My all-time favorite leadership lesson came at the perfect time. At age 27 I had just started my first big executive job at a Cable TV company in Los Angeles, with very little leadership experience. Consequently, I was hungry for guidance on what it took to be a great leader.
I found it on on the wall of my boss’s office. During a meeting very early on, my eyes happened to wander towards a poster hanging on the wall. The title of it caught my attention: “A Short Course in Human Relations”.
Here’s what was on the poster:
“I admit I made a mistake.”
The 5 most important words:
“You did a great job!”
The 4 most important words:
“What do you think?”
The 3 most important words:
“If you please …”
The 2 most important words:
The 1 most important word:
The 1 least important word:
I stared at it for several minutes, my concentration only broken by the sound of my boss’s voice. “That’s not the whole course, Terry”
“I’m sorry sir, what do you mean?”, I said.
“There are the 7 most important words too – I don’t know, but I’ll find out. NOW you have the complete short course in human relations!”
I quickly wrote the “complete” short course down on my notepad. When I got back to my office, I read them once again.
The words just absolutely clicked for me. I absorbed the essence of the “course” – the keys to being a selfless, human, caring, trustworthy, humble, and effective leader.
My boss was also right about adding the “7 most important words” – knowing what you don’t know (and admitting it) is an essential part of the character of a great leader.
I’ve never forgotten this lesson, and it is now indeed my all-time favorite, and so worthy of reprise on this blog – because of it’s utter simplicity, and directness.
In just 29 words.
Now go ahead and print out this slide and study it for just a few minutes, and I promise it will have the same effect on you.