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  • Tom Matthews

The Art Of Leadership

Each one of us will be more successful in business if we become better leaders. I see it every day with my own clients. There is a high correlation between those that are successful and those that have highly developed leadership skills.

Here is the million dollar question: What does a good leader look like? How does he act? I just googled the question “what makes a good leader.” 39 million results. There are a lot of opinions on this subject. Where do we start?

I had mentioned the book The Toyota Way written by Jeffrey Liker in a previous newsletter. There is no question that Toyota does a lot of things right. Highly trained staff, high satisfaction level, great financial results (their profit margin is 8 times the industry average). When it comes to leadership, they are very deliberate on what they want.

To keep it simple, all Toyota leaders are dropped someone in this four quadrant square. They are either a bottom up leader or top down leader. They are also measured by their technical knowledge of the product.

You can see from the shaded area that Toyota wants their leaders to have a deep understanding of the product (the right hand side of the square). Fortunately, almost all business owners have a great understanding of their company’s products. For all of you that fall into this quadrant, congrats. For those of you that do not know your company’s products, you have some work to do.

The real challenge for leaders of small businesses are the style you manage your staff with. Bottom up or top down. Bottom up means you do not tell your team what to do. You tell your team what you want done and let them figure out how to do it. You provide guidance and tools – not orders. You are not a dictator and you are not a micro-manager.

As a top down manager, you tell your team what to do. They have little or no decision making power. You do not have the time or patience to always show them how to do something. You just tell them to get it done. Toyota does not want this type of leader. The reason is simple – the bottom up leader is more successful than the top down leader.

If you were to do the same google search I described above and start reading some of the articles, you would find the bottom up style is what the greatest number of results will show. They may say it in a different way but this is what works.

Unfortunately, too many business owners employ the top down method of leadership. And they suffer for that. My belief is the mentor-leader is not born, he is created. Through trial and error, through study, through training, through being thoughtful. It is hard to be a good leader. I can tell you the most successful client I have (defined by profits, sales growth and happy staff) is also my client that is closest to the top right corner of that graph.

There are many leadership programs available right here in Naples. Please reach out to me if you are interested in attending what I think is a very good program.

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