12 Essential Leadership & Management Skills

Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are a huge part of our nation’s economy, contributing to job creation, innovation, and overall growth. But not everyone has what it takes to run a successful SMB. You must have a clear vision, a sound business strategy, and effective leadership and management skills. In this article, we’ll break down the essential leadership and management skills that every SMB owner and manager should possess or develop to steer their businesses toward long-term success.

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1. Strategic Thinking

The first step to being a successful leader is having a clear vision for your company and a well-defined strategy and business plan for achieving it. Your vision provides direction and purpose for your team, while your strategy and business plan guide daily decision-making.

2. Communication Skills

Strategic thinking is useless without strong communication skills. You need to be able to effectively communicate your vision and strategy to your team, otherwise, they still won’t be on the same page.

A big piece of successful communication is listening to the feedback you receive from employees, customers, and stakeholders. Show them that their opinions matter and affect overall business operations. This back-and-forth communication fosters trust and collaboration within your team and customer base so that you can better understand and respond to their needs.

3. Decision-Making

SMB owners are responsible for making final decisions, even when they have limited information or resources

Strong decision-making skills involve gathering relevant data, analyzing potential outcomes, and making informed choices. Effective leaders are decisive but willing to adapt and learn from their decisions, whether they succeed or fail. And of course, they also take responsibility for their decisions, even when they have negative consequences.

4. Delegation

Most small business owners are passionate about what they do and are deeply invested in the success of every operational task. But as a business grows, you can’t handle every task yourself.

Delegating responsibilities to capable team members is essential. Find employees you can trust so that you can delegate with confidence in your team’s abilities. You’ll find that delegation also empowers your employees, making them more valuable to your company and increasing their productivity and loyalty.

5. Time Management

Effective leaders and managers know how to use time wisely. The old saying, time is money, rings true. Prioritize tasks, set goals, streamline processes, and delegate to achieve successful time management skills.

Procrastination holds no space in running successful businesses. If you are putting off something that can be done by someone else, assign it to them with a clear deadline. And if it’s something only you can do, give yourself a deadline to stay on track.

6. Adaptability

Business is never static. If you fail to adapt, you’ll soon find that the world has moved on without you and your competitors are driving you out of business. Successful leaders and managers are adaptable and open to new ideas and approaches, even seeking them out intentionally.

7. Conflict Resolution

Successful business leaders need to know both how to resolve unhealthy conflict, and how to guide their teams to healthy conflict. Unhealthy conflict is toxic: it makes people feel uncomfortable at work, it creates divisions, and ultimately makes your business less effective. But good conflict occurs when people trust each other enough to be vulnerable and share their genuine differences in opinion—not so they can win an argument, but so that together they can arrive at the best solution for the organization.

8. Financial Literacy

A broad knowledge of your SMB’s financial health is crucial for making informed decisions and ensuring long-term sustainability. Leaders and managers should be familiar with financial statements, budgeting, cash flow management, and forecasting.

Staying on top of your finances will help you make necessary changes to your operation and business goals. Then, you can know when to apply for funding or increase your working capital to support business growth.

9. Digital Savvy

You don’t have to be Mark Zuckerberg, but if you’re starting a business today, it’s essential that you are digitally savvy. Regardless of your industry, whether you’re B2B or B2C, there are potential customers online waiting for you. Being digitally savvy means knowing which opportunities to pursue and having a sense of the technologies and strategies that are available to be successful. Most of the time, you should be delegating this work to the real experts on your team, but the more you understand about digital, the better.

10. Customer Focus

Many of the most successful businesses have one thing in common: An obsession with customer satisfaction. Create a culture in which your customers matter (to do this, start by making sure your employees feel valued), and seek feedback from customers so that you know when you’re hitting the mark, and when you’re falling short.

By continually improving products or services to exceed customer expectations, you’ll create brand loyalty. Sarita with S’Mac was able to do this and now has a customer base that supports her through ups and downs.

11. Creative Problem Solving

Sooner or later you’re going to hit roadblocks that seem immovable. Or you’re going to need to innovate, but you won’t be sure where or how. Mastering the creative problem solving process (or finding a vendor or contractor who can lead you through it) is a proven way to remove roadblocks and find innovative solutions for any problem.

12. Networking

Not all CEOs have outgoing personalities. However, building a strong professional network can open doors to valuable opportunities for your company.

Effective leaders and managers invest time in networking, attending industry events, and connecting with peers, mentors, and potential collaborators. Even if it doesn’t come naturally, networking can provide insights, partnerships, and support when you need it most.


Small business success is never guaranteed. But you can increase your chances if you master these skills. And if, along the way, you find that you need funding for a growth opportunity, check out the options here at Biz2Credit.

Learn about the Biz2Credit financing process

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