The other night I had one of those “pivotal” conversations with a group of friends. As we sat around my friend’s living room playing Apples to Apples, the conversation often jumped from the latest movie watched to a good book to read to something deep and provocative. Between the highly competitive lobbying to have your card picked by the judge (did I mention these are all strong women who lead their own successful business), we landed on a conversation about the moment when an entrepreneur begins to lead with influence.
If an entrepreneur is lucky, there is a moment when their business takes off, their programs are full, and everyone wants to talk to you and discover your secret to success. That’s often followed by a feeling of “I finally made it.” Often the focus shifts away from having to make more money to cover your nut to “now I have to figure out how to grow as a leader.”
Ask those same entrepreneurs who have “made it” if they see themselves as a leader, they’d probably say “no.”
Because for many people, the idea of “leadership” is equated with the old model of competition-driven, old-school fortune 500 business managers who do nothing but drive results and tell their team what to do. Not really what anyone starts their own business to do, right?
I believe that the minute you start your business, you must lead and influence others. Whether you have a team to inspire or you are influencing your community to follow your vision, leading means that you are someone others look to for advice and direction. Based on that conversation and many others with clients who have hit this stage of “now what”, I find there are five signs that you are a business leader. You might just discover your current situation this list.
1. Your Work Impacts Others
One of the first signs that you are evolving into an influential leader is that your programs and offerings influence the decisions, actions and behaviors others (hopefully in a positive way.) For instance, if you speak at events or give interviews, your message is inspiring to your audience. Or if you have products, coaching programs or trainings where people pay you to advise them, you are mentoring someone to achieve new outcomes. Every time we guide someone else, we are influencing them.
2. You’ve Left the Pack Behind
Often as you evolve your own business and step up your game, you’ll discover that you are at the top of a pinnacle where not many others can join you. From this place, you may feel isolated or alone and not have people who “get you” to turn to for advice. You may even be making decisions that NO ONE understands but you. Embracing the unknown and making choices to forage new territory without other people getting it means you’ve awakened your inner influencer. Being the “boss” already sets you apart but when you are outperforming all of your peers and friend-group, it can feel totally isolating. Get a coach or join a mastermind where you can be a part of a Rising Tide instead of feeling like a lone wolf.
3. Your Bold Vision is Much Bigger Than Your Capabilities
As you outpace your peers and reach for new horizons, you’ll notice your vision of what’s possible expands. For many entrepreneurs who are igniting a movement, consider themselves change makers or are a thought leader, you will find yourself in a quandary – your ideas will always be bigger than you know how to achieve. Your job is to have a coach, a great team and a support system of people who get you so you can pull off your big vision.
Quick note: I’ve noticed for myself that when I start focusing on all the details of how to pull something off, I get burned out and overwhelmed. When I hire really talented people who I share my idea with and THEY help make it happen, it’s a million times easier.
4. Comfort No Longer Applies
This part isn’t always fun, but it happens naturally as you step up your game. Becoming an industry leader often means you will almost always be changing, growing, taking risks, doing things that scare the crap out of you. It is living in the unknown. As a leader, we often have to do the inner work to appreciate the experiences connected to our constantly evolving lives so we don’t let fear paralyze our progress.
5. Your Role Inspires Others
Another sign you are emerging as an industry leader is when who you are being inspire others, and they want to follow in your footsteps. Perhaps your colleagues start to take notice of your success and want to know HOW you’ve done it. Or that book you finally published is a catalyst for people you’ve never met to become the best version of themselves. When you own your role as an influential leader, your words, habits and strategies will be an inspiration to those who haven’t yet accomplished what you have.
When your actions are inspiring others, your role as a leader takes on a whole new level of responsibility. For some, being an influential leader is not what you chose, but its what you must do in order to fulfill your life mission. It might feel like you were born to inspire others. For others, you’ll discover that being a leader comes with the territory of great financial success. Either way — embrace it. Align with others who are also on the path of accomplishing greatness and you’ll find yourself inspired and challenged to achieve greatness.