By Tessa Greenspan & Nanette Wiser

These times call for good leaders in business and our communities, at ALL levels.

I read with interest the research study conducted by the The Center for Good Leadership. I could relate to their findings that great leaders consistently possess these ten core leadership skills: integrity, ability to delegate, clear communications, self-awareness, gratitude, learning agility, influence, empathy, courage and respect.

At my speaking engagements, people often ask me how did I learn to lead with love and laughter? In my book, ‘From Outhouse to Penthouse,” I talk about my journey from dirt poor to owner of Sappington Farmers’ Market and beyond.

I tell them: “I watched. I listened. I learned to tell myself what to do based on observing good and bad leaders, and aggregating sound strategies for success. Then I surrounded myself with good people.”

Knowledge is power, and is the foundation of good leadership at home and work. Always continue learning. “I went to night school since the age of 23. I took classes on anything that I thought would help me, including accounting, marketing, advertising and public relations.”

Think outside the box. Good leaders know that if you engage and entertain your customers, more will follow. “I had a train installed that circled the store above the aisles. The kids loved it, and their mothers did too. We added pieces of wood on the flat car of the train where I would write the daily special. People brought family and friends to see the train.”

Good leaders make their business part of a community and give back. “Think of your business as a gathering place, and be part of the community. We organized fun community events with prizes and even host celebrities, even radio shows live form the store. I had a mannequin outside the store costumed for every occasion, an elf on St. Patrick’s Day, an Easter bunny, a scarecrow at Halloween.  We did health screenings at the store, and so much more.”

Leaders respect and support their multicultural staff and customers. “When I realized there were  30,000 Bosnians living in the St. Louis area, I found an importer in New York who carried Bosnian food and welcomed these new immigrants into the store by stocking their favorite produce and products. I advertised in their language in their papers. After all, food is what unites us.”

Every employee, every job matters.” I made sure my employees looked forward to coming to work. The entire store would erupt in applause when I wished them a happy birthday or announced a good deed they had done on the PA. We created a profit-sharing plan, and made sure everyone had a say in the business. We trained them to learn other jobs and to continue improving their skills with education and classes. We opened doors for them to expand their horizons. And they grew our business with their good ideas and excellent customer service.”

Like seasons, leadership must change with the times be they fat and green or lean and gray. Here are some other suggestions.

  • Lead by example and communicating with respect are essential skills for good leaders.
  • Learn from your mistakes.
  • Never underestimate yourself. Be a risk-taker.
  • Cry in private, smile in public and never quit.
  • Look at the larger life picture of individuals to make them more satisfied employees.
  • Practice attention, presence, and availability with employees who are suffering
  • Explain your ideas and ask for feedback. People respond better when they understand the rationale of decisions and can trust the person or authority setting the rules.
  • Lead with empathy and a welcoming, genuine tone of voice to let the person know you care.
  • Delegate effectively to build trust with your team; don’t micro-manage.
  • Use social media carefully to inspire and unify your team.
  • Communicate regularly one-to-one, in short staff meetings, brief emails and engage feedback.
  • Reward your team appropriately both with public praise and other incentives.

Tessa Greenspan is a motivational speaker, author and entrepreneur. She can be contacted at [email protected]. Nanette Wiser is a multimedia journalist and media consultant.