Leadership Principles for Small Business Entrepreneurs 

Last Updated: December 21, 2023 | by Paul Harstrom

Leadership Principles are the cornerstone of success in any endeavor, and when it comes to small business entrepreneurship, its importance becomes even more pronounced. 

Effective leadership is not just about making decisions or giving orders but about inspiring and empowering others to achieve greatness. It is about creating a vision, setting a clear direction, and guiding your team toward a shared goal.

At the heart of every thriving venture, strong leadership skills serve as the compass that guides entrepreneurs through uncharted territories, fueling innovation, fostering growth, and navigating the ever-changing business landscape. 

Small Business Leadership Best Practices

In the business world, we can draw parallels between the different parts of a business and the components of an airplane. Just like an airplane needs various parts to function smoothly, a business relies on key elements for success. 

Think of leadership as the cockpit, guiding the business toward its destination. Marketing acts as the right engine, propelling the business forward by creating awareness. Sales, like the left engine, convert leads into customers. 

The wings represent product creation, providing lift and innovation. The body represents overhead costs, while cash flow is the fuel to keep the business soaring. By understanding and optimizing these components, businesses can achieve greater heights.

Are you ready to take your business to new heights? These Leadership principles for small business entrepreneurs will provide a detailed and comprehensive guide to propel your small business to unparalleled heights of success.

From cultivating a visionary mindset to nurturing a high-performing team, from making strategic decisions to embracing resilience, In this pillar post, we delve into small business growth and explore the transformative power of effective leadership.

1.  Overview of Small Business Entrepreneurship:

Small business entrepreneurship is the heartbeat of our economy, empowering individuals to take control of their destiny and make a difference in the world. It’s a thrilling journey where passionate individuals transform ideas into reality, embracing risks and challenges along the way. 

Although Small business entrepreneurship plays a critical role in the economy and society by creating jobs, driving innovation, and fueling growth, starting and running a small business comes with unique challenges and obstacles. 

These obstacles include:

  • Limited resources
  • Intense competition
  • Constantly evolving market trends
  • Financial Constraints
  • Marketing and Customer Acquisition
  • Talent Acquisition and Retention
  • Keeping up with rapidly evolving technology
  • Scalability and Growth

Despite these challenges, small business owners often possess resilience, adaptability, and creativity, allowing them to thrive in a dynamic business environment. Hence, the significance of small business entrepreneurship cannot be overstated, as it catalyzes economic growth and societal progress.

2.  Navigating the Roadblocks Faced by Small Businesses:

How to Grow a Business in this challenging environment is described in a very comprehensive manner by Donald Miller as he states:

“A business works like a machine that makes money. When each part of your business works together, you’ll produce revenue and profit that you can use to enjoy and have a positive impact in the world”.

In the dynamic business world, having a well-designed operating system is crucial for maintaining a healthy and thriving enterprise. It serves as our compass, guiding us through challenges and enabling us to address issues as they arise swiftly. 

Whether managing overhead costs or optimizing cash flow, a robust operating system gives us the clarity and confidence to keep our business on track toward our goals. By establishing proven checklists and frameworks, we can anticipate and prevent setbacks, ensuring our business runs smoothly and efficiently.

Effective Leadership for Small Business Entrepreneurs

Running a business doesn’t have to be overwhelming or perplexing. By implementing dependable processes, we can simplify complexities and reduce the mental strain of trying to figure it all out. 

These tried-and-true systems alleviate anxiety and help us build a business that operates like a well-oiled machine, generating consistent revenue and sustainable profit. 

Throughout this Pillar post, we will learn about each vital aspect of a business, equipping you with comprehensive checklists to assess and optimize the health of each component so that it grows exceptionally and expand its roots to a broader audience. By the end of this article, you will understand what it takes for a small business entrepreneur to cultivate a thriving business and the precise steps required to get there.

3.  The Characteristics and Qualities that Make a Successful Small Business Entrepreneur:

Specific characteristics and qualities set individuals apart when becoming successful business entrepreneur. These traits not only contribute to their personal growth but also shape the success of their ventures. 

The entrepreneurship journey demands resilience, vision, adaptability, and a passion for learning. Successful entrepreneurs possess a strong work ethic, embracing challenges as opportunities for growth. They exhibit excellent leadership skills, empowering their teams and fostering a positive work culture. 

A growth mindset allows them to embrace change and seek innovative solutions to problems. Effective communication and networking skills also help entrepreneurs build valuable relationships and partnerships. 

Being customer-focused, they prioritize delivering value and exceeding expectations. Continuous learning and the ability to take calculated risks are also crucial in the entrepreneurial journey. 

Here’s a list of key characteristics that every business entrepreneur can adopt to navigate the dynamic business landscape and achieve effective cultural transformation:

Disciplined Execution:

Every organizational success depends on its effective leadership. In the book “Good to Great” by Jim Collins, he highlights the significance of Disciplined Leadership as a critical factor in taking companies from good to great. 

Disciplined leadership ensures that leaders remain focused on the organization’s core values and long-term objectives. By implementing disciplined practices, leaders create a culture of accountability and foster a sense of purpose among their teams. 

This pillar post provides actionable insights to help leaders within business enterprises cultivate discipline within their organizations. Disciplined leadership can drive business growth, enhance team performance, and set the foundation for long-term success. 

Collin described discipline as the key finding and characteristic distinguishing great companies from good ones. He explains that a matched pair of enterprises that were in the same time, same spot, same opportunities, same resources with the same potential, and yet one becomes great and the other does not. 

One thrives in chaos and keeps climbing while the other falls. Hence he came to the inevitable conclusion, a lesson that he learned from his 25 years of research and learning states:

“Greatness is not primarily a function of a circumstance. It is first and foremost a matter of conscious choice and discipline.”

Learn from the principles outlined by Jim Collins and unlock the power of disciplined leadership in your small business. (Internal Link)

Visionary Thinking:

Visionary thinking is a fundamental quality that sets successful entrepreneurs apart. These individuals have a clear and compelling vision for their business, encompassing their long-term goals and aspirations. 

They possess the ability to see beyond the present and imagine a different and better future. Communicating their vision inspires and motivates team members, stakeholders, and customers to rally behind a common purpose. 

A strong vision serves as a guiding light and helps entrepreneurs navigate challenges and setbacks with resilience and determination. It provides a sense of direction and clarity, allowing them to focus their efforts on the actions that will lead to realizing their vision. 

Visionary entrepreneurs continuously challenge the status quo, identify emerging trends and opportunities, and adapt their strategies accordingly.

Through their visionary thinking, successful entrepreneurs bring their dreams to life, transforming industries and leaving a lasting impact on the world.

Understand How to Manage Talent:

Talent can make or break an organization. Hiring the right or wrong person for a position can cost a company millions. The “First WHO, then WHAT” approach, as highlighted by Jim Collins, is another essential quality for successful small business entrepreneurs that emphasizes the importance of prioritizing people over specific tasks or strategies when building a business.

the concepts of Talent Management Strategy and Talent Management Strategies.

According to this approach, entrepreneurs should first focus on assembling a team of talented individuals with the right skills, values, and mindset (the “WHO”). Once the right people are in place, they can collectively determine and pursue the best strategies, goals, and direction for the business (the “WHAT”).

Successful entrepreneurs understand that the right people, aligned with the vision and values of the business, are instrumental in driving its success. Entrepreneurs create a foundation for sustainable growth and achievement by prioritizing hiring and developing a high-performing team.

Effective Communication: 

Communication skills are essential for entrepreneurs to convey their vision, build relationships, and inspire their teams. It is a fundamental skill for business growth. Successful entrepreneurs are adept at articulating their ideas, actively listening, and fostering open and transparent communication within their organizations.

How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie is a timeless self-help book that offers valuable insights on building relationships, improving communication skills, and influencing others. While the book is not explicitly focused on business growth, its principles, and techniques can be applied effectively in a business context to foster success and growth.

Carnegie provides techniques for improving communication, such as Focusing on the needs and interests of others, using empathy, and speaking in terms of the other person’s desires. For example, in business negotiations, understanding the motivations and concerns of the other party can help find win-win solutions and foster long-term partnerships.

Carnegie shares a story about a salesperson who successfully turns around a problematic customer by listening to their concerns, empathizing with their situation, and finding a solution that meets their needs. 

This example showcases the power of active listening, understanding the customer’s perspective, and finding common ground to build a positive relationship.

Level 5 Leadership:

Level 5 Leadership, as coined by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great,” represents a unique blend of exceptional leadership qualities, with humility being a defining characteristic. Level 5 Leaders possess a deep sense of humility, putting the needs of their organization and team above personal ego. 

They channel their ambition and drive toward the company’s success rather than seeking personal glory. This humility allows them to create an environment of trust, collaboration, and empowerment where individuals can thrive and contribute their best. 

Level 5 Leadership: Explore the artistry of leadership in the world of entrepreneurship and success.

Level 5 Leaders are not driven by external validation or the pursuit of power but rather by a deep commitment to the greater good of their organization. They are modest, unassuming, and open to feedback and learning from others. 

Their humility enables them to acknowledge their limitations and surround themselves with talented individuals who complement their skills. This approach fosters a culture of continuous improvement and encourages the development of future leaders within the organization. 

Ability to Hold Two Opposed Ideas in the Mind:

Jim Collins uses the yin/yang symbol from Chinese dualistic philosophy to represent an essential aspect of highly visionary companies:

“They do not oppress themselves with what we call the “Tyranny of the OR” that pushes people to believe that things must be either A OR B, but not both. Highly visionary companies liberate themselves with the “Genius of the AND” i.e. Instead of choosing between A OR B, they figure out a way to have both A AND B.”

Jim Collins

As mentioned by Jim Collins, this idea emphasizes the importance of embracing both options instead of choosing one over the other. In entrepreneurship, this approach means finding ways to incorporate multiple strategies, ideas, and perspectives rather than being limited to a single path. 

Successful entrepreneurs understand that business decisions are not binary choices between extremes but opportunities to find creative solutions that encompass both options. 

This approach allows entrepreneurs to leverage the strengths of different techniques and viewpoints, ultimately leading to outstanding business growth and performance.

Passion and Purpose: 

Successful entrepreneurs are driven by a deep passion for what they do. They have a strong sense of purpose and are committed to making a positive impact through their business endeavors. This deep motivation for starting the business is well explained by Simon Sinek in his book “Start with Why.”

This book offers valuable insights into how finding and communicating the purpose behind our business endeavors contributes to successful business growth. When we clearly understand our “why” and can effectively communicate it to our customers, employees, and stakeholders, we create a compelling narrative that goes beyond the features and benefits of our products or services. 

By tapping into the emotional appeal of our purpose, we attract loyal customers who are aligned with our values and mission. This deeper connection increases customer engagement, repeat business, and positive word-of-mouth referrals. To read more about this book click here.

WiLD Toolkit – Dr. Rob McKenna – Leadership Development

The Art of Influence (Bridge The Gap):

Last but certainly not least, Successful entrepreneurs understand the importance of influence and how it impacts their ability to lead. They recognize that leadership is not about control or authority but rather about building solid relationships, earning trust, and positively influencing others.

These entrepreneurs are driven by a deep sense of faith and purpose, guided by their belief in a higher power and the desire to make a positive impact on the world. When establishing a client relationship, LEAD Diligently takes a comprehensive approach while assessing faith-driven executives. 

We aim to gain a deep understanding of their current situation and envisioned future. By identifying the gap between these two states, we can strategically work together to bridge that divide. Our unique approach focuses on the executive’s business goals and spiritual, personal, and professional well-being.

To facilitate learning and understanding, we draw parallels between the essential pillars of business and the different parts of the human body.

Human Body Image, Methodologies Page LEAD Diligently

Just as the human body functions harmoniously when all its parts work together, a successful business thrives when its key components are aligned. We believe that by nurturing the spiritual, personal, and professional aspects of faith-driven executives, we can create a solid foundation for their business growth. 

Our holistic approach recognizes that true success encompasses more than financial achievements; it contains fulfillment, purpose, and a sense of well-being.

With LEAD Diligently, you can expect a collaborative and supportive partnership recognizing the interconnectedness of faith, personal development, and business success.

4.  Key Leadership Principles for Small Business Entrepreneurs:

Unlocking the true potential of an entrepreneur requires the incorporation of the following fundamental principles covered in John C. Maxwell’s book “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership” in any organization aiming to Advance in the Field of Business:

  • The Law of Influence
  • The Law of Integrity
  • The Law of Vision
  • The Law of Empowerment
  • The Law of Growth

These principles apply to successful business growth as they lay the foundation for strong leadership, effective communication, and a motivated and high-performing team. 

Law Of The Lid Book-21 irrefutable laws of leadership

When leaders embody these principles, they create an environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and a shared commitment to achieving business objectives. This, in turn, drives sustainable growth and success for the company.

Following are the real-life case studies practicing these laws for their professional growth.

Howard Schultz and the Transformation of Starbucks:

Howard Schultz, the former CEO of Starbucks, demonstrated the Law of Vision and the Law of Empowerment in his leadership approach. 

When Schultz joined Starbucks in the 1980s, it was a small coffee retailer with limited growth potential. However, Schultz had a grand vision of transforming Starbucks into a global brand that not only sold coffee but also provided a unique experience for customers.

Through Schultz’s leadership, Starbucks expanded its product offerings, introduced new store designs, and focused on employee training and development. The company became known for its exceptional customer service and high-quality coffee, attracting a loyal customer base and driving significant growth. Schultz’s commitment to personal growth and the Law of Growth also played a vital role in Starbucks’ success. 

Applying these leadership principles made Starbucks one of the world’s most recognizable and successful coffee chains. 

Elon Musk and his Ventures, Including Tesla and SpaceX:

Elon Musk embodies several vital principles from John C. Maxwell’s “21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership in his approach to leading and growing his businesses. 

One principle that stands out is the Law of Magnetism. Musk has a strong personal brand and vision that attracts talented individuals passionate about his mission to revolutionize the automotive and aerospace industries.

The principles of vision, influence, connection, and priorities, as outlined in John C. Maxwell’s book, are applied by Elon Musk to drive remarkable success and growth in his businesses. 

5.  Strategies for Developing Leadership Skills In Different Business Modules:

Unlocking your leadership potential across different business modules requires a tailored approach that aligns with each module’s specific needs and challenges. Regardless of the module, strong communication, emotional intelligence, and the ability to inspire and motivate teams are vital for successful business growth and transformation.

Leadership Skills for Project Management

By adopting the strategies described in the following business modules, small business entrepreneurs can unlock their leadership potential and thrive in any challenging environment.

Sales and Marketing:

Sales and Marketing focus on promoting products or services, generating leads, and driving revenue through various sales and marketing strategies. As mentioned in the 4th pillar of Our 8 Guiding Business Pillars”, Marketing and Sales are analogous to the Face of a person – Attracting customers and closing deals requires listening and communicating better than your competitors.

To increase sales and marketing effectiveness, there are several strategies that businesses can adopt:

  • Defining your target audience and understanding their needs
  • Creating a strategic marketing plan that aligns with your business goals, i.e. SEO blogging, Social media marketing, etc.
  • Develop unique and visually appealing branding elements to differentiate your business from competitors.
  • Leverage digital marketing to reach a wider audience.
  • Focus on delivering exceptional customer experiences.
  • Monitor and analyze marketing performance.

StoryBrand Framework is also an effective marketing strategy that increases sales and creates an emotional attachment between the customer and the brand. To learn more, click here.

A significant trend in the marketing genre now revolves around social media marketing. If you are a marketer or business owner who wants to stay ahead of the competition in the social media landscape, read the article on Lead Diligently about the

 Future of Social Media Marketing and AI Trends.

Finance and Accounting:

Finance and accounting handles financial management, budgeting, financial analysis, bookkeeping, and reporting. It ensures the effective management of financial resources and compliance with accounting principles and regulations.

Every business needs money. Even non-profit firms need cash to survive. “Financial Intelligence” Book by Karen Breman and Joe Knight with John Case is written for anyone in business who wants to understand the actual meaning behind financial figures. This book provides an understanding of accounting & economic principles and is an excellent resource for small business entrepreneurs.

Financial Intelligence Book for small business entrepreneurs

To increase finance and generate more revenue, develop a comprehensive financial plan that includes:

  • Revenue projections
  • Expense management, and
  • Cash flow forecasting
  • Conduct market research to identify untapped market needs
  • Focus on customer retention and upselling
  • Invest in marketing and advertising
  • Regularly monitor key financial metrics

To get more insight into profit-generating tactics and enhance the company’s financial status, One of the best business books for start-up entrepreneurs is “Profit First” by Mike Michalowicz. Click here to learn more about it.

Overhead and Product:

Overhead refers to the ongoing expenses and costs necessary for the operation of the business but are not directly tied to the production of goods or services. These expenses typically include rent, utilities, salaries, insurance, administrative, and other general expenses.

On the other hand, the product or service is the business’s core offering that generates revenue. The tangible or intangible output is created or delivered to customers in exchange for payment.

For strategic business growth following points should be considered:

  • Assess the profitability of your products
  • Assess the possibility of new product development 
  • Install a process for new product development
  • Install a Customer Service Process that delivers an effortless experience and reduces refunds
  • Trim overhead wherever you can
  • Grow your company without increasing overhead


Culture is the shared values, beliefs, attitudes, philosophy, underlying assumptions, behaviors, and customs that have developed within an organization over time, hold it together, and contribute to its unique social, psychological, and emotional environment. Culture is unique for every organization and one of the hardest things to change.

Building a culture of excellence requires the following:

  • Strong company values & vision
  • People of solid character & competence
  • Effective strategies & plans
  • Intense focus & effort with deliberate execution
  • Resources, support & encouragement
  • Accountability for performance & results
  • Individual, team & company growth

Culture is primarily influenced by the organization’s founder, executives, and other managerial staff because of their role in decision-making and strategic direction. For the positive and transformative cultural change in your organization

 visit this article on our website.

Business Planning & Turnaround:

Format and size your business plan to fit your specific situation and organization. Remember that your business plan should be only as extensive and in-depth as what you truly need for your particular business. 

While planning should be an integral part of every company, not every firm needs to develop a comprehensive formal business plan suitable for submitting to a potential investor, bank, or venture capital group.

How to develop a comprehensive formal business plan suitable for submitting to a potential investor, bank, or venture capital group

A business plan consists of key sections: 

  • Executive Summary
  • Company Description
  • Product/Service
  • Market Analysis
  • Strategy and Implementation
  • Management Team, and
  • Financial Analysis

These sections outline the business’s highlights, legal structure, offerings, market understanding, action plans, management expertise, and financial projections. A well-crafted business plan provides a strategic roadmap for success by incorporating these elements.

A turnaround typically occurs when a company faces significant difficulties, such as declining sales, financial losses, market challenges, or internal issues. The goal of a turnaround is to reverse these negative trends and bring the company back to a stable and prosperous position.

Turnarounds can be complex and challenging, requiring strong leadership, strategic decision-making, effective communication, and the entire organization’s commitment. 

It’s important to note that turnarounds can take time, and not all struggling companies can be successfully turned around. However, with a well-planned and executed strategy, a turnaround can allow businesses to overcome difficulties and regain stability and profitability.

Conclusion for Small Business Entrepreneurs:

In conclusion, effective leadership is crucial for small business entrepreneurs to navigate the challenges and drive success. By incorporating fundamental principles such as visionary thinking, disciplined execution, continuous learning, and fostering a positive work culture, entrepreneurs can inspire their teams and create a thriving business environment. 

The ability to adapt to change, make strategic decisions, and lead with integrity sets successful entrepreneurs apart. Investing in leadership development and embracing these principles will fuel business growth and establish a strong foundation for long-term success. 

Paul Harstrom

These leadership principles for small business entrepreneurs serve as stepping stones to overcoming obstacles, seizing opportunities, and achieving their goals. 

Remember, leadership is not just about managing a business; it’s about inspiring and empowering others to reach their full potential. So, embark on your leadership journey, lead with purpose, and unleash the full potential of your business enterprise.

How LEAD Diligently Can Help You

Lead Diligently offers expert-led leadership development programs to help you build business executive skills & advance profitable enterprises.

We are on a mission to help our clients gain the clarity they need to wholly pursue their God-given purpose and grow profitable enterprises.


What is Level 5 Leadership?

Level 5 Leadership, as coined by Jim Collins in his book “Good to Great,” represents a unique blend of exceptional leadership qualities, with humility being a defining characteristic. 

Level 5 Leaders possess a deep sense of humility, putting the needs of their organization and team above personal ego. 

What is Small Business Entrepreneurship?

Small business entrepreneurship is the heartbeat of our economy, empowering individuals to take control of their destiny and make a difference in the world. It’s a thrilling journey where passionate individuals transform ideas into reality, embracing risks and challenges along the way. 

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