We pondered that question ourselves last week and asked some of Everett Community College's business management students to share their answers.
Here is a sampling of some their perspectives, from managing employees to responding to change.
• "The greatest challenge is bringing up your entire team to someday be leaders themselves," said Mark Weeks of Lake Stevens.
• "To have the resilience to bounce back from mistakes and downfalls and come up with new ideas to recover and fix problems," said Jamie Alarcon of Mount Vernon.
• "Leading people to embrace change -- managing change is essential to success in any organization," said Chris Dott of Marysville.
• "Getting your employees to take ownership of the project as if they were online competing or their reputation was on the line," said Carlos Veliz Jr. of Everett.
• "Need to be able to trust your team to do the task and provide them with the tools to let them do their job," said Shawna Stout of Marysville.
• "Handling stress and changing situations while keeping a positive outlook and motivating employees to perform and create an environment that breeds success," said Cade Carlson of Arlington.
• "Being humble enough to want and accept criticism on your performance as a leader so you can do better," said Celeste Becker of Camano Island.
We agree with each of our students' conclusions and would add one more -- the challenge of creating a team of creative thinkers within your company.
Last year, IBM conducted a survey of 1,500 CEOs from 60 countries and 33 industries "who believe that more than rigor, management discipline, integrity or even vision -- successfully navigating an increasingly complex world will require creativity."
We concur with the results of this survey and would go one step further: Creativity skills are even more critical for the small businesses than for larger businesses, given the rapid change we are seeing in so many industries.
We need to teach people these skills. Our entire school system, including higher education, needs to do a much better job teaching and supporting creative thinking.
The following story from the business author, Daniel Pink, brings into focus the challenge before us.
Pink writes, "The late Gordon MacKenzie, a longtime creative force at Hallmark Cards, once told a story that quickly entered the folklore among designers. MacKenzie was a public-spirited fellow who often visited schools to talk about his profession. He'd open each talk by telling students he was an artist. Then he'd look around the classroom, notice the artwork on the walls, and wonder aloud who created the masterpieces.
"'How many artists are there in the room?' MacKenzie would ask. 'Would you please raise your hands?'
"The responses always followed the same pattern. In kindergarten and first-grade classes, every kid thrust a hand in the air. In second-grade classes, about three-fourths of the kids raised their hands, though less eagerly. In third grade, only a few children held up their hands. And by sixth grade, not a single hand went up. The kids looked around to see if anybody in the class would admit to what they'd learned was deviant behavior."
We need to create more "artists" and creative thinkers to support a thriving culture of entrepreneurship for the future.
We want to hear from you. What do you think is the biggest challenge to become a great business leader? Send your thoughts to entrepreneurship@ everettcc.edu.
Pat Sisneros is the vice president of College Services at Everett Community College. Juergen Kneifel is an associate faculty member in the EvCC Entrepreneurship program.
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