The six things every great leader does


The more I read about and try to learn from our civilization’s great leaders, the more I realize how much many of them have in common.  Yes, many of these individuals are incredibly brilliant.  Some have had life advantages others of us don’t or haven’t. 

But most of them are also (intentionally or not) doing the same things to create, cultivate and sustain the leadership and success they’ve achieved.  Here’s at least six things I believe great leaders do:

Read.  I defy you to find a great leader who isn’t, in some way, a scholar.  Who doesn’t surround himself or herself with books, knowledge and opinions that give them greater perspective, vision, insight and ability.  Leaders are never done learning, and consistently devote time from their busy schedules to devour even more information.

Write.  Not every leader is prolific in this regard.  Some write books, some articles or blogs.  Even those who haven’t been known for public distribution of their work seem to have left behind a legacy of journaling or letter writing as an expression of what they’re thinking, and how they’re evolving that thought to the betterment of themselves, their companies and their societies.

Think.  The act of writing is but one of many expressions of what usually starts as a new idea or original thought.  But no matter what the form or function, great leaders spend a lot of time thinking.   In today’s always-connected world, this is perhaps harder than ever.  Having the discipline to isolate ourselves and focus on new thinking is not easy.  But it’s the lifeblood of innovation.

Empower.  Great leaders know the key to success is to create a movement, influence others, and empower them to join with you in a common cause or objective.  Unsuccessful leaders who don’t know how to empower take the lazy man’s approach – micromanagement. 

Delegate.  A cousin of empowerment, but with direction.  Although I expect great leaders wouldn’t call this delegation, but rather inspiration.  Delegation implies work has been asked of another. Inspiration implies that the other has taken work up as his or her own cause based on their own free will.  Inspiration, then, would be a far greater force for leaders to create, multiple and harness.

Work.  Hard.  There are no shortcuts, no overnight successes.  Leaders aren’t lucky.  They aren’t chosen.  They get to where they are intentionally, through the accumulation of millions of baby steps, long nights, focus, determination…and sweat.

What am I missing?  What would you replace?