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Although most of what I've written over the years has had a small business edge, it is always my intention that it be digestible by anyone.

The philosophy is similar to that of comedian and writer, Dave Gibson, who was the many voices of the Doug Mulray radio show in the ‘80s and ‘90s ¬– Gibson is still a legendary voice over man.

Questioning him about a radio show he was preparing, I asked what kind of listener was he after? His answer was all-encompassing. “Any bugger with an ear!”

My target group is wide too as there are more than 1.3 million small business owners who employ over a third of the workforce. We all shop with them and many of us harbour the hope of one day opening a shop or cafe of our own.

If and when you do, or if you are currently living the dream, a critical issue for your success will be your leadership.

Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, gives some first rate lessons for lifting your leadership game.

Even if you are a parent, whose followers are failing to see your leadership qualities, you could be advised to take in some Covey.

His first rule is to be a proactive person taking responsibility for your own behaviour. You give up blaming circumstances or conditioning for things going wrong. A person or a situation must bring forth a response that comes from you and you take responsibility for it.

Secondly, build your life on principles and fundamental truths you believe in, while beginning with the outcome you want firmly in the front of your mind.

Next, avoid the unimportant, but know what is important and do those things with paramount urgency. Write a personal mission statement, build up your most important relationships and clearly set out your long-term plans.

Don't believe in the zero sum gain, where one winner produces a loser. Covey says the best outcomes happen when you think ‘win-win’. Your solutions should strive to be mutually beneficial.

Fifth, listen carefully and really try to understand your employee, your customer, kids, partner, etc.

Synergising is the next step to better leadership. Value the difference between people and use these to build better outcomes. When forced to deal with alternatives which are deeply in conflict, show your creativity by looking for a third and more productive alternative.

Finally, Covey advises to ‘sharpen the saw’. Like a good tradesman who keeps his tools sharp, we must seek what the Japanese
call ‘kaizan’ – constant improvement. That will come when you are striving to learn at all times.

I know this seems like a summary of all the pearls of wisdom from those old Kung Fu television shows, (minus references to ‘master and grasshopper’) but if you want a special business, a special family or a special relationship, some special input from a higher level is required.

Like businesses, leaders are not born, they are created.

Published on: Saturday, June 13, 2009

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