Great leadership lessons are the ones that stand the test of time because they become a part of who you are, and how you lead, every hour of every day.
In my 34 years in the business world, I’ve been fortunate to have had a chance to observe and work with great (and not so great) leaders, to read many excellent (and not so excellent) books about leadership, and gain many years of experience as a leader (and now entrepreneur, startup investor, and business consultant) myself, through both successes and failures.
Through all this I’ve walked away with many, many lessons about what makes a great leader, and I’ve written about them on this site for over 10 years (!) and 1,028 posts.
But 10 of them have been, and remain, my favorite leadership lessons – the ones that have “stuck” with me and are now a part of my daily practice. The ones that I consider to be critical to day-to-day excellence in leadership.
I present them in more detail below, and I invite you to dig a little deeper and click through my archives to the original post on each lesson. They are truly “oldies but goodies”. It was interesting for me, as I was preparing this post, to reflect on the time and context in which I had originally presented the lessons – during a period (2007-2009) where I was deeply engaged in my greatest leadership role and challenge, and at an equally challenging economic time – a few were written in the thick of our last “great recession” (see #8, particularly).
In the end, what worked then can and will work now, because I don’t even have to think about these 10 things any more. They’re just part of me. And soon, perhaps part of you too.
- Practice “Full Spectrum” management, where high performers get the recognition they deserve, AND underperformers either get coached or let go.
- Teach instead of just tell, by using repetition, consistency, plain English, common sense, and best of all, rolling up the sleeves and showing them how it’s done.
- Be an Enabler, not a Disabler, because if we can’t entrust someone with proper responsibilities commensurate with the job description, we simply shouldn’t hire them.
- Develop a Zen-like mantra of goals that permeate the minds of all your teammates, and watch great stuff happen.
- Avoid inertia at all costs – or risk heading in the wrong direction. Provide the needed acceleration to propel a business forward, always.
- Trust the facts, for if you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it. As John Adams said, they are indeed “stubborn things”.
- Understand that words alone don’t make the leader– proper presentation, attitude, inflection, cadence and structure are musts to inspire to action.
- Exhibit a blend of will and humility – we push hard knowing we don’t have all the answers, with a sense of decency, fairness and mindfulness.
- Know “the secret of work” for their team – the passion, the cause, and the fun that results.
- Be able to mix it up and do the unexpected, like break out in song at a staff meeting. Put in a memorable hook to go with your message.