Leadership is a potent combination of strategy and character. But if you must be without one, be without the strategy.
U.S. military leader
The dictionary defines a leader as a "guiding or directing head." A leader can be anyone, and
And what about each one of us? Can we all be leaders? We can if we have a worthy goal in mind and are not just pursuing selfish ends. We can if we are
When Jay Winik wrote his book,
April 1865: The Month That Saved America
, he was writing about the last month of the Civil War. He knew he would be retelling certain events that led to the Union victory, that he would have to do a lot of historical research, and that he had a compelling story to tell. What he didn't realize was that he would also find out a lot about what makes some people good at being
"At the end of my book, I included a panorama of what America would become in the 50
"Mark Twain, for instance, was thinking about going to Hawaii and thinking that perhaps, at some future date, he might be able to write a book. Thomas Edison had just been
Genius is divine perseverance. Genius I cannot claim nor even extra brightness, but
perseveranceall can have.
Leadership appears to be the art of getting others to want to do something you are convinced should be done.
They have a passion for what they do.
Passion means having a deep love, respect, and commitment for what you do
But all great leaders eventually find vocations they truly love. They are excited and enthusiastic about what they do, and they pass that on to those around them. Once a person discovers his or her passion in life, it becomes like a
In motivating people, you've got to engage their minds and their hearts. I motivate people, I hope, by example—and perhaps by excitement, by having productive ideas to make others feel involved.
They communicate and speak from the heart.
They are able to connect with people. The greatest leaders are the ones who are
They have goals and a vision.
They focus on what they want to achieve, establish priorities, and know what they have to do in order to keep moving forward. They always have a specific destination in mind. Their goals provide them with purpose and allow them to wake up each morning energized and looking forward to the
In the movie
Any Given Sunday
, Al Pacino, who plays the role of a head coach of a pro football team,
[One] characteristic a leader must possess is objectivity. He must be someone who is constantly referring back to his mission when problems come up. Someone who makes all his decisions based not on what he had for
breakfastor how he feels or whether he likes the person he's dealing with, but on whether it gets him closer to his vision or backs him off.
They achieve plans through their people, not for them.
There is an old saying that goes, "If you want something done right, do it yourself." That is the mantra of a perfectionist, not a leader. Leaders let their people do what they were
I start with the
premisethat the function of leadership is to produce more leaders, not more followers.
They are bone honest.
They say what they mean and they mean what they say. Jimmy Johnson, coach of the Dallas Cowboys, believes that this is the way to motivate people. Each year, during training camp, he has to encourage nervous, anxious rookies. So at the end of day, he'll tell each one about the good things they did on the field that day and say, "We think you can play here. We like you." And he means it. Says Johnson, "Sincerity is the most important part of positive treatment. The only thing
They maintain a sense of humor.
Humor breaks down barriers. I was conducting a seminar recently for a Fortune 500 company. At the company-wide meeting before the
Once you can
laughat your own weaknesses, you can move forward. Comedy breaks down walls. It opens up people. If you're good, you can fill up those openings with something positive. Maybe you can combat some of the ugliness in the world.
They cultivate awareness.
Leaders concentrate on the big picture, and all their actions are geared towards turning that picture into reality. They are often visionaries, and can see the great possibilities that can come from staying on the
Great leaders hire great people. Great leaders know their own weaknesses, and hire people whose strengths fill in the gaps. They're not interested in "yes men" or people who do nothing but make the leader look good. They want people who fill in any gaps and make the strongest team possible.
One measure of leadership is the caliber of people who choose to follow you.
—Dennis A. Peer,
Leaders are mentors and leaders have mentors.
When leaders have problems, they have a
They have a commitment to service.
Leadership should be born out of the understanding of the needs of those who would be affected by it.
They are constantly learning.
Leaders are readers. They read about their industry. They read about current events. They read about history. They read biographies of men and women who have accomplished much in their lives. They learn by taking action. Nothing teaches better than experience, and great leaders are constantly
Vincent van Gogh once wrote: "If you study Japanese art, you see a man who is undoubtedly wise, philosophic, and
The point is not that you paint the same blade of grass over and over again. The point is that by learning the art of painting the grass, you learn the whole art of painting. Great leaders are willing to put in the time necessary to draw the blade of grass before they try and learn the whole art of painting.
They have faith in themselves first.
Mark Twain once said, "Fear came knocking at the door, faith
easiestthing to be in the world is you. The most difficult thing to be is what other people want you to be. Don't let them put you in that position.
educator and writer
They deliver on promises, or they don't make them.
Great leaders do not make promises lightly. They know that they will
They are flexible. Great leaders know that there are always many ways to accomplish a task or reach a goal. If one way doesn't work, they will try another. They adapt to changing markets, products, and competition. They understand that their way isn't the only way, nor necessarily the best way. They are open to new ideas and input, and listen to all suggestions even if those suggestions come from unexpected sources.
The best way to have a good idea is to have a lot of ideas.
They are focused. Leaders get things done. They are people of action. Other people may say about a leader, "Sure, he can be abrasive (or whatever flaw he may have)—but he gets things done." Leaders don't just jump into action without thought; they evaluate situations and take calculated risks. They know that failure is always a possibility, but they aim straight for success.
Leadership, like swimming, cannot be learned by reading about it.
They are flawed, but they have diamond potential.
They know themselves. They gain respect by admitting their weaknesses, and they work toward improving those areas. Leaders who think they are perfect soon learn
They understand that recognition is a powerful motivator. Everyone needs praise and recognition. Leaders, like good parents, know that paying attention to their "children," and giving out praise—when it is deserved—is the most effective way to build confidence.
Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.
They expect excellence and push beyond. They expect the best from their people, and gently push them toward it. We don't always recognize our own capabilities. A great leader has the ability to see what others can't see in themselves and helps them cultivate those abilities.
They turn adversity into opportunity.
When things go wrong—and they do—they look for the lessons that can be learned. Some people see the difficulties in every opportunity, but great leaders see the opportunities in every difficulty. They experience depression and disappointment like everyone else, but they don't let those feelings overwhelm their
People seldom see the
haltingand painful steps by which the most insignificant success is achieved.
teacher and mentor
They have fun.
They know that life is short, and they are determined to live life to its fullest. They enjoy playing the game, and they know that means that sometimes you win, sometimes you lose. They thrive on the exhilaration of life's ups and
Have no energy and low
Have no vision.
Are willing to
Take credit for everything.
Are glued to their desks.
Care more about their commission than about their people.
Lack communication skills.
Don't stand behind their team.