Just as honesty, humility, patience, and kindness are virtues, so too is leadership.
Many have defined it, others have eloquently described it, and much has been written about it, but only a few have exemplified it. And while most would agree that “leadership” is a major component of management, true leadership is rare.
The following collection of quotes and excerpts paints a picture of leadership as described by the well and not-so-well known.
“Every damn thing is your own fault,” Ernest Hemingway said. “If you’re any good.”
Hemingway spoke these words after attempting, in vain, to shoot a lion. He was responding to gun-bearers and local tribesmen who were offering excuses as to why his shot had missed its target.
As the safari leader, Hemingway’s point was that excuses don’t really matter – it serves no purpose to blame others. A strong leader offers solutions, not excuses. By assuming responsibility rather than assigning blame, the effective leader sets a strong example and inspires others to behave in kind.
This excerpt from a Nightingale – Conant Management Report makes a similar point: “Another simple concept is that people reflect what you show them. If they see you as being indifferent, they will treat you indifferently. If they see you as expecting the worst, they will behave at their worst.”
Unknown sources often shed light on the path to success, and at times, the answers to difficult questions are found in the least likely places. Consider the following words from sources unknown and how these thoughts might apply to being an effective leader (or manager):
“Praise does wonders for the sense of hearing.”
“The closest anyone comes to perfection is on a job application form.”
“People have a way of becoming what you encourage them to be, not what you nag them to be.”
Of course, more respected and familiar sources have had their say about leadership as well.
Harvard Professor Rosabeth Ross Kanter: “The art of mastering change […] the ability to mobilize others’ efforts in new directions.”
Wharton School Dean Tom Gerrity: “The ability to inspire and develop others… to bring forth their fullest potential and highest capabilities.”
Strong leadership involves identifying goals, setting a direction, and having an understanding of, and an interest in, the people who are to be led – and having the ability to inspire people into action.
If a leader is in fact one who is able to inspire and persuade, then he or she must also be one who inspires or instills a positive attitude in the hearts of his/her followers. Consider the point made, and the question posed, by author and speaker Jack Falvey in this excerpt from MakingTheNumbers.com : “All great leaders are great sales people. Many in sales management think that they have been called to command. In reality, they have merely been called to a higher level of sales. Having the power of the podium doesn’t mean that people are listening to you. Use that power to give people good reason to listen to you and the message of value that you have to deliver will have a great chance of breaking through.
“Great leaders sell ideas. ‘Friends, Romans, countrymen…’ is a great ‘Why listen?’ line [with which] Shakespeare’s Mark Anthony sold an angry mob… Winston Churchill sold [a country] the idea of fighting to the death, which is a tough sell in any territory. But he did it with appeals to history, duty, and honor. He also said that he personally would not head for Canada but rather would stay and take a few of the enemy with him to the hereafter – a partnering agreement!
“Either way, the model that we use… is the same as those who have sold millions on following them have used throughout history. They were great communicators with a message that resonated with the people. They had a solution. They had ideas. They sold trust. That is what we do.
“All great leaders are great sales people. Name ten. Now, when your [sales] people list their top ten, will you be one of them?”
A strong leader sets a standard by example, and recognizes that the true authority to lead comes from those who are inspired to follow.
Leadership is bringing out the best that others have to offer. It is letting others know that you respect them and have confidence in them; it is encouraging them to try, and it is helping them to achieve new and higher levels of success and fulfillment; leadership is making it possible for others to see their way in the pursuit of happiness.
Leadership is a virtue.
What do you think…?