No subject generates more discussion than the topic of leadership. The bookstores have shelves full of titles claiming to be the answer for how to become an outstanding leader. There are thousands of men and women who make their living conducting seminars and selling videotapes on superior leadership tactics.
Many of the world’s most able and admired people have offered inspiring and astute statements on what makes a truly good leader. Of course, everyone has a slightly different twist on the characteristics needed for leadership.
The Greek philosopher Seneca felt a leader needed to be a person of action, not words. “One must steer, not talk.”
Napoleon felt the ability to be flexible and changing was key to leadership. “Sometimes the fox and sometimes the lion. The whole secret to leadership lies in knowing when to be one or the other.”
Abraham Lincoln felt that leaders need to be realists. “I must run the machine as I find it.”
One of our nation’s most controversial presidents described leadership as being entirely about the future: “Leadership is more than technique, though techniques are necessary. In a sense, management is prose; leadership is poetry. The manager thinks of today and tomorrow. The leader must think of the day after tomorrow.” – Richard Nixon.
Leadership advice may be motivational, and it may sometimes be useful. Still, defining the attributes of leadership, no matter how inspiring, often leaves you wanting. Because, regardless of the profundity of the advice, what remains day after day is you alone, running, leading your company.
Talk about working without a net; no circus performer can top the tricks you’re expected to accomplish every day. No matter how good your management team, or how skilled your employees, you carry the ultimate burden.
You are your company’s leader – where the buck stops as the saying goes.
So, what do you do when it all seems to be too much? When all the books, the seminars and the wise counsel aren’t enough? You do the best you can. And you should do it knowing no one else could do it better – at least not at this particular company at this particular time. Why? Because they aren’t in charge – you are.