The First Step to Leadership

Couple at the beach

The first step to leadership is voluntarily getting people on board with your vision. 


According to Merriam-Webster  –

transitive verb

to offer or bestow voluntarily

In my experience, I have found leadership to be counterintuitive and awkward at times.   I used to hope that if had a positive, caring relationship with them, they would follow.   That worked a little.  That method reminds me of cupping some water at the bottom of a sliding board and seeing how much of that water I can push up the slide.- a little.

And, of course, I’ve tried “my or the highway” and “please.” 

But now those days are over.  I’ve cracked the code! 

In this article, I will give specific examples of entrepreneurial leadership that can be applied immediately.   

Though the content below is written for a painting company, the information can easily be applied to other small businesses, especially in the home industry.

The First Step To Leadership Is Finding The Code To Crack

The first step of leadership is listening

Businesses in all industries struggle to find and keep good help. 

Often, new people come in with great enthusiasm and a strong desire to impress, only to see it wane as fast as the moon.

Whether you hire a subcontractor or an employee, they are both eager to express how they are team players and will be an asset to your company.

 In turn, the owner hopes this is the case and doesn’t offer any incentives.

Under the happy talk during the interview is something closer to:

Subs want to know:

  1. How much do I get paid for a particular job?
  2. When do I get paid?
  3. How much money can I make off the job?
  4. Will you treat me with respect?   


Employees have similar concerns:

  1. How much do I get paid?
  2. When do I get paid?
  3. Any benefits?
  4. Is this a good place to work?
First step Of Leadership is Listening

What you want:

  1. Profitable jobs
  2. Staff following the franchise best practices.
  3. Happy Customers
  4. Happy staff
  5. Short checkout lines and green lights


As you can see, there is only one similarity between what the small business owner wants and what the worker wants, i.e. a good work environment.

 Most people will follow the rules initially.  However, their enthusiasm will wane without a satisfying reward or incentive.   

The first step to leadership is to buy breakfast

Few things are better than buying breakfast for a worker you want to lead.

So, turn off your phone, and give the individual you are trying to lead your undivided attention.

Be genuine in your interest in getting to know them.  Ask follow-up questions.  

You are searching for things that can get them enthusiastic, nostalgic, and thinking about things or places they want to do or see in the future. 

Eventually, turn the question to something such as “Is there a place like to go on vacation? Perhaps a place you would like to go on vacation but haven’t?  What would you want to do for fun if you had a week off?

What does this have to do with leadership?  This is the true first step in leadership.

Some Famous Quotes to Chew on at Breakfast

“Leadership is nothing more than influence.” – John Maxwell’

Influence means not telling someone to do something but rather a voluntary act.  The person you are trying to influence must believe they have chosen to buy in on their own accord.  In return, they will get what they want.  

In essence, this is capitalism.  A buyer believes that whatever product or service they purchase is more valuable than the cost.  It’s a voluntary transaction.

In our painting company example, the crew leader believes what you offer is more valuable than what you are asking.  

Once this happens, it has great potential to turn into a fun game. 


“You can get everything you want in life if you just help others get what they want.”  – Zig Ziglar. 

You only get others what they want by asking,  creating a path, and assisting.   Now that we have asked, it’s time to show a path and take your first step into leadership!

The first step to leadership is showing them a path

The goal is to find a reward, such as a family vacation spot, golf getaway, or deep-sea fishing trip, that you will pay for if specific benchmarks are achieved.

Are you asking me to buy a bunch of vacations?  I’ll go broke! 

You might be right.  And if you have poor- average-performing crews, you probably can’t even afford to take your vacation.

If you had good -outstanding crews, could you:

  • Charge more? Cornell University found that for every one point, Google reviews improved, hotels could raise their prices by 11%.
  • Sleep better?
  • Enjoy being a business owner?
  • Get more repeat and referral customers?
  • Close more jobs because you can’t stop bragging about your crews?

The answer to all these questions is a resounding YES!


“How much are you suggesting I spend?”

Less than what you will get out of it.  Getting better results from the crew leader, their crew can generate tens of thousands of dollars of profit and one hell of a reputation.   

Experts Agree The First Step to Leadership is Listening

“How do you propose I get started?”

First, the person you are trying to influence must pick the reward.  The more you suggest or try to steer the reward in a particular direction, the less likely it will feel theirs.  If the reward is too great, let them go to plan B.

You want the reward to recur year after year.  The best game builds and never ends.

For example, if the crew leader chooses a vacation in Sarasota, send four different Airbnbs to Sarasota and let him pick.  If you are enthusiastic about their trip, it will solidify in their mind that this is real and get them on board.

Avoid a slow start by giving them the first night free.  This way, they have something to build on.

If the game doesn’t start fun, it has little chance of becoming fun. 

Leadership Starts With Making The Challenge Fun

Now, we have to have a measurable goal for every four, 5-star customer reviews a crew leader gets, they earn an additional night at the Airbnb.

What is a Google review worth?

According to Revlocal

  • One review can increase conversions by 10%.
  • With 100 reviews, the conversion rate could increase by as much as 37 percent.
  • With 200 reviews, 44 percent increase in conversion rate.


If the crew leader is enthusiastic about their reward. In that case, they will be very open to suggestions on maximizing the customer’s experience and their chances of getting a five-star review.


As you can see, there is a balancing act.  In this case, the crew leader values the prize over the requirement.  And the opposite is true for you.   You value the requirement over the award.

Bribing is not part of leadership but I tried it anyway

Why not give people money and skip the game?

  Cash motivates all of us.   But we also enjoy dreaming and seeing those dreams manifest.  In my experience, I have found that monetary rewards did not motivate crew leaders.  Why?  My speculation would be some combination of the following:

  1. It was not a fun game to play.  No dream is attached for a $50.00 or $100.00 reward for getting a 5-star Google review.
  2. They didn’t think the effort was worth the reward.
  3. The idea was not their own.
  4. I will never be informed if I get a 5-star review.

Ten reasons I tripped after taking my first leadership step

I picked the reward.  I should have taken the time to ask what they wanted.

Dreams will wither quickly if progress is made too slowly.  I have made this mistake too many times.  Big rewards for big goals were never achieved.

I didn’t support the person(s) enough.  I set the goal and left it up to them to achieve it.  I should have reminded and encouraged them and helped them achieve it.

Instead, the lack of progress toward achieving the goal led to abandonment.

In my scenario of the sub-contracting crew leader, I should:

  1. Let him choose the place he wants to stay under a specific budget.
  2. Start the game with one free night.
  3. Provide momentum by giving multiple opportunities to get some easy Google Reviews.
  4. Provide a business card with a QR code that takes the customer to the Google review site.
  5. Teach him easy ways to exceed customers’ expectations.
  6. Cheer him on after every Google Review.
  7. Have the game never end
  8. Increase the budget (reward) next year and give the first night free.
  9.  Never make the game harder. Don’t be a jerk. 

The Real First Step In Leadership

A crew leader getting you 24 or more 5-star Google reviews is worth far more than a $3,000 vacation at Airbnb.  You have a crew committed to excellence worth $ 10,000s of dollars in net profit.

Your first step in leadership is to spend time and get to know the people in your company and what they like to do.  Next, attach what they want with your goals and ensure the perceived value is more significant for the person you are trying to influence. 

Your next first step is to make the game fun and attainable and show that the person is moving toward that goal at a pace that encourages them to work even harder.  If a crew leader only generates 1 Google review a month, momentum will decrease.  If they are getting 2-4 a month, it’s working.  Congratulations!  You have taken the first step in leadership.