True leadership cannot be awarded, appointed or assigned; it comes only from having influence, and that can’t be mandated. It must be earned.
General Norman Schwarzkopf, the U.S. commander of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, said, “Great leaders never tell people how to do their job. Great leaders tell people what to do and establish a framework within which it must be done. Then they let people on the front lines, who know best, figure out how to get it done.”
People are at their happiest and most productive when they’re being challenged. Many of you will find that, as leaders, you’re pushing people to achieve what you know they’re capable of—even if they don’t believe it at the time. To this extent, you’ll be leading from behind. To some of you this may sound Machiavellian; to others it’s common sense. But the latest research does seem to indicate that it’s true. Nobody really appreciates or takes lasting pleasure from that which comes easily.
Leadership is also forging a future direction. As leaders, we must establish strategic direction. We must harness change. What I suggest is simply laying out the vision and getting everyone moving in the right direction. You have to know where you are going. And if you are going to be effec- tive, you have to lead by pulling, not pushing, your staff. As such, effective leaders must also have the capacity to motivate and empower others to share their sense of direction.
Leadership inspires others to do great things, and you inspire it by your own willingness to work hard. Leaders can’t ask anyone to do anything that they are not willing to do themselves. Integrity is a critical component of leadership. If people can see it, they will get it. I really think that people can peer into the heart, and if they don’t see integrity, they are not going to follow. And, as you know, without followers there can be no leadership.
My advice to you is never stop anticipating, welcoming and initiating new challenges. Dare to think great things. Dare to take chances. Embrace failure and learn from it rather than fear it. It is the hallmark of effective leadership. Dare to be great. A commitment to lifelong learning will give you the ability to accept, develop and engage fully in those opportunities.