Succeeding in business is all about leadership – and yes, that is true even if you are a sole proprietor or solopreneur.

Starting a business is daunting. You’re running with something into which you’ve invested time, effort, energy and probably a considerable amount of capital, but you have no idea if it is actually going to work…

It’s a risk, and you take it

A business takes on a life of its own, and you’re ‘supposed to’ make it work no matter what. However, as with many other things in life, there are no guarantees.

Some businesses soar, some flounder, and others transform to fit other needs and niches. Your brainchild may not weather the storm, and doom and gloom reports about yet another economic downturn are not exactly confidence-inspiring.

You hear other business owners talking about how tough things are, or you see others putting on a brave face and pretending to be okay when they are struggling to make ends meet. Still, you persist.

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These are a few real-life lessons I learned about leadership:

1. Leaders know how to create and maintain boundaries

Well-meaning friends and family members (even the unemployed or uneducated ones) give you ‘advice’ – you’re handed business books and told that life as an ‘entrepreneur’ is tough. Tell them to stop right there and right now.

2. Relationships are everything

Whether you have been working with someone for six months or six years, spend time nurturing and growing relationships. You never know when you will need a good word from someone in your network (see my previous article on networking here).

Being a good leader means being invested in people, not what you can get out of them

3. Always be authentic

There’s no such thing as ‘fake it until you make it’. This is probably the worst piece of advice you can get. People can spot a phony a mile away, and dishonesty is never a good foundation for any relationship. Be honest about who you are and what you do.

Read more: Keeping it real: Why authenticity is the key to becoming your best self

4. Leaders lend support

Leaders are willing to get stuck into a task in support of others. They provide constructive feedback in order to succeed and achieve goals.

Keep the books you find handy, toss the ones that make you doze off on the ‘donate’ pile, and seek advice only from people you think provide valuable and relevant insight

5. Leaders are realistic about goals they set for themselves, and for others

Any leader worth their salt should be able to assess, evaluate, and empathise when it comes to tackling projects which seem uncertain, risky, or time-consuming. They are able to change tack if they see something is not working.

It takes tremendous courage and restraint to ignore prominent business texts, thought leaders’ podcasts, and sagacious advice from people you see as successful, but you don’t need to listen to, or absorb any of it.

Keep the books you find handy, toss the ones that make you doze off on the ‘donate’ pile, and seek advice only from people you think provide valuable and relevant insight.

The crux of the matter is this: succeeding in business is all about leadership – and yes, that is true even if you are a sole proprietor or solopreneur.