Leadership depends on so much more than technical skill. This theme has been echoing over and over recently in my work with my clients and in my reading. Sure, the small business owner has to act like a CEO. In other words, be able to know the nuts and bolts of how the business operates, use good communication skills, set the vision and mission, facilitate the overall strategy with the executive team, foster the corporate culture, nourish an entrepreneurial mindset, and model good  management skills. But it’s not how skilled you are at taking financial statements and turning them into a strategic plan that people remember most. It’s who you are. It’s the intangible skills that use emotional intelligence that makes your business hum or whimper. It always comes back to your values, your ability to connect, and your behavior. In other words, character.

In a small business, leadership can be a potent combination of petri dish and crucible. It takes a highly confident person to lead a small business, particularly through times of change. Employees see you for the person you are as there are fewer layers in the organizational chart.It can be daunting to make strategic plans that include products or services that have never been done by your company before. Given the recession that Studying your leadershipstarted in 2008 and the current “will it/won’t it” recovery of the economy, some of you have been faced with letting go of people who have been part of your company. If you’re feeling like you are on the hot seat, well…

You are being watched. No, this is not a good time to get paranoid, however tempting. Your team, your board, your employees, and your community are watching you for inspiration and results. They want you to be successful. John C. Maxwell in the tenth edition of The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership writes “To build trust, a leader must exhibit competence, connection, and character.”

One bad example-There is a small business leader I know who has an amazing ability to infuriate people. She runs a successful business and her immediate staff speak highly of her. However, in business networking groups and other community organizations, she acts in a way that makes it so hard to volunteer with her. She demands allowances for personal issues, says she will do something but does not follow through, and gossips about other people behind their backs.

One good example-Another small business owner I know goes out of her way to foster positive relationships with her clients and her staff. Somehow she almost always finds time to talk and catch up with someone. There are stories of her sending people home when they are ill or have a family issue to deal with and acting as their substitute. Her postitive attitude and boundless energy are infectious and she is instrumental in mentoring small business owners. She is always on the lookout for new ideas that will improve her skills, enhance what her business offers, and support the growth of other small business owners.

Both of these small business owners appear successful on the surface. Which example is most like you? Aren’t there enough dysfunctional organizations out there? Most leaders don’t take on their roles because they feel it is necessary to denigrate others nor do they aim to seem indecisive and fearful. What about you?

How do you want to be seen?

What are you doing that keeps you consistent with your values and intentions?

What (or who) keeps you honest as you develop your leadership skills?