Leadership is the most important single factor in determining business success or failure in our competitive, turbulent, fast-moving economy. The ability to step up to the plate and provide the necessary leadership is the key determinant of achievement in all human activities. And there has never been a greater need for leaders at all levels than there is today.
Perhaps the best news is that leaders are made, not born. A person becomes a leader when a leader is needed, and the individual rises to the occasion.
You become a leader in your business and in the world around you by practicing the qualities and behaviors of leaders who have gone before you. Like any set of skills, leadership is developed by practice and repetition.
The rewards for becoming a leader are tremendous. As a leader, you earn the respect, esteem, and support of the people around you. You enjoy a greater sense of control and personal power in every part of your life.
The Laws of Leadership have been identified and discussed over and over throughout the centuries. They are taught in military schools, colleges, and universities. They are taught in business schools and practiced every day in the businesses and organizations of our society.
When you begin to think and act the way leaders do and you apply the Laws of Leadership to your life and work, you will attract to yourself opportunities to use more of your talents and abilities at ever-higher levels.
The Law of Integrity
Great business leadership is characterized by honesty, truthfulness, and straight dealing with every person, under all circumstances
This law requires that you be impeccably honest with yourself and others. As Emerson said, "Guard your integrity as a sacred thing. Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind."
Perhaps the most important thing you do as a leader is to be a good role model. Lead by example. Walk the talk. Live the life. Always carry yourself as though everyone is watching, even when no one is watching.
A key mark of integrity in human relations is consistency, both internal and external. The best leaders are consistent from one day to the next, from one situation to the next. People know what to expect. There are no surprises.
Being consistent also means that you treat everyone the same. You do not have one persona for an important client and another for a subordinate. As Thomas Carlyle wrote, "You can tell a big person by the way he treats little people."
There are two basic types of leadership in business today, transactional and trasformational. Transactional leadership is the ability to direct people, manage resources, and get the job done. But transformational leadership, the most important form of leadership today, is the ability to motivate, inspire, and bring people to higher levels of performance.
Transformational leadership is the ability to touch people emotionally, to empower them to be more and to contribute more than they ever have before. This ability enables transformational leaders to elicit extraordinary performance from ordinary people.
Leaders think about the future. They think long term. They think about how they want to be viewed by others, now and later in life. Because of this long time perspective, they never sacrifice their integrity or their reputations for short-term gain or profit.
The Law of Courage
The ability to make decisions and act boldly in the face of setbacks and adversity is the key to greatness in leadership.
Winston Churchill once said, "Courage is rightly considered the foremost of the virtues, for upon it, all others depend."
Leaders have the courage to make decisions and to take action in the face of doubt and uncertainty, with no guarantees of success. Your ability to launch, to step out in faith, even when there is a chance of loss or failure, is the mark of leadership. Leadership is not lack of fear or absence of fear. Leadership is control of fear - mastery of fear.
Everyone is afraid; leaders are simply those who face their fears and take action in spite of their fears. And you develop the habit of courage by acting courageously whenever courage is called for.
The two greatest obstacles to success and personal effectiveness are the fear of failure and the fear of criticism. But every great success is preceded by many failures and accompanied by countless criticisms. It is the lessons you learn from these failures and your ability to rise above those criticisms that make your success possible in the long run.
The leader in any group or organization is the person who accepts the responsibility to turn and face whatever danger or threat is facing the group.
Peter Drucker says, "Whenever you see a great business success, someone once took a big chance."
Remember, no matter how well you plan, your life will be a continuous succession of problems, difficulties, and obstacles that can easily discourage you and cause you to lose heart. The leader does not complain, make excuses, or wish that somehow things could be easier or different. Just keep reminding yourself, as Henry Ford once said, "Failure is merely an opportunity to more intelligently begin again."
The Law of Realism
Leaders deal with the world as it is, not as they wish it would be.
Your ability and your willingness to be completely realistic in your life and work are among the most important qualities of leadership. The measure of how realistic you really are is demonstrated by your willingness to deal straightforwardly with the truth of your life and business, whatever it may be.
Peter Drucker refers to this quality of realism in a leader as "intellectual honesty." Jack Welch, president of General Electric, calls it the "Reality Principle." He approaches every problem or difficulty with the questions, What's the reality?
Concentrate on getting the facts. Facts don't lie. The more facts you gather, the better will be the picture of reality that you can develop. The quality of your decisions will be largely determined by the quality of the information on which those decisions are based.
As you gather the facts, discipline yourself to remain objective, to avoid jumping to conclusions. Seek the truth above all, rather than reinforcement or justification. Imagine, as an exercise, that this situation is happening to someone else and you have been called in as an outside observer to advise and comment. Standing back from a situation, or stepping outside of it, can give you a more honest and objective perspective that enables you to make better decisions.
What are the strengths and weaknesses in your business today? Ask questions continually, of everyone, to develop a better picture of your current reality. Read, study, attend courses, and get other viewpoints to build your picture of reality with great clarity. Always be willing to face the weaknesses and imperfections in your company, whatever they are, and then resolve to do something about them.
If you are not happy with the way things are, think about the way you would like them to be and then get busy creating the reality you desire. Focus on the future rather than the past. Focus on the solution rather than the problem. Concentrate on where you are going rather than where you are coming from.
Never trust to luck or hope that something unexpected will turn up to solve a problem or save a situation. You are the leader. You are in charge. Deal with your world as it is, not as you wish it would be.
The Law of Power
Power is the ability to influence the allocation of people, money, and resources. It exists in all human relationships and situations. It is essential for the effective functioning of human life and society. It is neither good nor bad. It just is.
Power can be used in business in two ways: (1) to advance the interests of the organization or (2) to advance the interests of the individual. When power is used skillfully to advance the interests of the organization, it is a positive force. It can improve the situation of all the people who are affected by it.
Four Kinds of Power You can Develop
There are four major types of power you can develop. The first is expert power. This is where you start. You concentrate on doing your job in an excellent fashion. When you are recognized as being very good at what you do, you acquire greater power and influence than people who are only average or mediocre. With expert power, you attract the respect and attention of the important people in your organization. You receive more opportunities to do what you do well. Doors open for you.
The second type of power you can develop is personal power. This form of power comes from being liked and respected by the people around you. The more people like you, the greater influence you have with them. People listen to you and are open to your suggestions and ideas. This type of power is often called "social intelligence" or "emotional intelligence." It is the most helpful and ultimately the highest paid ability in our society.
The third type of power, position power, is the power that goes with the job title. Position power includes the ability to hire and fire, to reward and punish. Position power can be separate from ability or personality. There are many incompetent people with position power who got it for reasons other than their ability to get the job done quickly and well or their ability to get along well with others.
Perhaps the best type of power, the fourth, is ascribed power. This is the power you have when the people around you willingly grant you authority and influence over them because of the person you are. You attract this power to yourself by being very good at what you do and, at the same time, by being liked and respected by the people around you.