I’m a leadership junkie. I’ve always been interested in why people follow the lead of certain others, both in the workplace and in everyday life.

Tree care, like any business, requires solid leadership in order to be successful. It starts at the top with the owner of the company. It then filters down to the crew leader on individual jobs. The fact is, strong leadership from crew leaders and managers will almost always result in increased safety and efficiency. Leaders inspire people to achieve great things. This can happen in any company, big or small.

So, what goes into good leadership? Do you have a leadership void at your company? Here are some general tips that could help at your operation:

Have a plan. And a backup plan. And a backup plan for the backup plan.

Keep documents, inventories and notes. It’s vital to document both good and bad incidents and behaviors, especially when it comes time for performance reviews. Well-organized records can help you track the progress of your business and prepare accurate financial statements and reports. How can you know what equipment to buy and when to do so if you don’t have a crystal-clear picture of your company’s finances? Also, ground everything with data. Back up all your decisions, opinions and thoughts with hard, objective facts and evidence.

Leadership is more work, not less. If you aspire to be a leader, understand that such a position should create more work for you, not less. Leaders lead by example. How can you expect someone to be inspired by you if you’re not the first person on the job and the last one to leave? (Depending on your situation, this may not always be practical or feasible.) The point is that if people see you slacking off, they’re likely to do the same. That’s the complete opposite of good leadership. Being a leader is a responsibility – expect and demand more from yourself than from employees. A leader’s foundation is strong and unbreakable.

Set standards and practice equal treatment. Say your best climber isn’t wearing the proper PPE – but this is the first incident for this person. Several of the people you supervise observe this break in protocol. What do you do? A good leader will reprimand the climber and ensure the proper PPE is present. A bad leader would give the climber a pass, since that person is your best and it’s never happened before. Treat everyone the same, regardless of skill or experience level.

Leaders live balanced lives. We cover the importance of proper work/personal life balance often in the pages of Tree Services. This isn’t on accident. For the long term, leaders don’t let work, or their job, define them. They have balance in their lives. Family, personal mental health and happiness are always the top priority. Professional success follows from there. At the same time, leaders exhibit a passion and love for their job while on the clock. Positive attitudes are contagious. If you don’t love it, who will?

An eye toward the future is critical. One of the more important traits for a leader, in my mind, is the ability to think one step ahead of everyone else. This goes back to having plans in place. But thinking ahead can also mean looking ahead. The future of a business depends on vision and a willingness to not become out of date or obsolete. Use this concept of forward thinking when hiring people or even purchasing equipment – how will this person/tool not only help me now, but three years from now?

Make your own copies. The worst boss I ever had was someone who didn’t know how to do anything in the office. This person couldn’t answer the phone, use the computers or figure out the printer. Instead of bothering to learn, this person had their employees do it all. Especially in a small company, this is the worst example of leadership. Have humility, roll up your sleeves and get dirty with your staff. Educate yourself. Step out of your comfort zone.

Know yourself and be honest. If you’re good at resolving disputes, step in and resolve them. If there’s something you’re not good at, admit it and work on it. Also, don’t make excuses. If you make a mistake, own it and don’t pass the blame.