I have worked with numerous small businesses over my career. And I have found that there are 9 key leadership skills for small business owners that need to be mastered.

There is no doubt that being a small business owner is hard work.

It’s made even more difficult by the fact that you are naturally expected to be the leader of the business.

The one person that your employees look up to and aspire to be. The one person who has all the answers.

You had the conviction to start your own small business. But that does not mean that you automatically have the leadership qualities required to run that business successfully.

And I can tell you from experience that it doesn’t mean that you now know how to lead people.

This takes time and effort – and a whole lot of patience.

Here are 9 key leadership skills for small business owners that you can work on to become a better leader and to inspire your team to greater results.

9 Key Leadership Skills for Small Business Owners

Leadership Skill 1: Have Vision

All great leaders have a clear vision for their business. They have clarity about what they want to achieve. How they want to achieve it. Who they want to achieve it with.

They start with the end destination in mind and then work out how they are going to get there.

Empower your team to share that vision and to help you develop the road map to your ultimate destination.

Leadership Skill 2: Have a Sense of Purpose

By allowing your team to be part of the overall Vision for the business, you provide them with a sense of Purpose.

They get to understand the “Why” behind the Vision. This gives them a greater conviction to “buy-in” to the cause.

Without a sense of purpose, your team will just “clock-in” and “clock-out” everyday and set their own path. And I guarantee that this path will more than likely not align with yours.

Leadership Skill 3: Be United

The ability to ensure that the team remains tight, regardless of the ups and downs that they may encounter, is a skill that every great leader must possess.

The road to your ultimate goals will be bumpy. And you don’t want to lose your best people along the way.

Always maintain that team spirit. Show by example that you will ride the highs, and also the lows, with them.

Leadership Skill 4: Be Open

This is quite possibly the most understated of the 9 key leadership skills for small business owners.

It is critical that you are open, honest and transparent with your team.

This doesn’t mean that you have to share all of your business and personal secrets. But it does mean that you have to give them all the information they require to do their role successfully.

Ensure that the right communication channels are always available to your team and that they are encouraged to give you the messages you NEED to hear; not what you would LIKE to hear.

Leadership Skill 5: Maintain Productivity

To be effective and productive, you need to have the ability to put people into the right positions. To give them the necessary tools and support to do their job.

This may require an element of “show and tell” where you show your team how things need to be done to achieve the bigger picture result.

And a key word of advice – don’t spend your days constantly looking over their shoulders. This kills productivity and trust.

9 Key Leadership Skills for Small Business Owners

Leadership Skill 6: Provide Encouragement

Another of the 9 key leadership skills for small business owners is to provide encouragement.

When things get tough, a great leader needs to be able to provide the right level of encouragement and inspiration to keep their team moving forward.

At times, this can be counter-intuitive.

But a team that knows that its leader is behind them, giving them support, will always find that little bit extra to achieve the goal.

Leadership Skill 7: Have Empathy

I personally find that this is one of the hardest leadership skills for small business owners to master.

Maintaining the right level of empathy towards your team in difficult situations is not easy for most people.

But as a leader, you need to have empathy, encourage the team to feel, and be aware of the feelings of others within the team.

However, do not confuse empathy with being soft. Do not allow your team members to get away with exhibiting the wrong behaviours.

You can display empathy – but you must also ensure that the right levels of discipline are maintained.

Leadership Skill 8: Be a Friend

We spend a lot of our waking hours at work. So it is important that you, as a leader, try to develop more than just an employer / employee relationship with your team.

Get to know them.

Take an interest in what they do outside of the job.

Learn the names of their partner and children.

This might not sound like a big deal, but it gives each member of your team a sense of significance which is vitally important to the success of your business.

Leadership Skill 9: Celebrate the Wins

We are always quick to knock people down when they fail. But we are not as quick to reward when they’ve done a good job.

Be the type of leader that celebrates the wins and then inspires their team to move on to bigger and better things.


There is no question that running a small business is hard work. And it is not for everyone.

Make your life a little bit easier by taking the time to learn and apply these 9 Key Leadership Skills for Small Business Owners.

You just may be surprised by the positive impact it will have on you and your business.

Go on – what are you waiting for?

9 Key Leadership Skills for Small Business Owners