Where to begin.  Leadership is not a position or title.  It doesn’t mean you are always right or that what you say goes.  It is about taking responsibility for your decisions and living your dream day-in and day-out.

But right now, things are tough and it is hard to stay positive on that dream.  Lofty and noble thoughts are nice, but it isn’t going to help make next month’s payroll.  Still, you can’t allow those issues, as important as they are, to interfere with your actual job.

Set an example.  Chances are, right now, someone in your organization is thinking about quitting.  They aren’t paid enough, they don’t feel valued as an employee, they might feel that the business is heading into a lay-off because you keep hiding behind your door and ignore phone calls.  Snapping at an employee for making a mistake, refusing to listen to fair criticism, ignoring an employee’s birthday, do more to undermine your leadership than anything else you might do.

Leadership is not the box you fill at the top of the organization chart.  It is an attitude, it is a way of life.  Do you have a dress code at work for your employees but refuse to live up to it yourself?  Do you talk about work/home balance and then find yourself making snide comments when one of your employees asks for the afternoon off for a parent teacher conference?

If finances are tight (and they likely are or you wouldn’t be here reading my thoughts) and you take your son-in-law out to a $400 lunch on the company expense account – and then brag about it – understand that this isn’t leadership.  The company has rules, you must first, last and always follow them.

Even if things are going well, but you pay your employees a bonus on company profitability, understand that this extravagant lunch cut into their bonus.  And, if you try to justify it by saying it works out to less than $0.0000001 per employee, you are missing the point.  Leaders talk the talk and walk the walk.

No, it doesn’t mean you have to work in a cubicle or not have an expense account.  It means always looking out for the big picture and recognizing that your actions and words have consequences.  Be a leader, do what you say.  If the rule is, goggles on the production floor, then don’t go out and stand next to a machine without them.

Leadership also means listening.  Ask your employees how things are and what is happening.  Encourage them to be frank and honest so you get the best feedback possible.  Ask your customers how you can better serve them.  Ask vendors how you can make their life easier.  Hearing them helps you and your business grow profitably.