Evolving leadership: maintaining control when hiring new leaders

When founding a company, there are many stages of development you go through to bring the business into a place of maturity. It may start off with one person on their own, or a small collective of entrepreneurs, but as the business builds momentum, more and more staff will need to be employed. Many will be low level employees, however some will be leaders tasked with managing the day-to-day company you began. In order to maintain a level of control over your venture, you must ensure that your personal leadership style evolves to give a level of autonomy to your chosen leaders, while still upholding your position.

There are no right or wrong ways to lead your business, only what is right or wrong for your own sense of self. It is worth considering, however, that if your business becomes successful, it will be impossible to manage all people personally, as there simply will not be enough hours in the day. You will have to release your iron grip on the reins and allow others to ensure the day-to-day tasks are completed, freeing you up to deal with the more complex issues associated with running a company.

The first, and maybe the key, place to start is establishing a company mission statement accompanied by some clear statements of values and principles. This is a foundation stone in your company’s ethos, and will offer a North Star guidance point to any new managers being introduced into the fold. This will lay out, unequivocally, your expectation as to how the company is driven forward, and will set the performance indicators you reasonably anticipate they and their teams would be able to achieve. Lay it out clearly, display it prominently in your company literature, and use it to shape your strategy and your future planning. If this piece of fundamental direction is easy to understand and follow, your future employees will struggle to deviate from the course you have set. Although the mission statement itself will be a fixed point, it will allow you the flexibility to evolve the business, take a step back as required, and evaluate the successes of the business, regardless of who is at the helm.

Determine how hands-on you can be with the top tier of your leadership team. They will be your eyes and ears on the shop floor, and therefore it is shrewd to apportion some of the time in your diary each month to coaching, mentoring or having evaluative catch up meetings with the first level of leadership in your hierarchy. In doing this, be clear that you are leading by example, and encourage them to carry out similar activities with their teams. This sets a behavioural precedent from the top down, and allows you to disseminate the values and actions you wish to see from your leadership team. This may be a change for you, particularly if you are used to working collaboratively. This may seem autocratic, as from appearances it can be seen as approaching the managers with a heavy hand, and may seem like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut, particularly if your managers are seasoned veterans in their professions. However there is immense value in investing time in your star performers as well as those struggling, and your new recruits. Take the time to find out what’s happening at a grass roots level, and support your team, ensuring the ethos of the company is upheld.

The toughest stage of your own personal management evolution may be “letting go”. Now, I am by no means suggesting that you should completely sit back, put your feet up, and allow your freshly recruited leaders steer the ship entirely, however you have plucked them from the crowd for a reason. They have skills, qualities and talents that are transferable, and that you have identified as missing from your organisation. If you clip their wings, and do not allow them to have some independence in managing within the business, they will quickly become bored and frustrated, which in turn, will lead them to seek greener pastures. This means you could lose the very innovative spirit you were looking to capture. Once you have set your expectations, you must allow them the freedom to work within the lines you have drawn, and even suggest improvements to take the business further. Remember, as good a business mind as you are, a fresh pair of eyes might open exciting new doors for your organisation. Don’t close your mind to them – the business may be yours, but the ideas can be generated by anyone.

Running your own business is a unique and all-consuming experience. You take a concept from being a miniscule germ of an idea, right the way through to being a fully-formed, fully-functioning business in its own right. It can be a tough decision to allow someone else to be a leader in the organisation you have built, however it is often necessary to ensure the business can thrive. After all there may come a point you want new opportunities and challenges only to find yourself yoked to a business you have made over-dependent upon you.