It’s officially a new year. For many people this means setting goals and intentions for the next 12 months ahead, especially as it relates to their work life. If you so happen to be steering the ship at the head of a business, then charting the course and leading by example certainly won’t come as anything new. And if you happen to be an entrepreneur struggling to find some fresh motivation to lead as 2024 begins, we’ve got you covered.
Just as we did last year, we reached out to a number of women we’ve interviewed for our 1,000 Stories Project and asked them what leadership qualities they think business owners should strive for in the new calendar year. In 2023, we received answers like “authenticity” – which was a telling submission from Lauren Caggiano, as “authentic” went on to become Merriam Webster’s Word of The Year – as well as “curiosity,” which coincidentally also makes its way onto this year’s list.
For 2024, our entrepreneurs’ answers ranged from “realism” to “flexibility” and symbolized a resilient and self-reliant spirit that will likely be useful as an uncertain election year looms before us here in the U.S. Whether you’re looking to grow your client list, add new products to your inventory, or strengthen your team, here are five qualities to consider bringing with you into the new year.
It’s always important to remain realistic about the reality of your resources as an entrepreneur. For Crissi Cole, founder of Penny Finance, an online financial-planning platform tailor-made for women, realism is the quality she thinks entrepreneurs should take into 2024. The Boston-based CEO told us about the founder experience, “We are conditioned to dream big, push the limits, and lead with optimism. But I think that gets in the way of the basics, and becomes a major distraction. Build a real business for real people for a real problem with real revenue. The rest will come.”
As much as we plan, sometimes unexpected situations can arise in the workplace. And as we’ve heard from so many founders over the past three years, the Covid pandemic presented completely unforeseen hurdles to overcome in almost every aspect of running a business. It’s for this reason that health coach Kate Couchman believes women running their own operation should embrace flexibility in 2024. She told us, “If we are flexible in our approach, we are less derailed when something goes wrong.” Couchman also believes that flexibility can lead us to become “more empathetic and problem-solving focused leaders, which creates better psychological safety for our employees.”
It’s not always easy to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, but studies have shown that being empathetic is one of the most important qualities a leader can embody. Ruth Kudzi, who is a certified coach and the founder of Optimus Coaching Academy, says the importance of empathy cannot be overstated, “As leaders we don’t always put ourselves in other’s shoes when we are hell bent on a certain plan or direction – but being able to see things from other people’s viewpoints and to consider their feelings is an integral part of strong leadership.”
As companies grow in size, founders tend to delegate more day-to-day tasks to their employees. While it’s normal for CEOs to focus on the bigger picture, especially if they have the team in place to do so, political campaign strategist Zee Cohen Sanchez says, “If you won’t take out the trash, then you shouldn’t be leading anyone.” Which is why Sanchez, who is the founder of Sole Strategies, believes having a “do-it-yourself” attitude is such a valuable asset for leaders. Sachez told us, “Leaders should not be asking people to do something they’re not willing to do themself. As we get more into remote work I think there is a higher risk of leaders being more disconnected from the work, than when they were with their staff in person every day. As leaders, we’re meant to be setting an example – nothing should be below our paygrade.”
Curiosity. The word made our list last year, and now it’s popping up again for 2024, as an invaluable asset founders should bring to the workplace. Nikki Butler, founder of The Autistic Joyologist, who works with women with autism and ADHD to help them thrive in their personal lives and in the workplace, says curiosity is her top leadership quality for the new year. Butler explained, “It’s essential to drive innovation and change and create unique and exciting opportunities in any business,” because, “It encourages new ideas and perspectives and promotes a culture of continual learning and progression for individuals and organizations alike.”