We all need Big Hairy Audacious Goals to keep us and our supporters motivated, to give all players something to strive for. Sometimes goals are realized in completely unexpected ways.

Although I hadn't planned on building and leading a company when I began my design career, I love it and it was clearly a natural role for me. I have now set goals not just on growth but where I want to level off. The levelling part seemed far away until September 2007 when I was unexpectedly introduced by CAWEE member Judi Hughes to a man working on his retirement strategy. Bill has run his company for over 30 years, built a fantastic client-base gaining a ton of experience and knowledge. However, he wants to kick around with the grandkids more and play with his vintage cars. He wanted a way to reduce his load, letting someone else take the lead. Yet still make money for a few years and - most importantly - make sure his clients were well taken care of.

We hit it off right away. He liked me, my company and what I was doing. Our leadership styles and integrity matched well. I would have been happy just picking his brain for a couple of hours but he offered to come in to Rapport and bring his clients and brain. Of course I had to commit to certain things, give him Fridays off and figure out the practical side of almost doubling my business overnight. They were big decisions only I could make in the end. How would it effect my team? What would it do to my finances in the short term? Did his clients and the opportunity really fit with Rapport's BHAG? This was not in the plan.

We decided it was all feasible (thanks to Your Planning Partners and my existing team) and moved forward.

So now I have this 'employee' who's my Dad's age. He is a wonderful mentor and ran his own show for 30+ years, yet I'm his boss! However, the reason he chose me to take over his legacy is because he respects me as an artist AND a leader, and neither of us have big egos. Therefore leading him is easy.

Deciding what kind of leader to be presents its own challenges: are you aloof and all business; in the trenches up to your elbows, charismatic and inspiring? I wanted to be my nice self, inclusive and optimistic, yet authoritative. Things to consider:

What's your BHAG?
This is very important: what is your Big Hairy Audacious Goal? You, and everyone following you need something to lead / be lead to. You need a purpose, a peak, a defined thing to achieve. When you set goals ask for key players input and therefore their buy-in.

Manage your peeps.
Where do you draw the line between authority and friendship with the folks you spend most of your waking life with? How much business and personal detail do you discuss with staff? Then how do you deal with hard issues when they come up? I've been advised to draw my lines closer than I do but I love my people and can't help showing it. I'm close to them while keeping enough distance to make good business decisions. I've had a lot of black and white HR advice, but each team member needs different things from you as a leader. Be true to your style and what makes you comfortable, showing staff your confidence in them while remembering you're in charge makes staff and suppliers naturally respect you, and leading them that much easier.

Seek advice.
Despite an aversion to being told what to do, I was always blessed to have experienced people around me giving invaluable advice. The trick is to listen to the people you respect no matter what they do, then decide what to do about it. Look to the people you know – the VP of my first job gave great advice on managing clients. Seek out new mentors – look to the women of CAWEE who excel at something specific. Pay for expert advice. Consider creating a specific team of advisors. Keep in mind their advice is tempered by their own experience and personality, but chances are there's a gold-mine of knowledge you get to learn the easy way. Part of being a leader is deciding what to absorb, what to throw away and what to commit to working differently. My Yoda (a.k.a. Bruce) told me I'd have to stop designing if I grew this large. He was kind of right, but being aware I work very hard to make sure I sneak in design projects I really like.

Relish the responsibility of decisions
But, remember they don't only effect you. Suddenly I am responsible for at least four mortgages, four rents and a few children. Whether growing your company or leading a team of people, the decisions you make effect everyone involved. About clients, hiring, firing, marketing, purchasing, office space, business mergers, etc. Sometimes my staff ask me questions I think “... easy, why couldn't you decide that yourself.” But, the answer is it's not their decision to make. Think of the potential risks to the company. It is good (for all sides) to get team input as they are playing for you. However, in the end don't be afraid to put your foot down and say “this is how we're doing it.” Follow your gut and make the call.

Learn to juggle
One of the hardest things as a leader is juggling all the roles you have to play. I say delegate as much as you can, but you still do many different things that side-track you from your actual profession. Signing checks, HR, negotiating with clients, talking to suppliers, networking, etc. Many leaders really like being busy – I do. Sometimes if feels like everyone wants a piece of you. Schedule your time – even if in vague blocks like admin, planning and work-work – and stick to your schedule. Put one thing aside before moving on to the next so you can actually concentrate on it.

Pamper the leader
You know in the safety demonstration on airplanes where they tell you to put your own oxygen on first to make sure you are able to assist others? The same is true here. If you run yourself ragged you won't be capable of being a good leader.

Sometimes on the way to your BHAG you get detoured and find something even better. The point is to have one and believe in it. You'll sort the rest out. You'll lead the way.

Author's Bio: 

Before setting up her hive at Rapport, Faith buzzed about Toronto demonstrating exceptional skill at design and a natural flair for marketing and business. Following graduation from George Brown College, she spent six years working for Market Partners and then Jib Media as Designer and Art Director.

In 2001 Faith discovered a surprising joy in business when she set out as an independent. She built the firm steadily, in multiple roles, but being Creative Director makes her most happy. As Creative Director (and Queen Bee) she is able to apply her natural gifts of rapport and insight, placing her watchful eye on every creative item produced. She can be reached at faith@rapportinc.ca.