There are seven maxims that have guided me throughout my life of leadership. Let me share these with you. I urge you to take them and make them your own.
- Work smarter, not harder.
I grew up in a military and sports world. I lived with the idea that if there is no pain there is no gain. I’m glad I did. These words made me work hard in my early days. Yet in leadership, working harder isn’t usually the best way. Now, I have sensors that go off if I’m working too hard. I start to ask if I’m doing the work that is really mine. Have I taken on what someone else should be doing? Am I using the right tools? Am I doing the work the right way? This maxim has saved me time and again in my life of leadership.
- Leadership is about building a culture.
We tend to think of leadership as like the general out in front of his troops shouting, “Charge!” Yet most leadership isn’t about this. It is about building a culture. A culture is simply “what is encouraged to grow.” So, leadership is primarily about encouraging the right values, attitudes, devotion, and excellence for a company to thrive. The leader’s job is to embody and model the culture he or she is trying to build into the entire organization.
- If they aren’t with you, they can’t stay. If they are with you, they won’t leave.
Leaders can be overly-sensitive people who worry about who stays with them and who leaves far more than they should. I believe this takes care of itself. I build a culture. I set direction. Most of my team will rally to it and stay. Some will leave. I treat them well as they do, but I know that sometimes people will leave. To hurt over it is usually just vanity. Love those who leave. Treat them well. Celebrate them as they go. Move on. If they aren’t with you, they can’t stay. This kind of change is part of life.
- You have a destiny, but your destiny is fulfilled by investing in the destinies of others.
You knew I was going to bring this one up. Leadership is about investing in the destinies of others. By how you invest in your team. By your products. By the culture you build. By the good you do in society. A leader who believes that the role of others is only to invest in them and their vision is merely cannibalizing relationships.
- True growth never comes from the urgent and important in our lives. It comes from the non-urgent that we make important.
This principle was first stated by Dwight Eisenhower and then later made into a system of management by Stephen Covey. It means simply that the most important things that lead to your growth and productivity are hardly ever urgent. You have to prioritize them. Life won’t do it for you. For example, in my life of leadership, studying, praying, working out, tending my soul, getting perspective on my firm, and long-range envisioning are hardly ever urgent, hardly ever pressed upon me from the outside. I have to make these important by recognizing their value and investing in them. This is where true growth and success come from.
- Rest well. Lead well.
I know. I know. You’ve been nagged about this all your leadership life. Yet it is true. Most creativity, most good ideas, most healthy souls spring from planned, regular periods of rest. Build such days and seasons into your life.
- Inspired leaders inspire.
To be a great leader, you have to be a soul on fire. You have to be a true believer—passionate about what you do and about those around you. Do what you need to do to be a soul completely alive. Do an extreme sport. Lose your heart to a noble cause. Rid yourself of bitterness. Give yourself fully to God. In other words, ignite noble fires in your soul. Then lead from a life aflame with purpose and passion.