Whether it is a question from the audience at a speaking engagement, on the floor of a tradeshow/expo, or simply from one of the many great employees of PayProTec or 212 Media Studios looking for ways to improve their “game,” I am asked this one question more than any other: “What makes a great leader?”

Like you, I have a few dozen books in my library on this topic of leadership. I would be telling you a lie if I said I had read them all cover to cover or even remember a few bullet points from each book. What I am going to share with you today is my simple approach to leading in business, coaching a team, or parenting a family. This approach is neither a secret nor a magic cure-all to any current struggle you may be dealing with. This approach is more about the daily grind of being consistent and being true to what you believe in.

The easy way to remember the idea of leadership is to break it down into separate words. The first is Leader. The second being Ship. Profound, eh?

What is a leader? A leader, by definition, is simple: A person or thing that leads.

What is a ship? Again, a ship, by definition, is simple: A large vessel.

So I ask you the million dollar question: What do you call the leader of a large vessel or ship? Correct, the answer is The Captain.

By definition, a The Captain is: A person who is at the head of or in authority over others; chief; leader. The Captain of a ship has many responsibilities, including, but not limited to: a safe and efficient workplace, crew management, accounting, payroll, inventory, and, most importantly, NAVIGATION.

In the example of a smaller business, company department, or family setting, the captain will execute all of the day-to-day functions listed above. The challenge in this type of setting is not letting these daily tasks overtake your ability to NAVIGATE. (I promise to stop capitalizing the word NAVIGATE from here on, but want you to make sure to grasp this concept.) A captain cannot procrastinate when it comes to navigation. This is the single biggest reason ships sink!

In the example of a larger business operation that can afford to hire employees to handle the day-to-day tasks, the captain has more freedom to dream and navigate. This does not mean that the captain loses the responsibilities above, but rather the captain now has managers of these functions that report daily or weekly as to how they are being handled for him. The outcome of how these daily activities either succeed or fail are still 100% pinned on the captain in terms of who is to blame should they fail.

Either way, small business or big business, the captain is held accountable. Period. If you want to lead, then you are in charge of it all. Good or bad. Too many times I hear people in leadership positions (many who should not be leaders) whine and cry about why sales are not good, products are not being delivered on time, vendor relationships are not trustworthy, or banks are not lending enough money. HELLO! You are the leader; figure it out. Or do yourself and your company a favor and go find a leader who can. That may sound harsh. That is reality. Truth.

Let’s finish this discussion by talking about navigation. What is navigation and how can you change your situation by focusing on this word for the next 90 days? Navigation is the art or science of plotting and directing the course of a ship. Nothing more. Nothing less.

Where do you want your business to be in 3 years?

What are the steps it takes to get there?

Do you need to bring on a capital partner to accomplish this?

What types of technologies exist today that can streamline this process to maximize efficiency?

These 4 questions are a good start when you begin to plot the course for your business/ship. When was the last time you sat down and honestly answered these types of questions? Do you have them written down? Are there specific goals that are tied to each question? This is no time to let anxiety or fear take over your thought process. Today is the day to take action on how you will navigate as the captain over the next 90 days. These next 90 days will define the direction of your ship and what waters you will find yourself sailing the next 3-5 years or more.

The more time a captain spends plotting, preparing charts, going over weather patterns, potential dangerous situations, and proven tactics that have produced effective results, the better the chance of success the ship and everybody on it has. My advice to anyone I come in contact with is to find a good captain. Find that leader that can cast vision, execute strategic plans, and navigate the seas of your industry.

Spend less time mopping floors and worrying about what your signage looks like. Spend more time dreaming of what you want to be when you grow up and what daily activities need to be checked off your to-do list to make those dreams a reality.

Not sure where to start? Need help? My email is always on.

Happy sailing, Captain.

-Matt Hoskins, President of PayProTec & 212 Media Studios