Advice on Leadership from FirstLight CEO Jeff Bevis
Leaders are all around us. We vote for leaders, we employ and are employed by leaders, and for those with the ability to identify opportunities and act upon them, we become leaders. With more than 24 years in the franchising business, one of the most common questions I am asked is, “How can I become a great leader?”
“A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, whereupon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being directed from behind.” — Nelson Mandela
The first bit of advice I give when asked what qualities are necessary for one to become a great leader is this: you must be able to see the entire picture. Generals do not lead from the front lines, but from vantage points where information can be attained, decisions made and action initiated. Smart leaders lead with eyes and ears wide open. Only when you are able to see, assess, and analyze a situation are you able to seize opportunities and take control the way a leader would. This is especially true in business, and even more so in franchising.
“The best kind of leader: one who creates independence, not dependence.” – Gloria Steinem in her 1992 book Revolution From Within
As a leader it’s important to ensure that the decisions you make and the way you lead empowers others to be leaders themselves. You see, effective leaders are actually teachers. This is also a lesson in efficiency because the more independent you make those who follow you, the more time you can spend doing more, achieving more, and setting and reaching new goals. In many ways this is what franchising is all about—leaders empowering leaders—and this approach to leadership in business is what has helped make FirstLight and it’s franchisees so accomplished.
“The leader can never close the gap between himself and the group. If he does, he is no longer what he must be. He must walk a tightrope between the consent he must win and the control he must exert.” — Vince Lombardi
This may be the most difficult achievement for any leader to make. The best leaders care greatly for those who follow them, but never to the point where their professional judgment is compromised, ultimately leading to poor decisions for the business and the team. So how do you walk this tightrope? The best advice I can give is that every group dynamic is unique unto itself, and every leader must exert the right amount of control and distance to maximize results among that group, all the while ensuring a sense of teamwork and unity never dies. Accomplishing this, my friends, is what will define you as a leader.
Leaders are all around us taking control, seizing opportunities, and empowering those they lead with the skills to become leaders themselves. No matter what business you are in and no matter your goals, being a leader is in you. My only question is, from one leader to another, “How will your leadership be defined?”