Basic Instincts: 10 Leadership Acts You Shouldn’t Have to Think About

It’s once again time for my annual trip to Chicago next weekend, for my SOBCon event.    The thought of that trip always brings back memories of a conversation I had a few years ago at the event with my good friend and fellow blogger Chris Garrett.

In that conversation, we had a (very) deep discussion about the things that were “like breathing” to me – those things that define who I am, but I rarely thought about, because they come completely naturally.  I ended up writing a post about it afterwards,  and that concept, “like breathing”,  has stuck with me in a powerful way ever since, especially when it comes to my beliefs about great leadership.

Why?  Because I believe that great leaders possess a set of instincts that transcend any premeditation, or drawn out meditation, or deliberate choice.

Certain acts just happen.   They shouldn’t be thought about.  

It’s like breathing.

Which acts am I talking about?   There are 10 that are fundamental to me.

1)  Courtesy  –  Words like “Please” and “Thank You“, and all the other common courtesies are such a meaningful foundation to great leadership.

2) Generosity – I’m not talking about money here.  It’s generosity of time and spirit, and  possession of an open heart (and mind).

3) Humility –  It’s never about us. The natural inclination to “credit them, blame yourself”.

4) Empathy –  If we can’t put ourselves in the other person shoes, we can’t lead them.

5) Consideration –  It’s the Golden Rule at work – “do onto others….

6) Bravery – Decisions get made. Risks are taken.  Leadership requires bravery almost every single day.

7) Compassion – When it comes to people, we know when enough is enough, and things aren’t working.  It takes compassion to do the right thing, for everyone.

8) Integrity –  The truth, and nothing but the truth, comes out of us.

9) Civility –  Anger stays controlled, verbal abuse is not tolerated (or used), and dirty laundry stays private.

10) Contrition – When we’re wrong, or we made a mistake, we say so –  and if we need to apologize, we do.

Think of a person that can act in these ways, absolutely naturally, without thinking about it.

Think then of how it would be like to work for, or follow, this person.

If it’s THAT natural, then the acts can be fully trusted.   The leader is solid as a rock.   They will show the way.

It’s like breathing.

And greatness will follow.

Lead well!

(Photo by Bigstock)











  1. says

    Terry, great post and excellent list, both to reflect on and embrace.

    Thank you for your work

    Best regards,

  2. says

    Thanks for sharing these, Terry! Terrific reminders. They’re all about remembering to serve other people first. Then things just seem to work out. 🙂


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