In most cases, the modus operandi was to lead by intimidation.

If this was all I knew, is that what I had learned? If so, I had to do better.

So, with lots of trial and error, what I have learned are these lessons in leadership…

1) Listen more and talk less.

I have never been accused of being at a loss for words EVER. However, in all that talking, I have missed the opportunity to learn what my staff truly needs and to really get to know them. I always thought no one was telling me anything, but really, I just wasn’t listening. I have recently learned (like last week) that if I just sit back and listen, my staff will share and share and share, and I will have all the answers I need to make better decisions for all of us.

2) Keep the lines of communication wide open.

The truth is that people won’t come to you if they don’t feel that they will be heard, acknowledged, or considered. Regular communication is important. Stopping mid-task to have a conversation is valuable time to engage with staff. Planning consistent and regular opportunities for the team to get together is not an inconvenience for staff, as I previously thought, rather it is actually a great chance to empower the team and allow them to feel on board.

3) Give your staff the tools to be successful…not just the stuff but also the important information.

Information is key. The more they know, the better they will be at communicating those things to clients. As a business owner, I can say that I always believed that my job is to make all the tough decisions related to the business and to just get my staff to follow the procedures. You know when your Mom would say “Cuz I said so”? Well, I can tell you that doesn’t work in business, at least not for long. If the team understands the ‘why’, they are able to support the decisions made for the business and carry them forward to effective implementation.

4) Give respect if you want respect.

As they say, treat others as you wish to be treated. It really is that easy, at least in theory, but sometimes harder in practice for a business owner. I can’t say how to do this better for yourself other than just to keep this in mind, just as I also need to do this in every communication with my staff. Before sending an email, read and reword to soften the language so it is not bossy but informative. Be less of a dictator and more of a collaborator.

Oh, and the greatest lesson I have learned is: When you make assumptions, you are wrong 99% of the time!

This has been quite the learning experience so far, and I am eternally grateful for my loyal, extremely talented, and patient group of people who are willing to stick with me as I learn, even when I am not perfect.

It’s amazing what happens when you take a moment to look in the mirror…and decide that you want to get to know the person you are looking at again.


I help women entrepreneurs face their money fears, build self-confidence, and see new possibilities in themselves so they can rediscover the love for their business and joy in their lives knowing they are financially independent and secure. Click the link below to learn more and book your FREE Coaching Consultation Call… HollyWallisCoaching.com

Written by
Holly Wallis, Founder & CoActive Coach
© 2021. All rights reserved.

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