12 Simple Lessons in Leadership for Those Who Want to Make a Difference

There are a lot of people I admire out there who have good values, strong morals and contribute to society. Within that group I have personally observed four individuals who stand out as leaders and movers. These are my observations of their leadership behaviors.

Remarkable leaders…

  1. …are not ashamed of their opinions.

  2. The most successful leaders I know are leaders because they have their opinions and values, and they stick to them. It’s these opinions and values that have caused people to follow them, even if their opinions are unpopular.

  3. …are not too proud to change their opinions.

  4. These same leaders have enough humility to recognize a clearer or better path and abandon ideas and efforts that aren’t working. They realize there’s no point in finishing something that doesn’t benefit anybody.

  5. …attract a following without gimmicks.

  6. Leaders create change and influence people, and they do it without smoke and mirrors. They reach out and help others, they inspire and teach, and they contribute to society and groups. They do this not for self glory and praise, but because they genuinely want others to succeed.

  7. …confront people when necessary.

  8. When someone’s performance is poor, or they’re not contributing to the team, or they’re holding the team back, a leader (hopefully tactfully) confronts those people and either helps them to change or if necessary removes them from the process. To quote Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, “…if they can’t lead the team, we will remove the person from it; it’s hard because it’s a personal thing. Until you reach that breaking point, you have to do everything you can, sometimes its adding people to the team, sometimes its removing them.”

  9. …make a decision based on team feedback.

  10. A leader knows when to let his team make the final decision and when to make the final decision himself. And when the team makes the decision, he fully supports it and accepts the consequences.

  11. …don’t leave outcomes to chance.

  12. They create opportunities and forge their own paths with what’s given them. They never lay down unprepared and wait for the floods to come.

  13. …communicate to understand and learn.

  14. They connect with their teams on a personal level. They know their team’s names, their strengths, and their weaknesses. They know how to motivate them and also annoy them. And most importantly, because they know their team they know how to motivate them to create inspired results.

  15. …roll up their sleeves and work hard.

  16. They do this because it builds trust and rapport, and because they value hard work. Leaders know that the best way to understand their team is to be a part of the team.

  17. …know when to let go and when to hold on.

  18. Leaders can let a good thing go if necessary, even when it hurts. They can perceive the difference between good and bad, and even when they make a mistake, they can admit it.

  19. …give credit where credit is due.

  20. They realize that teamwork isn’t about them. It’s about the team and making sure recognition is given to those who deserve it. Their leadership skills are evident from the team’s success. Leaders do not gloat and seek praise.

  21. …are genuine.

  22. Even when it turns people away. Leaders aren’t trying to please everyone. You can always count on them to be honest with you.

  23. …are not afraid of pain.

  24. Leaders don’t run when away from necessary pain. They grow from it, get through it, and come out on top. They don’t mindlessly seek pain either.

We all admire leaders for their different skills, and it’s obvious that what works for one will not always work for another. What’s important is that we focus on the traits that really make them stand out inspire us. So now, it’s your turn. What leadership traits do you admire?

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  1. Travis Washburn stupendously scribbles:

    Hard work has become highly underrated these days. A lot of people have the attitude that they’re entitled to certain luxuries–even that they’re entitled to respect. Of course, every person has intrinsic value, but the real way to become entitled to something is to earn it. Nobody is entitled to stand on top of Everest unless they go through the effort and pain to climb to the top. If you do make that effort, then you truly deserve that reward.

    (By the way, nobody ever boasted of being dropped on the top of Everest by a helicopter.)

  2. Markus cleverly asserts:

    Working hard? I agree, a leader needs to work efficiently. But does he need to go overtime and worker harder than everybody else? I think the contrary is true. Especially as a leader, you must not fuel the idea that problems can be solved with brute force and pulling all nighters. Time management and efficient communication is solving problems. Controlling scope and focusing allows task to finish on time. I think, as a leader, you are responsible to install the work ethic and to install the RIGHT work ethic.

    On May 14th, 2005, an Ecureuil/AStar AS 350 B3 helicopter operated by Eurocopter was reported to have landed on Mount Everest (29,035 feet). The landing is in dispute. The listed service ceiling of the rotorcraft is between 17 and 18 thousand feet, which is considerably short of the summit altitude.

    An unmanned high altitude helicopter is nearing completion. TGR Helicorp in New Zeland has designed the “Alpine Wasp” specifically for rescue evolutions on Everest. The machine’s diesel engine will give it an operating ceiling in excess of 30,000 feet.

    (source: answer.com)

  3. I think that hard work is critical to ANY small business endevor. The business will take off without it. That being said, it doesn’t mean that it has to be unproductive or long work. You just have to make sure that you are working hard on projects that will make money for your business and skip the ones that are just busy work.

    -Joshua Black
    The Underdog Millionaire
    .-= Joshua Black | The Underdog Millionaire´s last blog post: Feel Like You’re Putting Out and Oil Fire When Operating Your Small Business? =-.

  4. Chris Mower vivaciously comments:

    @Travis. Thanks for your thoughts. It’s amazing how many people feel they have the right to something when it hasn’t been earned.

    @Markus. Nothing sucks more than working overtime and really long hours. Believe me, I’ve been there. I like how you brought up efficiency. A number of leaders I know aren’t necessarily efficient, but it’s a strong and very desirable attribute to have, and great leaders know how to organize a team of efficient people. I’m not sure what would be scarier… climbing to the top of Everest or flying to the top…. that’s pretty freakin’ high :)

    @Joshua. Spot on. Thanks! There are too many people who confuse long work hours with productivity.

  5. Travis Washburn rapidly claims:

    I assumed flying a helicopter to the top of Everest would be easy. Shows what I know. I guess I should research things. Ha ha.

    I just wanted to make the point that there’s not much to be proud of in a free ride. But there is value in good old-fashioned elbow grease.

  6. SkinnyD intensely chats it up:

    Travis, the only reason you think no one boasts about being dropped on top of Mount Everest by a helicopter is that it hasn’t happened to you. I did it and it rocked!

    On a more serious note, it seems like many of the traits you describe come as a part of the “leader personality package.” Meaning a lot of leaders do things like this automatically. Would you say most leaders are born or that most learn how to become leaders?

  7. Chris Mower reassuringly claims:

    Great question. In short, I think the answer to that is both. Some people are naturally more gifted in some of these areas while others have to work for them. I do think that anyone can be a leader though.

  8. Walter proudly discloses:

    I wish the qualities you have stated here should be read by people in authority. More often that not, they are the most ignorant when it comes to good leadership. It is sick to be under their mercy. :-)

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