What Do All Good Leaders Have in Common?


Originally published on LinkedIn Pulse on August 12th, 2014. 

Leadership is a heavily trod topic. A search on Amazon for leadership books will yield over 22,000 results. Why so many books? Is the topic really that complex?

I think the answer is that while there are natural-born leaders, true leadership prowess derives from experience (and many experiences make for many books). Leadership builds from a life of making mistakes and living through the consequences. It blossoms for one who has repeatedly seen a practice transform a failing mission into a successful one.

Skill is honed from trial and error, gaining an appreciation of what motivates people to reach beyond their own imposed limitations. A leader has seen patterns in behavior, organization, planning, strategy and vision that work. And he has changed a life or two for the better.

So, in some ways, leadership really can only be revealed by reference to experiences collected over time. And to give aspiring leaders insights, you need to connect your leadership principles with experiences and stories that resonate with recognition and meaning. Individuals can lead effectively at a young age, for sure, but more often the most powerful transformative leaders draw on a lifetime of experiences to guide them and direct their mission. Put another way, to be a wise leader is to combine knowledge with experience in the crucible of time.

There is really one central leadership principle that is unassailable. It is that a true leader must be selfless. He must stay late, eat last, put his troops’ interests first and sacrifice personal well-being for the good of the mission. And he must share.

I recently sat down to share my experiences with Daniel Roth, Executive Editor at LinkedIn. I hope you find something to use in your life. Watch our conversation in the video below.

Dan Roth shared further thoughts on our conversation on LinkedIn as well. You can see them here.