How good a leader are you? If a recent survey of small business owners by The Alternative Board (TAB) is accurate, it seems that most small business owners are feeling pretty confident.

In fact, a whopping 95 percent of entrepreneurs polled believe their leadership skills are “above average.”

That doesn't mean there's no room for improvement, however.

When asked to identify the top areas in which they need to improve their leadership skills, entrepreneurs in the survey said:

  • Holding others accountable — 67 percent
  • Tending to my team's development — 51 percent
  • Delegating to others — 41 percent
  • Demonstrating a strong vision — 41 percent
  • Communicating clearly — 40 percent

What do small business owners think they’re doing well?

When asked to name their top leadership qualities, 47 percent believe they are positive, 45 percent say they are ethical, and 30 percent say they are confident. However, just 15 percent think they are inspiring, a mere 16 percent think they are focused, and only 17 percent believe they are patient.

If you’re not sure where you need to improve your leadership skills, getting feedback from your team can help you pinpoint both your strengths and your weaknesses. You need to improve your leadership skills.

However, although the majority conduct performance reviews for their employees, more than half (55 percent) of small business owners surveyed admit they didn’t ask for feedback on their leadership performance from their key employees last year. In other words, they’re giving their employees feedback, but not getting any themselves. If you’re not comfortable asking your entire team for feedback, talking to your top managers to get their insights can be helpful. Just make sure they know you want them to be completely honest.

Small business owners in the study have a very clear idea of what they need to do. Half of the respondents believe their primary responsibility as a leader is fulfilling the company’s mission, vision, and goals. That’s far above the 21 percent who say “keeping customers satisfied” is their major responsibility. But while they value their role in driving the company’s success, small business owners are falling short in the day-to-day actions needed to achieve this.

That may be because small business owners are working long hours to handle all their responsibilities. More than half (54 percent) work in their businesses between 50 and 69 hours per week. This is a pretty likely indicator they're not delegating enough.

There’s an entrepreneurial truism that says—you can work on your business or in your business.

Working in your business means handling the day-to-day duties—and it’s easy to get caught up in this aspect of entrepreneurship. However, if you want your business to grow beyond the startup stage eventually, you need to prioritize working on your business. That means developing a strategic plan, outlining action steps to carry out that plan, and holding yourself and your team accountable for reaching the company’s goals.

When small business owners in the survey need guidance to improve their leadership abilities, most of them (46 percent) turn to a non-business advisor, while 41 percent rely on their business partner. In addition, 36 percent say business coaching is the most valuable type of leadership training a person can get.

If you think business coaching is beyond your budget, think again. SCORE mentors are experienced business people and entrepreneurs who provide free business consulting and coaching to small business owners, either in-person or online. Get matched with a mentor today.

About the Author(s)

 Rieva  Lesonsky

Rieva Lesonsky is president and CEO of GrowBiz Media, a custom content and media company focusing on small business and entrepreneurship, and the blog

CEO, GrowBiz Media
Business woman leading a meeting