Insights for Leaders

The Best Leaders

“Self-praise is for losers. Be a winner. Stand for something. Always have class, and be humble.” — John Madden

Jim Collins writes in his new book, How the Mighty Fall: “The best leaders we’ve studied had a peculiar genius for seeing themselves as not all that important, recognizing the need to build an executive team and to craft a culture based on core values that do not depend upon a single heroic leader.”

For some of us, it is time to resign from our assumed role of ‘Chancellor of the Universe.’ Norman Vincent Peale put it this way: “Drop the idea that you are Atlas carrying the world on your shoulders. The world would go on even without you. Don’t take yourself so seriously.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders are humble — more concerned about building the team than exalting self.

Think ‘Team’

“The people who are doing the work are the moving force behind the Macintosh.” — Steve Jobs

According to Jack Welch, “Leaders establish trust by giving credit where credit is due. They never score off their own people by stealing an idea and claiming it as their own.”

Peter Drucker writes, “The leaders who work most effectively never say ‘I.’ And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say ‘I.’ They don’t think ‘I.’ They think ‘we’; they think ‘team.’ They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but ‘we’ gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders give credit to their team, knowing that will build trust and motivate their people to even greater accomplishments.

Courage and Risk

“The man who goes furthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” — Dale Carnegie

Herb Kelleher, Southwest Airlines Founder and former CEO and Chairman, built a company consistently named among the top five “Most Admired Corporations in America” in Fortune magazine’s annual poll. Fortune has also called him “Perhaps the best CEO in America.”

Reflecting on the start-up, Mr. Kelleher writes, “Everybody in Texas would tell me they thought I was nuts trying to start Southwest Airlines. There probably weren’t 10 people in the state who would have given a plug nickel for our chances of making a dollar. So sometimes, you need a little courage, just to buck popular opinion.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders have courage to take risk that at times defies ‘conventional wisdom’.

The Key to Success

“Victory belongs to the most persevering.” — Napolean Bonaparte

American industrialist John D. Rockefeller Sr., often regarded as the richest person in history observed, “I do not think that there is any other quality so essential to success of any kind as the quality of perseverance. It overcomes almost everything, even nature.”

Walt Disney writes, “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me….You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders understand the value of adversity and see it as an opportunity to persevere, learn and grow in character.

Priority 1 — Integrity

“Honor is better than honors.” — Abraham Lincoln

After surveying thousands of people around the world, authors James Kouzes and Barry Posner identified those characteristics most desired by people in a leader. In virtually every survey, honesty or integrity was identified more frequently than any other trait.

Warren Buffet, now the wealthiest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $62 billion, places very high priority on integrity. He says, “I look for three things in hiring people. The first is personal integrity, the second is intelligence, and the third is a high energy level. But, if you don’t have the first, the other two will kill you.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders give their word and keep it and place a high value on the integrity of those people around them.

Trust and Prosperity

“Transcendent values like trust and integrity literally translate into revenue, profits and prosperity.” — Patricia Aburdene, Megatrends 2010

Columbia Business School Professor John Whitney claims, “Mistrust doubles the cost of doing business.” On the other hand, when trust increases, everything moves faster thus saving time and money.

The value of building trust exceeds the financial benefits. Business authors Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner conclude, “Trust is the most significant predictor of individuals’ satisfaction within their organization.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders place a high value on building trust and reap the financial and relational benefits.

Growing Others

“Before you become a leader success is all about growing yourself.  Once you become a leader success is all about growing others.”  — Jack Welch

Two American business icons agree on the importance of growing others.  Ray Kroc said, “The more I help others to succeed, the more I succeed.”  Sam Walton: “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel.  If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.”

Robert Woodruff, the primary builder of the Coca-Cola global soft drink empire for six decades in the 20th century was know for a plaque on his desk that read, “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders intentionally grow their people and readily share credit for success with others.

Leadership and Character

“Leadership is a combination of strategy and character.  If you must be without one, be without strategy.”  –  General Norman Schwarkopf

Webster defines character as, “Qualities of honesty, courage and integrity.”  Character is revealed behind closed doors when no one is watching — it’s the real you.  That’s why President Teddy Roosevelt said, “Character, in the long run, is the decisive factor in the life of an individual and of nations alike.”

Leadership guru, Professor Warren Bennis writes, “Successful leadership is not about being tough or soft, assertive or sensitive.  It is about having a particular set of attributes which all leaders, male or female, seem to share.  And chief among these attributes is character.”

The Bottom Line: Leaders know that character is the all important quality that will make or break them and the people around them.

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