Leadership: 3 intangibles every SME owner needs to consider right now

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I’m sure we have all heard the phrase…

“Leadership is different to management”

I believe this is entirely true. All businesses today, not just SME’s, need strong and clear leadership to achieve success.

While management is concerned with key metrics and deliverables, leadership is more often about intangible qualities. This includes behaviour, setting the cultural tone and establishing the strategic direction.

Let’s take each of these in turn…


People act in the image of their leaders.

If the leader is downbeat, negative and inward facing, it is likely their team will adopt similar characteristics.

Equally, if that leader is focussed, positive and disciplined, there is a strong chance that the company’s staff will also adopt these attributes.

Of course, I’m not saying everybody will, or should, be a mirror image of the company’s leader. However, all employees will mimic behaviours that are deemed acceptable for the organisation.

The person who indicates what is acceptable or not, either formally or indirectly, through their own behaviour, is by definition the leader.

Any leader who expects high performance from his or her team without first demonstrating appropriate attributes in their own environment is unlikely to be successful or win the respect of those they are leading.

Setting the cultural tone

The cultural tone of a business comes from how it treats employees, how it works with suppliers and how it is regarded by customers and everything else in between. Indeed, it could be said every company has an ‘unspoken brand’ which is set and established according to the leadership style.

Leaders face enormous responsibility and challenge to create an operating environment which is fair, motivational and rewarding. It is a very difficult task, particularly when most of the attributes required are intangible. That is why leadership is so different from management. It is these intangibles which set true leaders apart from thousands of managers.

To be able to motivate, inspire and energise staff in our current circumstances is particularly difficult. Those business leaders with the necessary attributes are most likely to be those who will overcome these economic hurdles.

Establishing the strategic direction

A leader will need to determine the strategic direction of the company with conviction and clarity which will need to be communicated in a concise and credible manner. This is so all staff, from senior management to junior employees, are able to hear and comprehend the direction the company is pursuing and understand their role in it.

History has shown that strong leadership can make a remarkable difference, both good and bad.

Leadership in itself is ‘the job’. In times of crisis, spending time guiding, motivating and supporting your team is the primary role of the leader. It is easy to get distracted by general administration and clerical tasks. However, leaders need to lift their heads above the parapet and show strong direction and guidance to their team.

Leadership is an imperative requirement for any business to survive and flourish.

Read our next article

Next, we will explore the importance of managing and incentivising staff effectively. To receive all of our key management practises and more articles like this one – subscribe to our Members List.

About the Author

Neil Barron
Neil Barron is the Founder and Owner of BMC. With over 20 years of experience, he has an impressive track record of supporting business leaders, managing change and accelerating growth.

Neil established BMC in 2004 to support businesses at key stages of their development, particularly turnaround, growth and exit. BMC helps businesses achieve their goals through a range of specialist Leadership services.

Neil works closely with the BMC team to transform businesses and drive value for stakeholders. He also acts as an advisor, investor and non-executive chairman.

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