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spike bullet November 2001 - The Essence of Leadership

The Corporate Mystic
Principle-Centered Leadership
The Leadership Challenge
The Greatest Management Principle in the World
Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun 
The Tao of Leadership
This Job Should be Fun!
Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win
Four Ways to Wisdom
An Exercise in Personal Leadership
Resources (links, books, articles, the lighter side)

color bulletThe Essence of Leadership

There are many, many theories about what is a "leader" and the qualities a leader must posses to be successful.  In this month's article, we take a look at the essence of a number of different theories so that people can decide for themselves what qualities they want to claim as their own.

The Corporate Mystic

Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman identify 12 characteristics of leadership for 21st Century Leaders in their book, The Corporate Mystic:

  1. Absolute Honesty.  Leaders want to know the truth even though that truth is sometimes personally painful.
  2. Fairness.  Leaders are fair because they see that at the core, all of us are equal.
  3. Self-Knowledge.  Leaders are particular concerned about learning about themselves. 
  4. A Focus on Contribution.  Leaders work for contribution, for the opportunity to serve.  Ultimately, they work for love.
  5. Non-dogmatic Spirituality.  Leaders tend to be allergic to dogma and often remain at a distance from religion in its more structured forms.  Rather, they attempt to live their lives from the universal sources of spirituality. 
  6. They Get More Done By Doing Less.  Leaders put a great deal of attention on learning to be in the present not caught up in regret about the past or anxiety about the future.  
  7. They Call Forth the Best of Themselves and Others.  Leaders develop a kind of double vision, at once able to see the mask and the essential person inside.
  8. Openness to Change.  Leaders understand that everything in the universe is subject to change and everything is right on schedule.
  9. A Special Sense of Humor.  Leaders laugh a lot.  They are quick to point out the quirks of life and the human animal, and are quick to include themselves in the joke.
  10. Keen Distant Vision and Up-Close Focus.  Leaders have the ability to focus on the separateness and the way everything is woven together.
  11. An Unusual Self-Discipline.  Leaders are fiercely disciplined a discipline born of passion, not authoritarian discipline driven by fear.
  12. Balance.  Leaders keep their eye on balancing their lives in four main areas: intimacy (including marriage, family and close friendship), work, spirituality and community (including social and political life.)

Leaders use those characteristics as they act through Integrity, Vision, Intuition, Inspiring Commitment, Communicating with People, Managing Projects, Creating Wealth and Discipline.

In addition, they offer Seven Radical Rules for Business Success:

  1. Always tell the truth.
  2. Always take 100 percent responsibility for any activity you are involved in.
  3. Scrupulously attend to all agreements you make and others make with you.
  4. Never gossip and never get in the middle of communications between other people.
  5. Set aside daily creative think-time and make it sacred.
  6. Make a to-do list and update it constantly throughout the day.
  7. Go to the source.  Whenever you hear of something that makes you feel uncomfortable, talk to all parties concerned and listen carefully to them.

Principle-Centered Leadership

Stephen Covey, author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People,  describes the characteristics of principle-centers leaders in this book as:

  1. They are constantly learning.
  2. They are service-oriented.
  3. They radiate positive energy.
  4. They believe in other people.
  5. They lead balanced lives.
  6. They see life as an adventure.
  7. They are synergistic.
  8. They exercise for self-renewal.

In the book, Principle-Centered Leadership, Mr. Covey further describes 10 Power Tools that leaders use to be powerful:

  1. Persuasion, which includes sharing reasons and rational and committing to stay in the communication process until mutually beneficial and satisfying outcomes are reached.
  2. Patience with the process and the person.
  3. Gentleness, not harshness, when dealing with vulnerabilities, disclosures and feelings of others.
  4. Teachableness, which means operating with the assumption that you do not have all the answers and valuing the different viewpoints, judgments and experiences of others. 
  5. Acceptance, withholding judgment, giving the benefit of the doubt, requiring no evidence or specific performance as a condition for sustaining high self-worth, making them your agenda.
  6. Kindness, sensitive, caring, thoughtful, remembering the little things (which are the big things) in relationships.
  7. Openness, acquiring accurate information and perspectives of others, giving full consideration to their intentions, desires, values and goals rather than focusing exclusively on their behavior.
  8. Compassionate confrontation, acknowledging error, mistakes and the need for others to make "course corrections" in a context of genuine care, concern and warmth, making it safe for people to take risks.
  9. Consistency so that your leadership style is not manipulative, rather a set of values and a reflection of who you are and who you are becoming.
  10. Integrity, honestly matching words and feeling with thoughts and actions, as well as constantly reviewing your intent as you strive for congruence.

The Leadership Challenge

James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of The Leadership Challenge, describe 5 practices of leaders:

  1. Challenging the Process.  Leaders are pioneers people who are willing to step out into the unknown in order to achieve innovation.  Leaders search out opportunities, experiment and take risks.
  2. Inspiring a Shared Vision.  Leaders see pictures in their mind's eye of what the results will look like even before they have started their projects.  Leaders envision the future and enlist others.
  3. Enabling Others to Act.  Exemplary leaders enlist the support and assistance of all those who must make a project work it includes peers, superiors, customers and suppliers all those who must support the vision.  Leaders foster collaboration and strengthen others.
  4. Modeling the Way.  Leaders lead by their own example, being a role model for others to follow, acting in ways that are consistent with their beliefs.  Leaders set the example and plan small wins.
  5. Encouraging the Heart.  Leaders must constantly encourage the heart of people to carry on by showing them how they can win.  Often this is through positive acknowledgement of the many small things that people do every day.  Leaders recognize contributions and celebrate accomplishments. 

A survey asking about the most admired qualities of leaders shows the following top 10:

  1. Honest     83% (This quality was selected by 83% of the 2,600 managers surveyed)
  2. Competent    67%
  3. Forward-looking    62%
  4. Inspiring    58%
  5. Intelligent    43%
  6. Fair-minded    40%
  7. Broad-minded    37%
  8. Straightforward    34%
  9. Imaginative    34%
  10. Dependable    33%

The Greatest Management Principle in the World

Michael LeBeof describes the greatest principle: The things that get rewarded get done.

He goes on to describe 10 strategies for making this principle into work:

  1. Reward solid solutions instead of quick fixes.
  2. Reward risk-taking instead of risk-avoiding.
  3. Reward applied creativity instead of mindless conformity.
  4. Reward decisive action instead of paralysis by analysis.
  5. Reward smart work instead of busy work.
  6. Reward simplification instead of needless complication.
  7. Reward quietly effective behavior instead of squeaking joints.
  8. Reward quality instead of fast work.
  9. Reward loyalty instead of turnover.
  10. Reward working together instead of working against.

Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun 

Wess Roberts wrote this very non-traditional book and first published it on his own for friends.  It has since became a best seller and a "must have" book for anyone interested in the subject of leadership.  The leadership qualities described include:

  1. Loyalty.  Disagreement is not necessarily disloyalty and should be listened to.  However, someone who participates in or encourages action that are counter to the good of the tribe is disloyal.
  2. Courage.  Leaders must be fearless and have the fortitude to carry out assignments given to them.  They must not balk at the sight of obstacles nor must they become bewildered when in the presence of adversity.
  3. Desire.  Leaders must have an inherent commitment to influencing people, processes and outcomes.
  4. Emotional Stamina.  Leaders must have the stamina to recover rapidly from disappointment, to bounce back from discouragement, to carry out the responsibilities of their office without becoming distorted in their views without losing clear perspective as well as the emotional strength to persist in the face of seemingly difficult circumstances.
  5. Physical stamina.  Leaders must nurture their bodies in order to support a healthy mind. 
  6. Empathy.  Leaders must have an appreciation for an d an understanding of the values of others, a sensitivity for other cultures, beliefs and traditions.
  7. Decisiveness.  Leaders must know when to act and when not to act.
  8. Anticipation.  Leaders must observe and use their instincts to anticipate thoughts, actions and consequences.
  9. Timing.  Leaders often develop a good sense of timing by applying the lessons learned by failure.
  10. Competitiveness.  Leaders must have an intrinsic desire to win the important contest, not necessarily win all the time.
  11. Self-confidence.  Leaders must have a personal feeling of assurance to meet the inherent challenges of leadership.
  12. Accountability.  Leaders must be accountable for their personal actions and the people they are responsible for.
  13. Responsibility.  Leaders must accept full responsibility for their actions.
  14. Credibility.  Leaders' words and actions must be believable to friend and foe, and must be worth of trust.
  15. Tenacity.  Leaders must have an unyielding drive to accomplish assignments.
  16. Dependability.  Leaders must be depended upon in all situations to carry out their roles and responsibilities.
  17. Stewardship.  Leaders must serve in a manner that encourages confident, trust and loyalty. 

Attila reminds us  that leaders must teach what they know to others so that there will continue to be leaders to follow.  Apparently, there was no strong leader following Attila and the Hun nation was absorbed into greater Europe.  The vanity of the princes and chieftains who jealously sought to succeed him resulted in the downfall of the nation.

The Tao of Leadership

John Heider has adopted Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching for modern leaders.  Just a few of the 81 leadership qualities covered in this wonderful book include:

  1. Be Open to Whatever Emerges.  The wise leader does not impose a personal agenda or value system on the group.
  2. The Paradox of Letting Go. When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be.  When I let go of what I have, I receive what I need.
  3. Unbiased Leadership.  Can you remain open and receptive, no matter what issues arise?  Can you know what is emerging, yet keep your peace while others discover it for themselves?
  4. Soft and Strong.  Water is fluid, soft and yielding.  But water will wear away rock, which is rigid and cannot yield.
  5. The Creative Process.  The wise leader knows about pairs of opposites and their interactions.  In order to lead, the leader knows how to follow.
  6. Inner Resources.  To know how other people behave takes intelligence, but to myself takes wisdom.
  7. Knowing What is Happening.  When you cannot see what is happening in a group, do not stare harder.  Relax and look gently with your inner eye.
  8. Tao is Universal.  All power and effectiveness come from following the law of creation.  There is no substitute for knowing how things happen and for acting accordingly.
  9. Unclutter Your Mind.  Learn to unclutter your mind and simplify your work.
  10. The Beginning, the Middle and the End.  Once an event is fully energized and formed, stand back as much as possible.  Pay attention to the natural unfolding of events.  Don't do too much.  Don't be too helpful.

This Job Should be Fun!

Bob Basso's book, This Job Should Be Fun!, is a reminder that without fun, most of us would rather be somewhere else.  

He offers a number of strategies for making sure the workplace has an appropriate amount of fun:.  

  1. Communication: Walk Your Talk.  Declare honesty from day one.  Lay it on the line, say what you mean, mean what you say. 
  2. Feedback: Form M-I-B Teams.   MIB means "make it better."  MIB teams satisfy your need to get the team to buy into improving everything and their need to take more control of the decisions that affect their day-to-day work life.
  3. Use a Battle Cry: Create Excitement, Start a Raging Fire.  Have the team create a slogan that reflects the team's commitment.  The slogan is like an advertising slogan.  For example, "Stop everything and support the front line first" or "We try harder."
  4. Cooperation: Get Action Now!  Enlist others by asking for their help, being responsible and accountable. 
  5. Goal-Setting: The "Hot List."  Practice MBGOOTW (managing by getting out of the way).  Identify the top 3 hot (immediate) problems to solve and ask the team to find ways to solve them, ask for their suggestions, make everybody a consultant and celebrate their victories in finding solutions.
  6. Rotation: Exchange Combatants.  Rotate employees for a day into another department, ask for volunteers, ask the rotated person to share what they learned with their regular team.
  7. Litigation: Resolve All Conflict in the Boo-Boo Stage. A recent survey of corporate attorneys reveals that the biggest culprit in most workplace legal actions is the frontline supervisor. Therefore, pay more attention to small conflicts and get them resolved before they become lawsuits. 
  8. Evaluations: Turn the Tables.  Use multiple view evaluations giving employees the chance to evaluate their supervisors. Ask them for suggestions about how you could do a better job. 
  9. Training: Stick to the Golden Rule.  Every morale problem, communication bottleneck, drop in quality and high rate of absenteeism can be traced to the closed door of a supervisor who's never been trained how to get people to do things together. to talk nicely, think, listen and have the patience of a saint.
  10. Workspace: Create a "Green Light" Environment. A green light means, "Yes, we want you to feel free to open up, ask questions, take charge, find new ways."  A red light means, "No, we don't want that."  High productivity comes when people are allowed to be productive, take initiative, develop creative solutions and produce results. 

Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss So You Both Win

This new book looks at leadership from a 360 viewpoint.  The author, Michael Useem, professor of management at The Wharton School,  provides many detailed case study examples of leaders who were successful and the various methods they used.  He also describes many examples of people who failed and the reasons why they failed.

Chapters in the book cover the following aspects of leadership:

  1. Informing your commander.
  2. Convincing a company to turn inside out.
  3. Begging your boss to untie your hands.
  4. Retaining the confidence of your directors and investors.
  5. Keeping your head when you have several superiors.
  6. Guiding your guide.
  7. Designing a future your boss can't quite envision.
  8. Persuading the ultimate authority
  9. The upward leader's calling.

Each chapter is filled with practical tips and ways to use the case studies.  This is a powerful book for anyone who leads people, reports to someone else or has ever felt the frustration of not having their ideas heard.

Four Ways to Wisdom

Author Angeles Arrien's work is well known for combining ancient wisdom with today's challenging business problems.  Her "four-fold way" is a reminder that helps us stay  powerful and balanced. 

  1. Show up and be present physically, mentally and emotionally.  This is the way of the Warrior, which teaches us to be visible and empower others through example and intention. 
  2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.  This is the way of the Healer archetype, which teaches us to be aware of and express feelings and emotions.
  3. Tell the truth without blame or judgment.  This is the way of the Visionary archetype, which teaches us to be honest and authentic during communication.
  4. Be open to outcome, not attached to outcome.  This is the way of the Teacher archetype, which teaches us to let go of expectations and preconceived ideas.


Warren Bennis' now classic book, Leaders, describes leadership as "heading into the wind with such knowledge of oneself and such collaborative energy as to move others to follow."  He offers four major strategies after interviewing 90 leaders over a period of two years:

  1. Attention Through Vision.  "I have a dream"<Martin Luther King, Jr.>  The leader must set a vision for others to follow.
  2. Meaning Through Communication.  "If you can dream it, you can do it."  <Walt Disney>   The leader's vision must be communicated to the people who can make it happen.  
  3. Trust Through Positioning. The accumulation of trust is a measure of the legitimacy of leadership; trust is the emotional glue that binds follows and leaders together. 
  4. The Deployment of Self Through Positive Self-Regard.  Leaders must have persistence and self-knowledge, be willing to take risks and accept losses, make and honor commitments, be consistent and willing to learn constantly. 

The book closes with this thought.  "We must raise the search for new leadership to a national priority.  We desperately need women and men who can take charge, and we hope that you, the reader, will be among them.  What can be more consequential and inspiring?"

An Exercise in Personal Leadership

This exercise comes from a Leadership course taught by Anna Joy Grace, Minister of the Unity Church of Olympia, WA, who adapted it from an exercise by Dr. Maria Nemeth called "Standards of Integrity":

  1. Think about leaders you admire and what makes them special to you.  
  2. Make a list of 10 leaders you admire.  They can be well-known people or anyone in your life who you feel shows leadership traits.  
  3. Write down 3 qualities that each leader has that you admire.
  4. Go back over the list and select 7 qualities that you particularly admire and write them down in a list. 
  5. Acknowledge that those qualities you admire in others are what you yourself exhibit as a leader.  It is because you resonate with them and feel drawn to them that you admire those qualities in others.
  6. Think about how you FEEL as you acknowledge the truth of your own leadership.
  7. Make a personal commitment to always walk in the truth of your own version of leadership rather than trying to fit anyone else's ideas.  This is a very powerful acknowledgement and helps give you the confidence that true leaders exhibit. 

book graphic  Books   -  Disclosure: We get a small commission for purchases made via links to Amazon.

  • Leaders: The Strategies for Taking Charge.  Warren Bennis, Burt Nanus.1985.  Harper & Row.  ISBN 0-06-015246-X
  • Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun. Wess Roberts. 1985. Warner Books ISBN 0-446-39106-9
  • Leading Up: How to Lead Your Boss so You Both Win, Michael Useem, 2001.   Crown Business. ISBN: 0-8129-3310-9 Book excerpts: 
  • Principle-Centered Leadership. Stephen Covey . 1990. Fireside (Simon & Schuster) ISBN 0-671-79280-6
  • The Corporate Mystic: A Guidebook For Visionaries With Their Feet on the Ground.  1996 Gay Hendricks and Kate Ludeman, Bantam Books, New York  ISBN 0-553-37494-X
  • The Four Fold Way: Walking the Paths of the Warrior, Teacher, Healer and Visionary. Angeles Arrien.  1993. HarperCollins ISBN 0-06250-059-7.
  • The Greatest Management Principle in the World. Michael Le Boeuf. G.P. Putnam's Sons. 1985 ISBN 0-399-13052-7
  • The Leadership Challenge: How to Get Extraordinary Things Done in Corporations. James Kouzes, Barry Posner. Original 1987. Third Edition, 2002.   Jossey-Bass Inc. Publishers ISBN: 0787956783
  • The Tao of Leadership: Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching Adapted for a New Age. John Heider.  1985 Humanics Limited. ISBN 0-89334-079-0   
  • This Job Should Be Fun! The New Profit Strategy for Managing People in Tough Times.  Bob Blasso with Judi Klosek. ISBN: 0595141420

world wide web - articles  Articles

World Wide Web graphic  Internet Resources

smiley graphic  The Lighter Side

Managers are people who do things right.  Leaders are people who do the right thing. ... Warren Bennis and Burt Nanus, Leaders

A throne is only a bench covered with velvet .. Napoleon Bonaparte, emperor of France

You manage things.  You lead people ... Grace Murray Hopper, U.S. Navy, considered by many to be the "mother of computer programming"

Shallow people believe in luck ... strong believe in cause and effect. ... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions.  Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.  ... Mark Twain 

I praise loudly, I blame softly.  ... Catherine II (The Great), empress of Russia

Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them.  ... William Shakespeare.

Sandwich every bit of criticism between two heavy layers of praise ... Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay Cosmetics

spike bullet If you have comments about this month's topic, please let us know or take our newsletter survey.  If you would like to receive free notices of the new monthly topic, please signup for our mailing list.

Page updated: October 16, 2023

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