A Small Business Guide to Leadership

We look at the key ways employers can inspire and encourage their staff – and create a team that drives your business' growth

A Small Business Guide to Leadership

Achieving best practice in your small business is a key theme within any approach to business support solutions, providing ideas and insights into how you can improve performance across your business. Seeing what works in other businesses can help you see what can help you, and then support you in implementation. This small business guide focuses on these solutions.

An inspired and motivated workforce is essential for any small business that hopes to stay ahead of the competition. But just how do you motivate people? What kind of leadership do people respond to? And how can you improve the quality of leadership in your business?

This small business advice article looks at examples of best practice in leadership and how businesses can apply the lessons to their own organisations.

What makes an Inspiring Leader?

The stereotype of the inspirational leader as someone extrovert and charismatic tends to be the exception rather than the rule. Looking at best practice across business, though some inspirational leaders certainly do fit this mould, a large number do not. Many are quiet, almost introverted.

The following are some of the most commonly observed characteristics of inspiring leaders:

Strong Strategic Focus

They are very good at ensuring that the business only does those things where it has the resources to do a good job and where it can add real value.

Lateral Thinkers

They are particularly adept at drawing on experiences outside their own sectors and taking a much broader view than the norm. They look at things very laterally and encourage their people to do the same.

Vision and Communication

An inspirational leader has a very strong, customer-focused vision of where the business should be going. Importantly they are also able to communicate their vision so that their people feel they own it and know where they fit into it. The best leaders are great communicators who prefer plain speaking to jargon.


They are deeply committed, courageous, demanding of themselves and their people and confident, albeit often in a quiet and under-stated way. What singles them out is an exceptionally strong set of values built on honesty, openness and true respect for their people.


What distinguishes them is genuine humility and not being afraid to show vulnerability on occasions. This comes from regular periods of reflection and an unquenchable thirst for learning.

Risk Takers

They have a marked tendency to “bend the rules”, take calculated risks, and, on occasions, be guided by their gut-feelings. They also tolerate this in other people, recognising that a certain amount of flexibility is essential to adapt to circumstances and make real strides forward.


They make time to get out and speak to people. This informal and personal contact is a very powerful motivator. Equally, when they are at their own desk, they aren’t cosseted behind a wall of PAs.

Value Attitude

They value skills and training very highly, but they also focus heavily on attitude, believing that, without the right attitude and motivation, nothing will be achieved.

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