One of the most impressive things about all great leaders is their relentless pursuit of wisdom. They do this through a learning cycle of knowledge, comprehension, and application that goes on their entire lives.
What’s fascinating about leadership is many timeless principles remain the same, while at the same time, leaders need to change to remain successful in modern times. This is precisely why great leaders are grounded in principles but always keep an open mind and a learning mindset.
Great leaders are grounded in principles but always keep an open mind and a learning mindset.
Whether you are the CEO of a company, managing a team, or just trying to lead your family better, these lessons will change your perspective on leadership or remind you what you already know.
Lesson 1: Being a Leader Means It’s No Longer About You
Recent statistics show 40% of new managers fail within the first 24 months of taking their job. One of the primary reasons is managers believe and act like their promotion is about them. The truth is, the only day your title matters is the day you receive it. After that, all that matters is how you bring out the best in others.
“When you were made a leader you weren’t given a crown, you were given the responsibility to bring out the best in others.” Jack Welch
Lesson 2: Leadership Isn’t about Power, but Excellence
Many people in leadership positions are ambitious. Which by itself isn’t a bad thing. However, ambition for power is bad, ambition for excellence is good. Your job is to channel your ambition into being an excellent leader focused on putting others’ needs ahead of your own and raising the bar on effort and performance.
“Leadership is not about control but service. It’s not about power but empowerment.” – Dr. Myles Munroe
Lesson 3: A Leader’s Actions Matter More Than the Position
Most people with a title consider themselves a leader, but it couldn’t be further from the truth in reality. If it weren’t for the paycheck that hit their team’s account every two weeks, their team wouldn’t do or listen to a thing they said. The reason for this isn’t the title one has, but their actions daily.
Your actions will always matter more than your words, especially when it comes to leadership.
“Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald McGannon
Lesson 4: Leaders are Dealers of Hope and Courage
There are moments in time where the stakes are higher than usual for a team or organization. In military terms, this would be in a time of war, and business terms would be navigating a Global Pandemic. It’s times like this where uncertainty, fear, and worry consumes people.
However, great leaders recognize this and know their job is to be a dealer of hope and courage to their people. To help them reject fear and step into courage. The reason is simple, leaders who don’t encourage will eventually be surrounded by a discouraged team.
“The role of a leader is to define reality and give hope.” Napoleon
Lesson 5: Leaders Take the Blame and Give the Credit.
The late great Kobe Bryant said, “Leadership is responsibility.” Bryant was right, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. It’s tempting to blame others when things go wrong, and easy to take credit for a team’s success when things go right. But just because it’s tempting and easy doesn’t mean it’s right. If you are in a leadership position, taking responsibility when things go wrong and giving credit when things go right is required.
“When things go wrong, take all the blame. When things go right, give away all the credit.” – Dave Cancel
Lesson 6: Leaders Choose Positivity over Negativity
The current business world makes it hard to be optimistic. I don’t know if it’s the amount of negative information we receive, the speed at which judgments are cast, the sheer amount of people doing work they hate, or some combination of the three. If you are anything like me, you have struggled to maintain optimism during difficult times.
But the best leaders don’t give in to this kind of thinking. They don’t lower themselves or their mind to negative thinking. Instead, they train themselves and those around them to choose positivity over negativity.
“Being positive won’t guarantee you’ll succeed. But being negative will guarantee you won’t.” – Jon Gordon
Lesson 7: Leaders Coach, They Don’t Judge
Conventional thinking has leaders believing their job is to be judge and jury over people and decision making. While there is no doubt part of a leader’s job is to make decisions, the correct thought process is for leaders to think of themselves as a coach, instead of a judge.
There is enough judgment in this world, and having it passed onto us by a boss isn’t what we need. What’s needed is someone to help coach us and develop the skills required to be successful. If you want to sharpen your coaching skills, register for the next Coaching for Excellence Workshop.
“A leader is a coach, not a judge.” – Dr. William Edwards Deming
Living out all seven of these lessons each day as a leader is difficult. But knowing you are in relentless pursuit of wisdom and understanding like so many great leaders who walked before you should be proof that you’re on the right path.
Which lessons is your favorite, or what would you add? Let me know in the comments.
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About the Author: John Eades is the CEO of LearnLoft, a leadership development company helping executives and managers to lead their best. He was named one of LinkedIn’s Top Voices in Management & Workplace. John is also the author of Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success. You can follow him on Instagram @johngeades.
“Leadership is an action, not a position.” – Donald McGannon