James Helliwell
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For Sustainable Growth, You Need to Build Leaders, Not Order Takers

James Helliwell

February 09, 2017

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Many entrepreneurs looking to grow their business are caught up in an endless cycle of repositioning, rebranding, hiring and firing, and any other micro adjustment they can come up with.

But, as a business owner, you may save yourself a lot of effort and resources if you did something as simple and singular as building a team of leaders-not order takers.

Who is a leader?

In a business environment and for the purpose of this article, a leader is an employee who has and demonstrates the willingness to create, innovate, delegate, and take charge.

A leader is proactive, not reactive like order takers. Every employee can and should be a leader.

Why do you need leaders?

As a business owner, you probably know by now that your employees are your most important asset. More businesses are embracing the “employee first” culture as opposed to the traditional (and very wrong) “investor first” or “customer first” philosophy.

But, if you want to enjoy the full benefits of putting your employees first, you need to make sure you are surrounded by the right employees: leaders.

  • Leaders are more loyal

Employees that have the skills, willingness and freedom to lead will be more loyal to the business than employees who don’t. That’s because the former feel important, trusted, and a crucial part of something big.

“The freedom and involvement makes the job more enjoyable and they have something to look forward to. Such employees are less likely to jump ship when things go wrong or when there is a financially superior offer.” - for NZ Domains  a Major Tech company.

Leaders are also more honest with business finances. It’s a psychological thing. A leader, allowed to lead, feels like your business partner and so is unlikely to sabotage the business.

Making someone a manager can be reward for hard work, talent and aptitude. But a talented manager who is not allowed to lead will not be a happy manager. Take a look at this practical scenario.

Of course, bringing leaders into your business also means rewarding them.

“Rewards can be in the form of an executive company car, share incentives, bonuses, pensions or any number of other incentives. When working out the employment contract you need to ensure that tax liabilities of benefits in kind are taken into account. You may need a specialist contract rather than a standard contract.”

  • Leaders help you to respond faster and better to market challenges

No matter how experienced and knowledgeable you are, you do not know it all, and you cannot do it all.

Your employees, through their daily interactions with their job, learn new things and discover challenges that are not contained in their brief. The leaders understand, embrace and tackle these new challenges.

Leaders are proactive. Apart from tackling new challenges, they anticipate problems and seek to position your business to respond to future challenges. Leaders actively seek knowledge and look for ways to do things better. They are innovators and decision makers.

 In a fast-paced, ever-changing world where you need to be on your toes to maintain a competitive edge, you need all the leaders you can get.

  • Leaders save you money…and make you more money.

Leaders strive for efficiency. They always look to optimize every process, saving the business time and money. They also inspire their colleagues to improve, as well… They are willing to share/transfer knowledge, thereby providing free, daily, informal, but powerful in-house training.

And because leaders are happy with their jobs, they are more productive. Increased productivity means increased income, in an ideal world.

  • Leaders make you do less

If you think micro-management is good for your business, think again. As a business owner, you need people you can trust to get things done right the first time. You need responsible innovators around you -- people willing to take initiative. This helps you focus on the things that matter for your role.

Leaders will network better, relate better with your clients, and get things done when a superior isn’t there.

With leaders you have more than employees; you have partners in progress.

How to build leaders for your business

Key Point: An order taker may be so by nature or because of the atmosphere you have created in your workplace. This section looks at building leaders from both angles.

  • Hiring

Aim to have as many leaders as possible in your team. The hiring process for every role must include questions or tests that help you determine the leadership qualities of the candidates.

Candidates may think leadership means people management. So avoid asking direct questions like “do you think you’re a good leader?” or “tell me a situation where you showed leadership skills.” Questions like “tell me about a time you solved a tough problem” aren't adequate, either.

Focus on the characteristics you expect from a leader as it pertains to your business as a whole. For example, if the candidate has previous experience, ask them for instances where they took charge (without being prompted) or came up with unsolicited, new ideas.

Don’t overlook the power of genuine enthusiasm in the candidate. It is a great indicator of a leader.

The important thing is to discover the ability and willingness of the candidate to be proactive and to grow.

There are recruitment software and platforms like, designed for such purposes.

  • Training

Even your perennial order-takers may have a leader in them but do not know how it can be expressed.

Arrange continual training sessions where your employees are taught what leadership truly is, how it can be developed, and how it can be expressed in the work place.

Here’s a good place to start in training your employees to be successful leaders.


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