What Kind of Leader Do You Want to Be?

Originally published
Originally published: 4/16/2018

Sharpen you leadership skills, for greater business success.

You can’t have a successful business without leadership. Whether you’ve got one employee or hundreds, it’s necessary to cultivate leadership qualities in yourself and also in others. You can achieve excellence in the five key areas — Technical, Sales, Financial, Operational and Marketing — and still be lacking if you don’t know how to lead your team to success.

Leadership is the key ingredient you must have to complete the recipe. If you don’t feel like you’re a natural leader, don’t worry. Leadership skills are learned and they sharpen as you practice, just like any other skillset. So, what are these skills or qualities that you need, to be successful in business?

Qualities of Leadership

1. Developing and articulating your vision.

Leaders are visionaries. They see what can be, usually before anyone else does. In HVAC, you’re not just there to make money. You bring environmental control, comfort and even safety to your customers. When you have a clear view of what your mission is, you can communicate that to your team.

2. Make sure you walk the walk, as well as talk the talk.

You can also think of this as cultivating a shared vision. Make sure that everything you do reflects the goals you want your team to adopt. Exemplify your business’s core values and lead by example.

One key component of developing a shared vision is that you get the team involved in defining it. People support what they help to create. Collaborate on what the vision looks like; this will allow them to take ownership of it.

3. Create a followership and develop other leaders.

This builds on point No. 2. The key to a shared vision is that everyone who is associated with those goals (every single person in your business), knows their role in it. They don’t just need to know their job duties; that’s basic stuff. Make sure your whole team understands how they contribute to the overall mission. This helps them to internalize it. In other words, they’ll care.

And when people are enthusiastic about what you’re all doing, they’ll follow you.

The second part of this is to identify the informal leaders among your people. Whether they have the title or not, there will always be those in a team whom the others consult when they want guidance, but don’t want to take it all the way to “the boss.” Don’t feel threatened by those people. Know who they are and develop them into employees who can help to uphold and spread your shared vision.

4. Good leaders are constant learners.

On the concrete side, you can always learn more about the industry, how to run your business and how to position yourself as a leader in your marketplace. On the soft skills side, don’t be afraid to reevaluate decisions if necessary and (gasp!) to even admit when you’ve made a mistake. Leaders need to make decisions, but it’s also good to be somewhat transparent with your team. They’ll respect you for it.

5. Leaders give praise and take ownership when something goes wrong.

We’ve all dealt with folks in a leadership position who were more likely to take credit when things went well and throw people “under the bus” when something didn’t go well. Don’t be that boss. Praise your people when they do well. When hiccups happen, don’t blame your team. Own the situation and work with your team to figure how to improve.

At this point, you might be wondering what all this has to do with the title question. You can approach the above leadership principles in several different ways. None are right or wrong; it can help you lead better if you know what your style is.

Types of leadership styles

Command-and-control. This is pretty much what it sounds like. Your style is very hands-on. Most or all decisions are routed through you and you’re highly involved in the day-to-day operations of your business.

Laissez faire. This style is on the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s laid-back and hands-off. Your employees manage most of the day-to-day, without much direct input from you. If you have capable managers to support you, this may work out well.

Participatory management. This is a level in-between the above two. You get your team involved in decisions and their input is welcome. Your employees feel comfortable discussing issues with you and at the end of the day, you’re definitely still “the boss”.

Shared leadership. Decisions are fairly evenly spread across team members. Responsibility falls on the leadership team, rather than just you. If you have strong partners in the business, this can be a great style to adopt.

When people are first learning how to lead, nearly everyone struggles with being liked, or being respected. Many people who are in management now were brought up thinking that folks needed to fear them. Respect isn’t the same as fear and you’ll get better productivity and a whole lot more buy-in from your people, with respect.

As for being liked, we all want to be liked, right? Some leaders can even manage to be both liked and respected. In a business situation, if you need to pick one, respect is more important. Any of the leadership styles mentioned above can obtain respect, if you incorporate the five essential leadership qualities discussed at the beginning of this article.

Here are a couple other tips to consider as you hone your management skills.

Good leaders have good communication skills. You need to be able to relate to different generations, genders, cultural and economic backgrounds, etc. Even if you’re based in a small community with little apparent diversity, you’re going to encounter plenty of personality differences in those you interact with. Communication skills are learned too and you can always improve them.

A good leader is a great delegator. This, too, is something you can practice. Know when, what and whom to delegate to. Want to be more productive and help your team achieve more, too? Learn the art of delegation.

Engage your employees. People who are enthusiastic about what they do, will spread that feeling to their teammates and to customers. Keep your people engaged, so they’ll delight your customers, allowing your business to be successful.

Promote team unity. This is my last point, but most certainly not the least. A strong team can accomplish amazing things. Make sure to recognize both individuals and their teams. Your all-stars need to know that you’ve noticed. They also can’t be as awesome without a good team, so be sure to acknowledge all the players.

Whether you feel like a natural leader or not, that doesn’t matter. Anyone can learn to lead effectively. HVACR is not an industry for the fainthearted. If you’re running an HVACR shop, you’re already practicing leadership. You’ve got this.


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