From freshly minted entrepreneurs to highly compensated dispensary owners, the world is brimming with leaders. But the latest installment of State of the American Manager, Gallup’s yearly report, states that only 1 in 10 people possess the talent that’s required of a CEO.

So, if 90 percent of people lack management skills, how can new leaders arrive – and thrive – in the cannabis industry?

Cannabis business owners are typically high-achievers because they excelled at something their company cares about. Or perhaps they were the brains behind a startup’s new product or service. But one thing’s for sure, none of them went to CEO school.


What Should Be the Top Priority?

The first thing the dispensary owner can do is to prioritize building and sustaining an incredible culture. Prioritizing culture means giving it your care and attention as the leader goes, and so goes the culture. Whether you lead a company of 10 people or 10,000 people, your values and behaviors will permeate the culture.

Knowing those values and aligning them with the culture you want to create is critical. The other important piece of building an incredible culture is not only to focus on the words that you’ll use for your core values but to identify the behaviors that reflect those values.

What will people see and hear that lets them know that this culture is real? And as the cannabis business owner, are you behaving in those ways? All the time? As a cannabis business owner, how do you avoid getting sucked into the minutiae of the job and putting leadership on the back burner?

Busily filling our schedules, booking appointments, and answering 10 (or 100) e-mails is the siren song of simplicity. It’s much easier to wrap our heads around a call we need to make this afternoon than it is to wrap our heads around global economic fluctuations, the impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI), or what our competitor is going to do next quarter.

The big, hairy, long-term issues that face our organizations are tough. And our brains don’t like them at all. So we often choose busyness instead of hard questions. We invoke our busyness as an excuse to get to a quick decision or action because we’re uncomfortable in the space between what we know and what we can’t yet know.

When we’re too busy, it’s often a sign that we’re uneasy, anxious, or unsure of what to do. Embrace the idea that leadership isn’t something you do; it’s someone you are. No one says, “You do leadership well.” They say, “You’re a great leader.” Every time you interact with someone, you’re leading.

The important thing is to show up as your best self as often as possible. Great leaders have gone through three big shifts in perspective and action. If you can understand these shifts and begin to integrate them into how you operate as a leader, you can vastly accelerate your journey toward great leadership.

The three (3) big shifts that happen for great leaders are:

  1. From doing to being. As a CEO, there are many things to do, but you’ve probably noticed that you’re not as productive as you used to be. Being a great leader is a long game. There are fewer check-it-off-the-list things to accomplish, fewer things you can say are done, and very few actions you take that don’t have multiple next steps in terms of communicating and building alignment.
  2. From knowing to understanding. It’s great to know, isn’t it? To have the answer, to see that endgame, to be able to add up the numbers, and be sure of the results. We like that. Our brains are wired for it. However, in uncertain times – which are pretty much all times – understanding and holding space for not knowing may be our best contribution as leaders.
  3. From reacting to responding. We prize quick reactions, especially in fast-paced environments like today’s companies and startups. We look for people who can give us quick answers so that we can keep things moving. There’s a place for that, but it’s generally not in the CEO’s office. Responding instead of reacting does not mean moving slowly. It means incorporating thought and foresight into your response.
    One of the challenging things about these shifts is that they’re not only shifts, they’re expansions.

Find the Best Cannabis Industry Advice

As a cannabis business owner, you will be called upon to do, know, and react. But, more often, you will find yourself needing to understand and respond. The trick is figuring out which one is in what measure and in what circumstances.

As the leader of your cannabis business, whom should you turn to for advice? Your chief human resource officer, trusted members of the senior management team, or someone else?

Lonely at the top” is real. There are issues and decisions you face as a cannabis business owner that you can’t discuss with anyone in your company: tough personnel decisions, external challenges to the business, and your internal struggles. These types of issues affect those around you in ways that make sharing your thoughts with them impossible.

Identifying a person or group of people outside the company to whom you can turn when you need to talk through things will save you time and headaches. We all need that person who will give us the look that says, “You know what you need to do here; you’re just avoiding it.”

Having a coach or mentor who will remind you of your own highest aspirations as a cannabis business owner, especially when it’s hard, can accelerate your evolution toward being the kind of leader you hope.

Equally important are your friends, family, spouse, or partner – the community that supports you and from which you draw strength. It’s crucial to make time for them. They are many times, your most important reflection partners.

Is there a silver bullet or magic pill to transform someone into a great leader? We’re all achievement-oriented, results-driven, successful people and we like to get things done. The problem is that leadership is never done. Leadership is a personal practice – and it takes lots of practice.

Being a great leader is work. Every day is different. Each person you encounter creates new opportunities and challenges for you. Every decision you make, every e-mail you write, and every conversation you have is a new opportunity to express your best self (or not!).

Being a leader and learning how to be a better leader is not for the faint of heart…especially if you’re a cannabis business owner. No silver bullet, no magic pill – just good old-fashioned practice.

Let us know what you think.