Insights for Leaders

When to Stand Firm

“Be sure you put your feet in the right place, then stand firm.” — Abraham Lincoln

Starbucks Founder and CEO, Howard Schultz cautions, “Be very careful not to allow the values of the company to be compromised by an ambition to grow.  Growth can be a seductive evil if it isn’t built on the right foundation.  If you do it right and maintain those values, growth will be managed so you don’t lose the soul of the company.”

Tiger Woods, reflecting on his marital infidelities, observed: “I stopped living according to my core values.  I knew what I was doing was wrong but thought only about myself and thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to do.”

The Bottom LineLeaders establish and hold to their core values, especially in the face of pressure to compromise.

Persistence > Brilliance

“Action is the real measure of intelligence.” — Napoleon Hill

Peter Drucker writes in The Effective Executive, “There seems to be little correlation between a man’s effectiveness and his intelligence….Brilliant men are often strikingly ineffectual; they fail to realize that brilliant insight is not by itself achievement.”

Albert Einstein put his genius in perspective when observing, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”  Winston Churchill also valued persistence over brilliance saying, “Continuous effort – not strength or intelligence –is the key to unlocking our potential.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders value persistence over brilliance, realizing brilliance does not correlate with effectiveness and achievement.

Trust and Teamwork

“Trust is like the air we breathe.  When it’s present, nobody really notices. But when it’s absent, everybody notices.” – Warren Buffet

Patrick Lencioni writes in best-seller, The Five Dysfunctions of a Team: “In the context of building a team, trust is the confidence among team members that their peers’ intentions are good, and that there is no reason to be protective or careful around the group.  In essence, teammates must get comfortable being vulnerablewith one another.”

Duke Basketball Coach Mike Krzyzewski (named 2011 Sportsman of the Year by SI), observes: “In leadership, there are no words more important than trust.  In any organization, trust must be developed among every member of the team if success is going to be achieved.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders cultivate relationships of trust within teams knowing trust is as vital to the team’s success as air is to life. 

Conquering Fear

“Do the thing you fear most and the death of fear is certain.” — Mark Twain

Leadership trainer and author, Dale Carnegie, writes: “Do the thing you fear to do and keep on doing it…that is the quickest and surest way ever yet discovered to conquer fear.  If you want to conquer fear, do not sit home and think about it.  Go out and get busy.  Inaction breeds doubt and fear.  Action breeds confidence and courage.”

Legendary painter, Vincent van Gogh put it this way: “If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders courageously conquer their fears by actively addressing them and lead others to do the same.

The Leadership Myth

“I would say that most leaders are made.” — General D. Eisenhower

Harvard leadership guru, Warren Bennis, writes: “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born — that there is a genetic factor to leadership.  This myth asserts that people simply either have certain charismatic qualities or not.  That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true.  Leaders are made rather than born.

Kenneth Chenault, CEO of American Express observes: “There are some people who are born leaders.  But the best leaders work at it day in and day out.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders don’t rely on their genetics; they diligently develop the many qualities required of leadership.


Personal Leadership

“Know thyself.” — Socrates

Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to summit Mount Everest observed, “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”  Prolific 19th century author/speaker Charles Spurgeon warned, “Beware of no man more than yourself; we carry our worst enemies within us.”

Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy wrote, “Everybody thinks of changing humanity and nobody thinks of changing himself.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders understand it is essential to know, change and lead oneself before you can effectively lead others.


“The price of greatness is responsibility.” — Winston Churchill

Responsibility: the ability to respond properly to a situation or circumstance, is a leadership essential.  An ”I must do something” attitude always solves more problems than, “Something must be done.”

Starbucks Chairman Howard Schultz states, “A lot of what we ascribe to luck is not luck at all.  It’s seizing the day and accepting responsibility for your future.”  Dr. Booker T. Washington, born into slavery but set free after the Civil War wrote, “Few things can help an individual more than to place responsibility on him, and to let him know that you trust him.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders are skilled in their ability to respond, and, they insist their people own both present circumstances and future aspirations.

Generous Giving

“To do more for the world than the world does for you — that is success.” Henry Ford

In this season of giving, we should take note of Winston Churchill’s admonition: “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give.” Ken Blanchard, author of The One Minute Manager advises, “The best minute you spend is the one you invest in people.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders are generous givers and know the most valuable gift they can give is themselves.

Success from Failure

“I’ve often felt there might be more to be gained by studying business failures than business successes.” — Warren Buffett

Steve Jobs, who Fortune just named top CEO of the last decade, has described how “fortunate” he was to experience three traumatic set backs which all contributed to his stellar success — dropping out of college, his public firing from Apple (which he founded) in the 1980′s, and his struggle with cancer.

Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motor Co, writes, “To me success can only be achieved through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents the one percent of your work that results from the ninety-nine percent that is called failure.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders don’t ‘waste failure’ — they learn from it, rise above it and try again.

Servant Leadership

“Leaders we admire do not place themselves at the center; they place others there. They do not seek the attention of people; they give it to others.” — James Kouzes and Barry Posner

Leadership gurus Kouzes and Posner add, “They (leaders) do not focus on satisfying their own aims and desires; they look for ways to respond to the needs and interests of others. Being a servant may not be what many leaders had in mind when they chose to take the responsibility of their organization, but serving others is the most glorious and rewarding of all leadership tasks.”

Author Max de Pree writes, “The first responsibility of the leader is to define reality, the last is to say ‘Thank you’, and in between the leader is a servant.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders understand that as they strategically serve their people, their people will accept their leadership and empower them to lead.

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