Being a great leader doesn’t always come naturally. Small business owners and entrepreneurs often get started because of their passion and skills — in software development, marketing, finance or IT, for instance — but becoming a good manager or great leader requires it’s own unique skill set. Well, new year, new you, as the saying goes. Why not work toward being a better leader this year?

As the owner of your business you set the tone and create the company culture, and you set an  example for your up-and-coming leaders to follow.  No matter how talented your team is, you are still leading it, and the better you are, the better they will be. Be open to learning the skills and strategies that enable you to inspire and motivates others. The best leaders nurture talent, encourage innovation and foster creative thinking. Here’s how to be one of them:

Be transparent.

Be straight with your employees and, in turn, they will be more loyal and more understanding through your business’ ups and downs. Keep them involved in as many conversations as possible about the direction of the business, growth strategies and changes in workplace policies like flexible scheduling, bonuses and vacation time.  If they know where they stand within the company–and where the company stands within its market and industry–they will feel more secure and more engaged. Keeping your employees in the communication loop will help them feel unified as a team and committed to the company for the long-term.

Be flexible.

No one knows better than a business owner that things can change on a dime—a vendor is late with a critical component of your product, a winter storm cuts power to the manufacturing plant, your server gets hacked. You may have to brainstorm inventive work-arounds in the event of unexpected problems, but that’s the nature of a good leader—you don’t lose your cool when things start to fall apart—you get creative and you motivate others to help put the pieces back together.

Don’t micromanage.

You’re the owner, the CEO, the president. And in order to be effective as a leader you can’t also be overly involved with every employee’s performance. Aside from the fact that it is draining both physically and psychologically, you are also sending a message to your employees that you don’t trust them. And employees do better when they have have autonomy. Research shows that workers who believe they are free to make choices at work and be accountable for their own decisions are also happier and more productive. This is especially true, say experts, when the work is complex or requires a good deal of creativity.

Use a coach.

Guidance is one of the most important resources a leader can tap because as every CEO will tell you, it’s lonely at the top. Especially in a small business, when “the top” is often just you. Meeting regularly with a coach or mentor who doesn’t have an agenda and can give you objective, honest advice and feedback, is invaluable when it comes to effective leadership. Mentors and coaches aren’t the same however. If you feel you’re still learning and developing as a leader then a mentor is probably a better choice, as opposed to a coach. A mentor will help you develop your leadership skills and potential, and they are usually in it with you for the long haul.

A coach, on the other hand, generally works with you for a shorter period of time and is performance driven. In this case if your goal is to manage and lead more effectively and/or strategically, a coach with help you improve your skills, acquire new ones and enhance your performance.

Be a coach.

Part of being a leader is developing other leaders within your organization, so that they can focus more on the day-to-day while you focus more on the long-term version. That means acting as a coach for your rising leaders. In a small business there are usually just a few senior managers, so they may not have the bandwidth to be helping younger employees cultivate leadership capabilities. Instead, meet individually and regularly with your best talent to get feedback about what they need to help them learn and grow. Give them challenging assignments that enable them to hone their skills and learn new ones. And lead by doing. If you can model the traits of a compassionate, calm and curious leader, your employees will learn to lead that way too.

Reach Out to Other Leaders

Hatchbuck is not the first company I’ve started, but what’s unique this time around is the camaraderie I’ve built with other entrepreneurs working on amazing and inspiring projects in the heart of midwest tech.  Being part of St. Louis’ thriving tech scene and keeping our headquarters in the T-REX tech incubator in downtown St. Louis has been essential to our success. I am also a member of my local Entrepreneurs Organization chapter, which has been invaluable in connecting with other entrepreneurs.  Surround yourself with great leaders to grow professionally and personally.

As a business owner, you are a leader not just a boss or a manager.  The way you lead draws your employees to you, builds the culture of your business, and trickles down to cultivate better sales and customer service.  You cast the vision, so cast a great one.