Successful leaders are not created overnight. It takes time and commitment to learn the right attributes to motivate a workforce that consistently achieves good results. However, there are some clear skills that all successful leaders have, that can be useful for anyone in the world of work and especially have a profound impact on those working in small and medium businesses (SMB). 

1. Time Management

The need to do more with less is an overarching theme with small and medium businesses. It is a skill that can be learnt, and mastering it separates good leaders from great leaders. All employees can benefit from this transferrable skill that enables them to optimally manage their time and improve their productivity both in the workplace and in their personal lives.

Time management is an area where many people struggle. Personal productivity and effective time management are essential best practices for every employee in today’s business environment, where resources are constrained and project deadlines are strict. The only way to become better at time management is by learning best practices. Fortunately, there are many courses available that are aimed at business professionals seeking tips and tools for managing their workday, becoming more organised, establishing priorities, and staying on top of key tasks; as well as holding more productive meetings, and enabling their teams to be more efficient.

When it comes to time management of processes, most organisations in the SMB space wait until a current process is completely overwhelmed and no longer a viable option before changing it, which wastes significant time and resources. By automating manual tasks such as manual timesheet updates, comp time, shift trades, scheduling and more, organisations can help free up their employees’ time. Not only will this help them get more work done, but frustrations are alleviated and job satisfaction is increased. In addition, this further allows the workforce to feel empowered with do-it-yourself mentality, and at the same time businesses experience rapid and substantial ROI. Time management is optimised and resources are freed up, making for a more effective workforce.

2. Soft Skills Versus Hard Skills

Hard skills, for example the use of technology, are undoubtedly vital and necessary to maintain a competitive advantage in today’s world of work. However, soft skills are equally, and perhaps even more important. Take famous entrepreneurs, such as Bill Gates and Richard Branson. They do not have formal qualifications, but their inherent soft skills abilities helped them to succeed and arguably become two of the most successful business leaders in modern history.

While soft skills have always been crucial in business, they are becoming increasingly important in the age of social media. Employee behaviour towards customers and suppliers is surfacing as a new barometer for brand equity and brand perception. From the CEO to the entry-level employee, an incident that in the past might have gone unnoticed is now just a few clicks away from a full-blown PR crisis. This can negatively affect brand equity – and a company’s bottom line. All it takes is one video posted on Facebook, one snap, one tweet to turn a positive brand narrative on its head.

And yet despite the evidence and recent debacles demonstrating the value of soft skills, some companies still regard them as the fluff of work life. Often organisations expect employees to know how to behave at work, and assume they will innately know how to control their emotions and handle customers with tact and diplomacy even when under stress. Organisations that are poised for growth are those that don’t underestimate the need to train employees in soft skills areas.

The shift from a manufacturing to a service economy, the increased pace of innovation and digital transformation, the emerging gig economy and globalisation itself are all placing an increased pressure on soft skills. These factors mean organisations need to tackle head-on how to best develop both the intrapersonal and interpersonal skills from their leaders, to their managers, and employees.

3. Ability To Adapt

Another big challenge that leaders and organisations face is how to develop and maintain the skills their employees need to effectively use digital technology. These skills include how to use various types of devices and their operating systems, as well as the applications used on those devices. The need to adapt to the forever changing landscape and learn new skills is key to staying ahead of the curve and being successful. Successful business leaders know this, and are often early adopters of new technology.

‘The Toolkit’

By having this ‘toolkit’ of time management, soft skills and digital skills, leaders and employees alike are far more equipped for success. These are skills that are learnt and practised over time that can also be enhanced by courses and development programmes. It is no secret that the business environment for most companies is changing faster than ever before. With technology evolving at an increasing pace, people and the organisations they work for need to adapt with it to emerge as better, more successful leaders.