Not every leader acknowledges the big difference between managing and leading. And for small business owners looking to grow their business, making the transition from running it to leading it, can be all the difference. The first step is knowing what exactly leadership requires – now and in the future.

So, what does the future of leadership look like and how can small businesses adapt?


“Creative leadership involves blowing up the status quo, and out of the chaos, building a new world.” – Travis Turner, Writer and Blogger

Fast Company claims that creativity is the most important leadership quality for success. “All companies depend on ideas and ingenuity” affirms leading creativity expert Sir Ken Robinson. And you have to look no further than the world’s Most Innovative Companies to know he’s right. Small business leaders can create a culture of creativity by:

  • Using tools and technologies that help facilitate creativity and capturing ideas.My personal favourites include Evernote and TranscribeMe.
  • Encouraging creative brainstorming in their teams. Candor provides a handy way to do this and avoid “group think” or bias.
  • Creating a physical workspace that positively impacts productivity, collaboration and inspiration. From specially designed, fully equipped spaces like Facebook’s Analog Research Lab, to the more “low-fi” approach adopted by Stanford D-school, it’s worth learning from global best practice to see what’s achievable in your own business.

02 – FAIR

“No man will make a great leader who wants to do it all himself, or to get all the credit for doing it” – Andrew Carnegie, Business magnate and Industrialist

Fair leadership is good business. A new leadership model is emerging that is characterised by less hierarchy and looser boundaries – enabling faster decision making, more ownership over projects and the freedom for employees to take the initiative. Companies like Google have valued a “wafer thin hierarchy” from the start.  Embracing fairness in an organisation can involve:

  • Creating clarity around decision making; i.e. removing ambiguity, providing clear explanations for decisions and keeping everyone in the team abreast of what is going on.
  • Encouraging feedback and communication; Happiily is designed for staff to have a voice – they can anonymously share feedback around work related issues and this total honesty gives leaders the opportunity to address any sticking points.
  • Establishing designated support teams; For example, empowering HR to have a much bigger role beyond just recruitment – coaching, mentoring, championing the company culture, and aligning staff to the company values.


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it ” – Simon Sinek, Author and Motivational Speaker

What you stand for is just as important as what you do – and may even eclipse it. The world needs more leaders who are true to themselves and reflect this in their work.

  • Create a moral code for work; Creative studio Sagmeister & Walsh always ask three questions before they on a project: “Can we give it our heart? Can we learn something? Can we touch people’s hearts?”
  • Establish a clear set of values; Capturing what you stand for in writing is a great way to get employees on board, share your values with customers and remind yourselves every single day of what’s important. Check out Method’s humanifesto as a great example.
  • Champion transparency; Internally this may be by building robust internal communications e.g. weekly debrief meetings or leveraging a company-wide intranet to keep everyone posted on what’s happening within the organization. Externally this may include a weekly newsletter to customers and subscribers, interim and annual reports detailing financial summaries, or a more personal touch – blog posts from senior leaders or social media updates which allow communication to be real-time and constant.


“The role of a leader is not to have all the ideas; it’s to create a culture where everyone can have ideas” – Sir Ken Robinson, Creativity Expert and Speaker

The most evolved leaders realise that they can’t do everything alone. Their role is to inspire, encourage and grow others.

  • Open communication is key for this to work; Apps like Yammer or even Skypeand Google Hangouts are a good way to keep teams in touch with each other, especially cross-office or remotely.
  • Think visually; Some clients may prefer to use Pinterest boards – it’s a great way to share visual inspiration and your boards can be made “secret” from the public.
  • Build trust through transparency – for example, enabling visibility over projects, processes and what everyone is working on.
  • Use a Project management software while collaborating on projects with clients and staff. Integration with other applications such as file-sharing service Box helps make collaboration easy and keep everything in once place.


“We have a 150-year plan and vision”, Tristan Walker, founder and CEO of Walker & Co.

From a solid business model to a five-year plan, leaders need to have a strong, unshakeable vision and the ambition to make it a reality. This means they need to stay cognizant of the bigger picture. A project management system like WorkflowMax can give leaders real-time visibility and control over all aspects of the business.


“Learn early, learn often” – Drew Houston, CEO and founder of Dropbox

Becoming a great leader is a learning process that never ends. Adopting a “get better” mindset is critical to stay ahead of the competition but requires a high level of self-awareness, a willingness to improve and the humility to grow.

  • Read more to know more; Feedly, a news aggregator app does exactly that, helping you keep your customised reading feeds all in one place. It’s used by leaders like Rod Drury, CEO of innovative accounting firm Xero.
  • Broaden the scope of inspiration; After all, ideas can come from anywhere. Websites like 99U, Brain Pickings, TED, CreativeMornings provide a host of carefully curated inspirational and educational content.
  • Save inspiration for later; Instapaper and Pocket are handy is the browser bookmarklets that allows you to save web pages for later offline reading.

So there you have it. The key tenets of leadership in the future, some handy tips on how businesses can implement them to stay ahead of the curve.

Image credit: Edsquare

Article via Duct Tape Marketing