Self-assessment is key to developing as a leader for your small business

Is your small business the first organization you’ve led? Do you worry about whether you’re doing a good job? Do you sometimes feel like you’re operating in a seat-of-your-pants fashion with no idea what a “real leader” would do? Do you ever doubt whether you have what it takes to be a strong leader?

Such qualms are not unusual in newly minted – or even experienced – leaders. When the pressures of keeping a small business afloat weigh heavily on your shoulders, it is all too easy to doubt your abilities to lead. But no matter what your current level of leadership experience and skills, it is important to recognize two things:

• First, yes, it is true that some people are born leaders, but many others have learned to be great leaders. One of the best books I read last year was An Army at Dawn,” in which author Rick Atkinson recounts the African campaign of the Allies during World War II. One thing that came across very strongly in that book was Dwight Eisenhower’s initial deficiencies as a leader and how he was just beginning to grow into the role of allied commander. Certainly as Atkinson describes him, he was a far better general at the end of that campaign than he had been at the start. I’m sure when I read the second and third volumes of Atkinson’s WWII trilogy, I’ll see how Eisenhower grew further still in his leadership abilities.

• Second, you can become a better leader by understanding and working toward mastering the traits of a leader. As discussed in this article on leadership from the U.S. Small Business Administration’s website, psychologists have been working to uncover the key traits of a leader for some time now. The article includes a list of traits developed by Raymond Cattell, a pioneer in the field of personality assessment whose work was based on studying military leaders. You will note that many of the traits on Cattell’s list overlap with those attributed to servant leaders, which I wrote about in a post last week.

Periodically self-assessing yourself against Cattell’s list of traits can be a helpful exercise. Also, if you do an Internet search on the phrase “assessing your leadership skills,” the search results will provide you with links to a number of self-assessment tests. Also consider participating in leadership development courses that will help you fill in any deficiencies you have.

It can also be extremely useful to ask employees to provide you with feedback on how well you’re doing as a leader. This, of course, requires that you’ve developed a culture that allows employees to feel safe in providing honest feedback.

Self-doubt is natural, particularly when you first step into the leadership role. Accept that you may not do everything perfectly from day one but that you do have the ability to grow and mature as a leader. Be sure to build time into your schedule for the introspection that will support that growth.


  1. c4x says:

    A leader must be inspiring, influential, and experienced in charting a group's direction. A leader must go beyond his/her job title and is able to inspire and motivate others to work towards their vision.

  2. Awesome read Jeanne! The initial aspect of self-assessment is an examination of exactly what senior management most likely expects of you in your duty as leader. Equally as essential in terms of your effectiveness as leader is just what your direct reports expect of you that's why you need to evaluate yourself as a leader every now and then.

  3. Remote Coach says:

    Thank you for this useful article. Waiting for your next post, i know it will be more exciting, you’re awesome.

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