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Leadership is Breaking the Status Quo
by Ray Silverstein

''It's not companies that fail, it's their leaders who fail," stated Warren Bennis, a business guru in the 1920s, and the statement is still true today.

In the current business environment, the role of the leader is more impor-tant than ever before. The rate of change in business and society is faster than any time in history. Several years ago at a PRO: President's Advisory Board meeting, a member asked, "Who is surfing the Net?" The majority of the people at the meeting asked, "What's the Net?" We have come a long way in a short period of time. Nowadays, the Internet and e-commerce are a way of life.

This is a quick example of the rate of change in our lives. Today, the small business owner must give more time to leadership. Nicolo Machiavelli observed, "Whoever desires constant success must change his conduct with the time." Just being a good technician won't cut it in the long term today.

Most people go into business because they are good at what they do. You may be a great computer programmer, salesman or whatever, but once in business, you need more than your own individual skills. In most cases, you don't have time to do just what you are good at. In order to survive and grow, it is necessary to become an observer and student of change.

Today, we see rapid change in distribution, products, service, technology and the attitudes of people. How does your business position itself to take advantage of these changes? Do you get in the world outside your business to learn and hear of changes and get input regarding the growth of trends?

The strategic direction of all businesses have a shorter time frame. I know of many small businesses that are reinventing themselves to take advantage of the market and to stay alive. As a small business owner, you have a responsibility to your employees, family and yourself to start thinking about change and thinking outside of your past experience.

The place to start is with yourself. The old rule, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" is not valid today. Your business can go from a well-oiled machine to a machine producing parts without a market or means to get to market. It is your job as a leader to be aware of change and reposition your company. Total quality management has a basic rule: improving performance never ends. Even if you are doing something well, you can always do it better. This requires constant change, an open mind and an awareness of the outside environment.

Seuss, in "Oh, the Places You'll Go," summed it up:

Today is your day.
You're off to great places!
You're off and away!
You have brains in your head.
You have feet in your shoes.
You can steer youself
any direction you choose.


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