The Biggest Obstacle to Good Business Leadership

This article was written by Jim Miley and published by Crossroads Professional Coaching.

Why can it seem so challenging to apply sound business management practices in your small business?

If you lead a small business, this question will likely resonate with you significantly.  All the NY Times Bestsellers and podcasts make it sound pretty simple.  You organize your activities and communications correctly, and everything works better.  Your staff responds, you’re knocking out goals and won’t remember the last time you thought about work in your “off time.”

But you read the book, listened to the podcast, and heard the TED Talk, and for some reason, have not managed to find the serenity all the authors are selling. Why is that?

It’s You!

I could blame it on something or someone else, but we need to focus on things we can control. Everything and everybody else is just a part of the business environment you are called to lead. You could make most of your current challenges go away, and within a few days, all you would have accomplished is replacing the old problems with new and more plentiful issues.

Nearly all the business leaders I encounter will express that people are the biggest challenge in their companies.  They all have the authority and ability to remove people from their employment, but simply replacing people to improve performance is rarely a clean solution.  People aren’t widgets that you install and remove like nuts and bolts.  Part of leadership is recognizing the unique obligation of handling people, human beings with hearts, minds, and souls. How do you manage people in your small business?

Since you’re the leader of the people, the proper place to start evaluating obstacles to business development is within yourself.

A highly regarded management consultant, Peter Drucker, famously claimed that “culture eats strategy for breakfast.”  The culture of your business starts with the tone at the top.  You are the most significant influence on how culture develops and how well your team will respond to the demands of the business.

Back to the NY Times Bestsellers and podcasters, many famous authors focus on management systems and tools.  A big challenge for you, the business leader, is navigating the human elements beyond simple behaviors.  With a nod to the colloquialism, you are not actually herding cats; they are people with ideas, feelings, and opinions.  You will benefit by working on your leadership skills in the interpersonal and soft skill spaces.

Challenge yourself to look in the mirror of your leadership.

How to Manage People in Small Business


Change will most often and most effectively start at the top.  You should demonstrate the behaviors and attitudes that you want to represent the culture you’re looking for.  If you want to strive for excellence, strive for excellence in your own production; if you desire collaboration and teamwork, demonstrate effective collaboration and work with teams; if you seek a customer-centric culture, prioritize the customer when you give direction.

Leaders often hope for change in their team while not being open to change themselves. Are you open to change?


You know how important your people are to your culture and how vital a strong culture is to business success. You know that people need to be engaged and feel they are a part of something meaningful to stay and be committed.

Hard deadlines and deliverables often obstruct soft activities like vision casting or personal attention. Are you prioritizing and making room for the critical soft activities in your business that foster a strong culture?


Culture and Strategy should not be opposed to one another. They are intertwined and, therefore, complementary elements of your business. Business books and podcasts often focus on processes, tools, culture, and employee engagement, but you need to work on both together.

It’s easy to focus on implementing your management operating system and forget that existing people are on the bus.  Are you sufficiently integrating your Culture with your Strategy with enough flexibility that your employees don’t believe you see them as nuts and bolts?

When a business leader evaluates priorities of where to focus to improve the business, the top priority is to look in the mirror.