Maybe you weren’t the leader you wanted to be this year. That was a tough sentence to write, but some entrepreneurs reading might find themselves in agreement.
Most entrepreneurs approach the new year with a long list of resolutions. This will be my year! Any dream can come true if I work hard to reach it! Gradually though, something happens. The momentum to complete every resolution gets lost in the shuffle. Routine takes over.
Over the course of the next 365 days, personal goals, even a few professional ones, are set aside to keep the business on the up and up. Excuses, like a lack of time and heavy workload, are used to keep from implementing changes or trying out new initiatives. Entrepreneurs may even shut themselves off physically, retreating to their office instead of spending face time with the team. Suddenly, it’s the end of the year again — but did your leadership style improve during it?
[Related: 3 Women in Tech Spill Sure-Fire Tips for Startup Success]
Don’t fret yet. The best news is that there are 365 days to live the best version of your professional life. Another great year is ahead for entrepreneurs! Instead of making a huge list of resolutions to pursue, narrow it down to these three leadership qualities to embrace:
Quality 1. The ability to shift focus when worried about finances
Worried about money? You are definitely not alone. Thoughts of money, especially when cash flow is tight, can be all-consuming. How can you be a successful, inspiring leader when all you have are dollar signs on the mind? The secret is you can still keep money on your mind, but you have to shift your focus.
Jen Sincero, a New York Times best-selling author, recently revealed to CNBC the mindset shift that helped her go from poor to rich. We are often quick to forget the amazing things money does for us, and the amazing things people do to make money. People like entrepreneurs, for example, who create new products or services that make countless lives easier.
Sincero says to use the mantra “Money flows to me easily and freely.” This approach worked for her personally and professionally. Not only did it make her feel better, but it allows the mind to shift its focus and ask new questions: Are there ways that money does flow to me easily and freely? Are there new ways I can make it flow to me more easily and freely?
Try retraining your focus in the new year if thoughts of finances cloud your judgment. This benefits you and your team, making them feel secure in the company and in its leadership.
Quality 2. The ability to encourage feedback — then actually implement it
This is something I have always done as a CEO. Over the years, I have come to realize it is not a common practice within every leadership team. For many employees, it is difficult to come to their bosses with questions or concerns. In turn, leaders often struggle to hear this type of feedback voiced aloud because it often hurts the ego. The feedback could be related to something completely different, but the ego could misinterpret it. An entrepreneur may feel as though their leadership style is being attacked and criticized, even if that wasn’t what was said.
Leave your ego at the door when you head into work. If your team members have issues they need addressed, no matter how big or small, encourage them to discuss it with you. Tell them you are open to having them share their feedback about your leadership style as well. Listen to these thoughts — you left your ego at the door, remember? — and take it in. Write everything down to keep from forgetting.
Then, begin implementing the feedback of your team members. Long-term commitments, like overhauling an onboarding process, may require a more strategic approach. Smaller items, however, can be addressed quickly. Could your office be a little more welcoming during the day? Open up the window blinds to let the sun in, set out plants, and tidy up any desk messes. When team members see their leaders being proactive with their feedback, it makes them feel valued. Their voice matters and is being listened to, which makes for loyal, hard workers.
Quality 3. The ability to embrace vulnerability
I thought about all of the adjectives that surround individuals in leadership roles for this bullet. I considered writing about being kind, empathetic, understanding, and humble. Maybe it is your goal to embrace more of these traits in the new year. That’s not a bad goal to have at all — but maybe you should try embracing vulnerability, too.
[Related: How Kindness in Business Pays Off for Leaders]
For decades, a stereotype has persisted that successful leaders should climb to the top by pushing everyone else out of their way. These leaders should never express emotions because it’s perceived as a sign of weakness. Women entrepreneurs have especially felt the brunt of this stereotype, with terms like “glass ceiling” and “have it all.”
Thankfully, this stereotype is beginning to crack and break. Influencers are sharing their failures via social media platforms. They are attending panels to openly discuss being fired or laid off, or to share struggles they faced when starting a business. Vulnerability was once taboo. Now, it’s natural. At the end of the day, leaders are human beings. We’re all the same, and nobody should be ashamed of that. Everyone leaps, falls, patches up, and starts over again.
The beauty of these three qualities — mindset shifts, listening to feedback, and being more vulnerable — is that they go beyond leadership. You can take these resolutions and apply them to your personal life. They can help make existing relationships stronger, mend fractured ones, and develop new rapports. This spills over into your personality, making you the kind of leader everyone aspires to be.
[Need more inspiration? Listen to our podcast series about women entrepreneurs]
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation.com which provides online legal filing services for entrepreneurs and businesses, startup bundles that include corporation and LLC formation, registered agent services, DBAs, and trademark and copyright filing services. You can find MyCorporation on Twitter at @MyCorporation.