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[HR] The Small Business Leadership Octopus

In an ever-competitive world, the octopus could teach small business owners a thing or two about leadership style. There are leaders who micromanage, those who worry over the smallest details, or those that are constantly providing directions, even when not needed. Are you one? Having lived for eons in environments of ever-present danger, the octopus has learned to decentralize leadership and not try to manage the small stuff. Its eight tentacles operate and respond to situations independently, and as needed, but the organism is still a whole, working cohesively and successfully at what it does. Think of these eight tentacles as eight principles or values, with a very successful “leadership head” that primarily provides the vision and relies on what it has learned in its life to make decisions in response to what it senses. Its eyes take in the big picture and address the needs of the entire organism (organization). These are the eight key principles or values that may work independently as needed, but provide cohesion to define successful leadership skills:

Customer Obsession
Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work with diligence and vigor, to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

Ownership with a Bias for Action
Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study so leaders value calculated risk taking. They act beyond just their own team, and never say “that’s not my job”.

Invent and Simplify with Frugality
Leaders accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount or budget size. Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware and look for new ideas from everywhere.

Learn, Be Curious and Be Right, A Lot
Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them. This drive for soaking up new information means that leaders tend to be right a lot with strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

Hire/Develop the Best & Earn Trust
Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. They develop other leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Insist on the Highest Standards in Delivering Results
Leaders have relentless high standards – some may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services and processes with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Leaders focus on fixing problems that stay fixed. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

Think Big, Dive Deep
Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them. Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to improve service to customers.

Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit
Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and tenacity. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined however, they commit wholly.

So what kind of leader are you?