If you're looking for guidance on how to build a business, there can be few better examples to follow than someone who built one of the world's most successful brands from scratch, becoming the world's richest man in the process - Bill Gates.
There are many things the co-founder of Microsoft can teach budding entrepreneurs about how to create a successful business, but one of the most important lessons for any prospective business owner is how to manage people.
The one secret to success
No business can succeed without motivated people, but being able to effectively lead them can be hugely challenging. So what did Gates have to say on the topic of leadership?
Years ago, he said this:
As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.
But what does that mean for entrepreneurs in practice? For starters, it means not being dictatorial or egocentric. Great leaders understand that to inspire others, you can't make it all about strict management or fancy titles. Instead, it's about encouraging people to feel confident in their own ability to make decisions and offer their input.
Here are a few ways in which you can embrace this mantra and apply it to your own business.
Encourage respectful debate
Poor leaders are often those without the ability to take on board opposing opinions or constructive criticism. A mindset of 'my way or the highway' won't get you far when it comes to inspiring others.
That's why it's important to ensure your team can be comfortable raising questions and suggesting alternatives. Empowering people to feel as though their voices are being heard in the decision-making process is one of the best ways to keep people invested. You don't have to accept every new idea, but making sure they're heard is vital.
Make sure people aren't afraid to fail
Fear of failure is a common cause of business paralysis, especially if employees are worried about the potential repercussions for their own career if their ideas aren't successful. But this attitude completely stifles innovation, which is essential if any business is to grow.
Therefore, it's important to emphasize to others that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing, provided it's handled in the right way. As long as the right lessons are taken and you fail fast and move on, there should be no stigma attached to this, and it's your job as a leader to ensure this is the case.
Share leadership responsibility
There's nothing more likely to get employees' backs up than passing the blame when things go wrong, but taking sole credit when they go right. But good leadership isn't just about giving credit and sharing the rewards of success. It's also about ensuring you're actively sharing responsibility along the way.
Being able to hand over the reins where appropriate can help employees feel like equals rather than subordinates - which is critical if you're to follow Bill Gates' advice and empower others to help drive the success of your firm.