February 3, 2023

The end of any year is often a time of reflection and self-awareness, with many people taking the time to look at both what went well and what went wrong, as well as what they can do to improve over the next 365 days. For leaders, it can be a time to reflect on their own leadership style, their strengths and their weaknesses.
Over the past year, the members of Young Entrepreneur Council have learned a lot about how to be great leaders and what it means to lead others. Below, they share 10 of the lessons they learned and why they think these are important lessons any entrepreneur can glean insights from.
Members pictured from left to right (Philip Smith not pictured).
Understand that almost no one will work as hard as you do on your business. Therefore, in order to be a great leader, you need to put the proper resources and people in place and provide them with guidance, support and the necessary tools to be successful. When I was able to implement that strategy, I didn’t care as much about the minute details because I had the right people to handle those things. That allowed me to spend the majority of my time on building the business, creating new revenue streams and focusing on activities that would benefit the overall health of the business. Remember this: Not everyone wants to be an entrepreneur. So, we all need to have people to manage aspects of the business to allow us to be great leaders. – Philip Smith, PJP Marketing
Leadership is not easy. It takes a lot of knowledge and experience to be a good leader. In order to be an effective leader, one must not only possess a wealth of knowledge and experience, but also be able to effectively communicate with their followers. Over the past year, among restructuring and shifting business goals, we were able to maintain a positive attitude and high morale among team members, which helped keep productivity high. Good communication is key to building a strong relationship with your followers. It helps them understand what you are trying to achieve and why you are making the decisions you are making. It also helps them feel like they are a part of the team and that their thoughts and opinions matter. – Noble Inasu, Rainbow Aluminium & Powder Coating Co. LLC
We are still working remotely and will continue working remotely for the foreseeable future. One thing that I have learned over the last year is the importance of creating one-on-one personal time with the team. It is easy for anyone to feel disconnected when working entirely through video chats. Team summits and one-on-ones, albeit virtual, are actually vital. They help to develop that prized and essential personal connection between team members, yourself and the organization. – Javon Frazier, Maestro Media
My daughter runs relay races in track, and I often use a baton as a metaphor for building great teams—or those that will take the baton and run with it. This year, I learned that I had to stop grabbing the baton from the team I’d built and go be the coach in the middle of the track where I was supposed to be encouraging and guiding them. I didn’t need to grab a baton to start or even finish the race. It’s their race to run. They signed up to run. I need to let them run the race they opted in for. I simply get the privilege of coaching them to win. That is such a shift in mindset that creates freedom for any leader. While I’d taught the concept to our clients, it was a great lesson to embody for myself. – Trivinia Barber, PriorityVA
Flexibility is one of the most important traits of leadership. As a leader, you must practice the art of not making assumptions and being ready to adjust your plans without stressing about what you feel “should have been.” To do this, you have to have a connection to your people. If they trust you, they will share more, and that will give you more preparation time and more time to adapt when you need to adjust roles or responsibilities. – Matt Doyle, Excel Builders
This year it’s become more and more clear that you have to lead yourself first before you can lead others. This means taking a step back and really connecting with you—your goals, your mission, your vision and your values—so that you can enroll your team (and your clients) in each one of those things. By taking time to become more self-aware, more in tune with your emotions, and working on you, you set an amazing example for the people around you. This, in turn, creates great culture, encourages freedom for your people to be themselves and gets great results. – Ryann Dowdy, Uncensored Consulting, LLC
One of the things I’ve learned over the past year about how to be a great leader is the importance of setting an example. When you’re a leader, it’s important to be someone whom others can look up to and emulate. This means being someone who is honest, hardworking and forthright. By setting an example, leaders can inspire those they work with to be their best selves and reach their full potential. Additionally, setting an example can help build trust between a leader and their team. When team members see that their leader is committed to the same goals and values, they will more likely feel motivated to follow their lead. People are more likely to engage in prosocial behavior, such as exhibiting altruism or volunteering, when they see someone else doing the same. – Kelly Richardson, Infobrandz
Take ownership of the failures just as much as the wins. When you do this, you’ll now come across with more humility that will earn you respect among your peers, and it will put you in the driver’s seat to take control of the situation. This is because the moment you take ownership, you can begin to move on from dwelling on the problems and instead find solutions. – Andy Karuza, NachoNacho
My biggest lesson is that it is okay to show vulnerability. Sometimes you need to share your hardships and how you have been able to work through them to provide an example to others that even though things can be tough, there is a way to work through them. People want to understand that leaders are people as well and they also have hard times. – Zane Stevens, Protea Financial
The way you treat people matters so much. Great leaders are not the biggest and the loudest; great leaders are those who remain mission-focused during conflict, defend others and have a protective instinct for their people. As for an anecdote, I’ve learned to focus on the concept of alignment. As a leader, you’ve got to focus on ways for you and your team to win together, rather than on ways to win against them. That might mean you get brilliant designs from a remote designer, or you have a phenomenal salesperson who needs the flexibility to spend time with their young child. Learn the full picture of who your team members are and align their needs—whether that’s a new skill set or the desire to earn more—with your goals. – Tyler Bray, TK Trailer Parts

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