The not-so-common sense leadership traits of aspiration, planning, inspiration and execution are nicely articulated in this Inc. article, 4 Traits of Great Leaders, written by Matthew Swyers (@trademarkco). His example of John F. Kennedy rallying a nation to reach for the moon is an easily recognizable accomplishment from the 20th century. Ultimately, he is not saying anything new here, but merely pointing out that an advanced degree in physics isn’t necessary to become a great leader. And, generating ideas does not make you a leader. Great leaders create a plan to achieve their dreams and inspire others around them to help them execute the plan.
I used to believe in the lone wolf strategy of leadership. You might have one or two sidekicks that helped you achieve your goals, but ultimately it was the individual that made things happen. I call this the “Lone Ranger” approach to leadership. As I matured, I realized that the Lone Ranger only impacts his small corner of the planet. However great he might be, he is limited by his time and geography.
Today I know that to truly change the world in a meaningful way you need to inspire others to follow your plan. You need to be an evangelist and cheerleader. Just because someone bestows a title upon you, does not mean that you will inspire anyone. A title doesn’t inspire people. It might intimidate some people to move when you are present; but, will they still be passionate to carry on once you leave.
Most everyone aspires to be something more and sometimes that makes us simply envious of others. While, other times it inspires us to think we too can do it if we follow their plan. There is a whole industry of people out there trying to sell you their plan for success. Frankly, following a plan may teach you their method of success, but unless you tinker with it and make it your own plan you will not learn how to inspire others. Own your inspiration, own your plan and most importantly inspire others to execute it with you. Learn, revise and execute your plan again if you must. Learning is key, doing is critical!
This article posted there chronicling the one year business journey from idea to product launch is truly inspirational.
Yeah, I’m not talking about illicit liquor, but a new cologne by three guys that challenged each other and brought their idea to market. It takes chutzpa to follow your ideas. And, it takes more to become a success. The story got me thinking right away about all of my hair brained ideas. Most of my entrepreneurial success has really been as an intrepreneur (entrepreneurial activities within an organization) = Less risk and less reward. But, I have other ideas simmering that may one day allow me to test the more dangerous entrepreneurial waters.
Niall Ferguson lists 6 reasons western societies with 19% of global population controlled 75% of the world’s resources. I think he missed one.
Competition – Many corporations, similar to the City of London Corporation in the 12th Century, along other governments were competing with one another. Think about the number of western European languages spoken around the world today due to colonization.
The Scientific Revolution – while we all know gun powder came to Europe from China, it was the Europeans that continued to experiment with it and mash together multiple scientific disciplines in order to improve it. Niall’s example is a German using Newtonian physics to improve the accuracy of bombs.
Property Rights – I think this is probably one of the most fundamental rights in American history that contributed to stability and growth of the middle class. Even the poorest could own property which might remain for generations. Though, many injustices occurred over property disputes, those legal protections help the poorest prevail against the richest.
Modern Medicine – ensuring people lived longer, healthier, and productive lives. Imagine the additional productivity of one person by nearly doubling their life expectancy. Just the simple act of surgeons washing their hands before getting elbow deep into another person’s abdomen probably saved a few million lives.
The Consumer Society – Henry Ford paid much higher wages than other manufacturers at the time. He wanted Ford employees to afford Model Ts which in turn kept demand high for his product. For all the benefits of consumerism, there lurk many dangers as 2008 proved. The rising middle class in China and India creates demand for high-end western luxuries, but desires in the west for those goods at ever cheaper prices led to the decline of manufacturing in the west.
Work Ethic – Western society’s work ethic turned virgin soil into vast acres of corn, cotton, tobacco and grazing land. Now the Native Americans that provided the seeds for tobacco and corn to the newcomers were equally (if not more) successful than Europeans at growing these crops. The difference was profit versus subsistence. It was the European demand for tobacco that encouraged a strong work ethic. Niall uses the examples of North and South Korea along with East and West Germany. The communist state produces markedly less quantity and quality than do non-communist states.
Why? – I suppose you could lump this into the scientific revolution above, but really this is the ability to question authority, as well as, the desire to understand the reason an apple feels compelled to hurl itself toward earth. The inalienable rights of mankind to desire freedom and reject tyranny led to asking why. I think some of the basic tenets of Christianity contributed to this enlightened thought. Even though Catholicism suppressed western society for centuries, once peasants demanded the right to read and interpret the bible for themselves, The Church’s strangle hold loosened forever.
Niall fears (as do I) that the rest of the world will quickly catch up and overtake western society, but it is not too late. While governments are slow to react and bogged down in squabbles over Keynesian economics, we must act now to prepare our kids for challenges of the 21st century. Mark Twain said, he never let his education get in the way of his learning. Join me in teaching our children to be creative problem solvers that bravely seek answers to WHY.
Marshall asks Kathy about the results of a study on the leadership aspirations of girls. Most were ambivalent about the current command and control leadership most prevalent in our society. A fact that most enlightened leaders already understand. Interestingly, most of the female business executives and business owners in the US (80%) are former Girl Scouts; as are more than 65% of the female members of the US Congress and Senate. Clearly Girl Scouts are developing valuable leadership skills in young women.
What else can we do to help our young girls become confident strong leaders?
It is hard to separate our work lives from our lives, but perhaps until we are in work that truly engages our passions we sort of ramble through life learning our lessons.
I watched a CNBC special about Colonel Harland Sanders last night. He had a rough start as a kid growing up in Kentucky and undertook many roles including entrepreneur. But, it wasn’t until he was 65 (and broke) that he began pursuing the endeavor he is best known for now. He took his unique fried chicken recipe and cooking style on the road to convince restauranteurs around the country to buy his recipe and cooking style. The rest is history.
This inspires me to continue looking for my recipe, too.
This is exactly what I’m talking about. This article about Hart Main @entmagazine by Michelle Juergen, describes the sort of kid that inspires me to encourage others to pursue their ideas. Yes, I realize this kid figured it out all by himself, like many others will. However, there must be a concrete method of teaching and encouraging more of this. Perhaps, it is as simple as getting successful kidpreneurs together so they can interact with other kids that either have an idea, want to come up with an idea or simply want to learn best practices from others.
Terrific Article by Bruce Nussbaum and exactly the trend I see. I want to capitalize on this for my kids. Entrepreneurs or Makers are on the rise. People don’t want to be employees. While that is nothing new and the whole point of enlightened leadership is to empower teams to take ownership. This is nonetheless a rewarding path that frees our kids from the tyranny of crony capitalism and mass consumerism.