Last month (CB Feb., pg. 10) I wrote about making a choice to NOT participate in a recession. That’s a great idea, but how do you do it? It takes more than just the idea. It takes leadership. Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. For some, it comes naturally. For others, it doesn’t. But great leaders have some common traits.

In the book, Executive Intelligence: What All Great Leaders Have, author Justin Menkes, Ph.D, identifies three specific aptitudes that he says makes a great leader. These aptitudes include the ability to:

Accomplish tasks — Successful leaders have a guiding vision. In pursuit of that vision, they question assumptions, anticipate consequences, and are great at identifying problems and solutions.

Understand people — They can recognize underlying agendas, gauge the conflicts these may have with each other and with the vision/mission, then draw conclusions and make decisions that steer the organization toward fulfillment of its strategic objectives.

Understand yourself — Leaders recognize their own mistakes, learn from them, and work to minimize their impact on the company. They seek out constructive criticism and use it to make adjustments.

To summarize, for you to be a great leader you have to be goal-oriented and cognizant of the world around you. As Sir Isaac Newton said when defining the laws of motion, every action has an equal and opposite re-action. Good leaders understand how that applies to economic and human resource decisions. They understand not only their employees, but customers as well. And they have to admit they’re not perfect.

I also believe there is a distinct difference between a leader and a boss. Leaders don’t just tell people what to do. They show them. They keep them informed and motivated and excited. They create an environment where people want to work, want to be successful, and want to grow.

You CAN choose not to participate. But, as the leader of your company, you must face reality. And the reality is that today, small businesses are getting creamed, especially those businesses in the new construction segment of the industry.

With residential new construction (RNC) virtually non-existent, many contracting firms in that segment are being forced to change strategies to survive. More often than not, such changes involve moving into the residential service/replacement sector.

Sound familiar? New construction is a very different business than service/replacement and the RNC contractors who move into this segment face many challenges.

And they can create many challenges for everyone else.

For example, according to Ed Miller, vice president and general manager of Snyder Heating and Air Conditioning, Jacksonville, FL, RNC companies moving into service/ replacement have no idea how to price their jobs and are negatively impacting the marketplace. He adds that pricing has always been an issue and this influx of RNC contractors is making it worse.

Tim Welch, sales manager for Peaden Air Conditioning and Heating in Panama City, FL, concurs. In addition, he says this influx of companies into the marketplace creates a greater need for training and education. Peaden management takes great pride in how they keep their people at the top of their game through a wide variety of training and educational programs. And that pays off for them.

Welch told me that it is one of the reasons that Peaden has a strong leadership position in Northern Florida.

These firms are two examples of companies that recognize the issues around them, understand the strengths and weaknesses in not only their people, but themselves too, and based on that, make decisions that keep their companies strong. Whether you are in the service/replacement or the RNC sector, do you have these traits? Does your company?

If the answer is yes, then you CAN choose to ignore the recession and still lead your company to greatness. Why not make it so?