I’m always skeptical of “universal truths” and other absolute statements. But a post from the Refresh Leadership Blog offers five great ideas for people who want to be successful.
You can (and should) read the article yourself but here they are:
- Successful leaders are driven by passion.
- Successful leaders are never finished learning.
- Successful leaders believe integrity is everything.
- Successful leaders believe people are their greatest asset.
- Successful leaders are courageous.
To better understand these concepts, let’s talk about what they are not.
Passion over Blind Loyalty
Highly successful people are endlessly devoted to their work. They put in the time, they work harder than their competitors, and they believe in themselves and what they are doing. But there is a difference between having passion for your work, your industry, or your profession—and passion for your employer. We’ve covered employer loyalty before and the dangers of being a workplace hero.
Successful people are passionate, but successful people are also passionate about standing up for what is right. If you’re more worried about keeping your job than doing what is best, you’re going to always struggle to find your way.
Learning and Applying over Analysis Paralysis
We all have in our mind the image of a purely academic, who spends ages researching a topic without ever getting to the point of creating something new. Successful leaders know they are never “done” learning. There is always a new class to take, a new book to read, or a new insight to gain. (And you may even be able to gain knowledge while you’re sleeping!)
But, that shouldn’t be an excuse for getting things done. It’s easy to feel like we don’t know enough to act, and that we should learn more. Great leaders are always learning, but great leaders are always doing, too. At some point you have to close the books and do the work!
Integrity without Cruelty
If there is anything that we lament about modern business, it is the supposed decline of business ethics. It seems like people don’t have the integrity that they used to have. Our employees may goof off on the job. They might be guilty of fraud or abuse. They could make mistakes that impact customer satisfaction. One of our duties as leaders is to address these issues.
Having integrity means choosing do the right thing, not just with regard to our own behavior but when interacting with others. Catching someone in the act, however, is not a license to be cruel. Great leaders are always kind, even when they must be firm. They draw boundaries and they avoid making exceptions. They have integrity, but they don’t force other people to bend to their will.
Valuing People, not Clichés
All leaders should know that people are their greatest asset. But all leaders should also know that “people our are greatest asset” is a painfully overused statement that often doesn’t have any meaning. Because the experience of poor leadership is tragically common, phrases like “people are our greatest asset” or “open door policy” or “there is no ‘I’ in ‘team'” or “think outside the box” have lost all meaning.
If you want to show people that you value them, take the time to say something to them that they haven’t heard a million times before and didn’t believe it then. Or better yet, don’t say anything. Show them they are valuable.
Be Courageous, Not Reckless
The word “courage” means “not deterred by pain or danger.” A great leader needs to be willing to accept discomfort and face possible negative outcomes. After all, taking risks is part of life. If you don’t ever gamble, you can’t ever win.
But leaders shouldn’t be reckless. They shouldn’t put people’s lives or livelihoods at risk unnecessarily. It’s important to have courage. It’s foolish to run into danger without a plan.
The Universal Truth of Leadership: There Are No Universal Truths
It’s probably not the case that there is a list of things you must do to be a great leader, without question. But there are plenty of good ideas. Study them. Review them. Think about them. And put them into practice.
These five suggestions are worthy of your consideration. No matter who you are leading—whether it’s a team of hundreds or only yourself—be passionate, keep learning, have integrity, value people, and be courageous.
I’m looking forward to seeing what you accomplish.