How many companies can you name off the top of your head that were established more than 100 years ago? I can think of a handful: Ford, GE, Electrolux, Whirlpool, IBM. Today, there are more than 500 companies worldwide that have lasted longer than a century; overcoming extreme hardships and adversity from regressive economic cycles. That’s a long run! I believe the key component to these extended periods of longevity can only be defined by one attribute, leadership. Without leadership a company is rudderless, drifting with no sense of direction. For that reason, the quality of leadership is vital to lasting success.
At the heart of great leadership is the desire to serve others, to empower them and foster their success. As a leader, it’s not enough that you are the best at what YOU do. Rather, your success is often judged, in large part, on how those whom you have directed, developed and mentored have made their own mark.
Excellent leadership is defined by excellent thinking. It makes no difference if you’re a leader of a division, branch or department, the quality of leadership remains the same. Companies like GE and Whirlpool, two major players in the appliance industry, are still front-runners because of outstanding leadership and the vision they share with their followers, both consumers and employees. We are still living in a world they envisioned over 100 years ago.
A leader is someone who takes charge and expresses his or her will. The American Heritage Dictionary defines will as the mental faculty by which one deliberately chooses or decides upon a course of action. We all have a will and we use or express that will in every waking moment. One aspect of will is action. Action can be described as doing and therefore is key to accomplishment.
A major deterrent to action is procrastination. Millions of people throughout the world are fully acquainted with the rules, principles, and philosophies of successful leadership, but many are not successful. Why? Because, to put it simply, although they have the right thoughts, they procrastinate and do not put their thoughts into action. Procrastination, therefore, is one of the greatest deterrents to achievement.
You don’t have to have followers to be a leader. The days you force yourself to go to the gym when you could be having fun with friends is a form of leadership. You’re putting your goals first. You’re prioritizing your actions by using your will to direct your life. That’s what leaders do.
There are many styles of leadership. Steve Jobs was a prolific leader in the sense that he led the world of innovation, and we’re all the better for it. Leaders are people who take charge and can be anal about their objectives, due in large part because they’re so focused on their goals. They see beyond obstacles that impede, and instead concentrate on breaking down barriers. They often lead by example, and when a leader’s examples are rooted in excellence, followers come in droves.
You can be a leader in business even if you’re a one-man-show. When I began my refrigeration business back in the 1960s there were no companies offering after-hour or weekend service. I saw that as an opportunity. Although there were plenty of commercial service firms with extended service hours for the restaurant trade, there were no service companies to be found anywhere that catered to residential consumers; homeowners were at the mercy of the 9-5, five day work-week mindset.
As a result of this vacuum, I initiated seven day 24 hour repair service to meet the needs of the working public. I did jobs after hours and on weekends and occasionally worked on Sundays and holidays. Business took off and within a year I had tripled the volume of calls and was the leading service company in the area I served. Within 3 years I was one of the largest residential refrigeration service companies in New Jersey. That experience is rooted in an age old axiom, “Find a need and fill it”. It didn’t take long for the competition to follow suit, they copied my format and within no time the telephone directories were inundated with ads offering 24/7 service.
So what does it take to be a leader in this day and age of rapid change, and what are the qualities of leadership? Generally speaking, a leader is one who has worked his or her way through a plethora of challenges and sacrifices to accomplish a goal, to get to the top, to carve a new path, to find a niche, to make a stand, to build a better mouse trap.
In his best selling book, “Think and Grow Rich,” Dr. Napoleon Hill listed eleven qualities of leadership which I feel we should strive to put into practice daily. They are as follows:
(1) Unwavering Courage
(3) A keen Sense of Justice
(4) Definiteness of Plans
(5) Definiteness of Decision
(6) The Habit of Doing More Than You’re Paid For
(7) A pleasing Personality
(8) Sympathy and Understanding
(9) Mastery of Detail
(10) Willingness to Assume full responsibility
Let’s take a closer look at each one of these leadership qualities.
1: UNWAVERING COURAGE
Do you have this? Do you have guts? Are you willing to risk failure in the interest of achievement or would you rather play it safe and be a follower? You’ll never know how far you can go if you don’t take risks.
Do you control your emotions or do you let them control you and your destiny? Do you practice self-discipline? Controlling your impulses affects your behavior.
3: A KEEN SENSE OF JUSTICE
Are you sensitive when dealing with those who have done wrong or are you self-righteous? Do you lack understanding for other peoples’ problems? Do you have a sense of fair play? Justice is strength.
4: DEFINITENESS OF PLANS
Do you have definite or specific plans for your journey on the road to success? Do you have a mission statement? This is essential for the leader. How can you lead if you don’t know where you’re going?
5: DEFINITENESS OF DECISION
Are you able to make decisions and then having made them, abide by them, in spite of opposition to your view point? If you have difficulty in making decisions you should work on improving that quality. Remember, procrastination is another word for indecision.
6: THE HABIT OF DOING MORE THAN YOU’RE PAID FOR
Do you understand fully the law of cause and effect, that you reap what you sow? Are you prepared to stay with the task until completed even if it requires more than you anticipated? Are you prepared to go the extra mile?
7: A PLEASING PERSONALITY
Do you have an inviting personality, not just a temporary locked-on smile? How is your attitude? Are you happy on the inside, because it shows on the outside! Are you sincere? True sincerity is vital to success. A negative attitude will sour your personality.
8: SYMPATHY AND UNDERSTANDING
Do you try to understand others’ faults and failures or are you too quick to condemn without querying the circumstances? Do you have empathy? Good leaders are good listeners.
9: MASTERY OF DETAIL
Do you pay attention to all of the small and unimportant details in any plan of action? Every minute part of a leader’s plan is important.
10: WILLINGNESS TO ASSUME FULL RESPONSIBILITY
Are you prepared to accept the responsibilities that go with authority? These can and will be enormous. Success requires responsibility.
Do you make a genuine and sincere effort to get along with people on a daily bases; to communicate, to assist and be assisted? Are you inter-dependent? We all do better when we work together.
I believe that one of the best ways we can all be leaders is to practice these qualities from Dr. Hill to our fullest potential, and by giving good examples so that others will endeavor to emulate us and our success. This indeed is true leadership.
There’s one more quality I would like to add to Dr. Hill’s list to make it an even dozen. It is Reciprocation. It may be considered a culmination of all the qualities put together. When you finally reach a station of achievement in life, when you’re in a leadership position, when you’ve climbed as far as you can go, when you’ve reached your destiny, what better way to prolong your well earned and well deserved accomplishments then to channel all that you’ve learned to those toiling up the mountain, to those who want to walk in your shoes. It’s the right thing to do.