Breaking Down the Meaning of Leadership


By Harvey Mackay

U.S. President and five-star General Dwight Eisenhower used a simple device to illustrate the art of leadership. Laying an ordinary piece of string on a table, he’d illustrate how you could easily pull it in any direction.

“However, try and push it,” he cautioned, “and it won’t go anywhere. It’s just that way when it comes to leading people.”

Leadership at any successful organization needs to be plainly defined. Here’s how I see it:

L is for loyalty. A leader must be loyal to the organization, and leave no question that he or she is committed to its success. Loyalty is the distinguishing quality of winners. That goes for everyone – entrepreneurs, owners, managers and employees. No exceptions. A leader models loyalty so that it works top down, bottom up and side-to-side, and at all times.

E is for enthusiasm. Leaders know that enthusiasm is contagious, and they help spread it around. If you are excited about hitting the pavement every day, it will show. And that generates enthusiasm among your employees and customers. You’ll get what you give.
There is one thing more contagious than enthusiasm, and that is the lack of enthusiasm.
Focus on the positive, even if it is a small thing. Train your brain to look for the silver lining, and then be amazed at how your improved attitude leads to enthusiasm that permeates the workplace.

A is for adversity. Truly effective leaders accept adversity as a condition of doing business. I have never met a successful person who hasn’t had to overcome either a little or a lot of adversity. Don’t be afraid of adversity – handled properly, it makes you stronger. It helps you grow. Problems and people can’t stop you. The only thing that can stop you is YOU.

D is for determination. Determined people, particularly determined leaders, possess the stamina and courage to pursue their ambitions despite criticism, ridicule or unfavorable circumstances. In fact, discouragement usually spurs them on to greater things. When they get discouraged, they recognize that in order to change their results, some change is in order. Determined people also exhibit another “D” trait: discipline.

E is for example. We lead by example, whether in business, family or friendships. It doesn’t matter if you’re raising children or managing people, setting a good example is one of the most important leadership skills. You have to practice what you preach. How you conduct yourself says more than any instructions you may give. Set high personal standards and expect the same from your staff.

R is for resilience. Failure is all too common in business and in life. Anyone who has ever run a business wakes up regularly with nightmares about the what-ifs. Successful people are resilient. They don’t let hard times turn into end times. Let them lead to your best times.

S is for sincerity. Say what you mean, and mean what you say. “Go team go” only works if you are sincerely committed to what you are doing.

H is for heart. A good decision must factor in the human element. When your head and your heart say the same thing, you can bet it’s the right answer. There’s no denying the heart of a leader. Use your head, to be sure, but don’t ignore what your heart is telling you.

I is for integrity. Integrity begins at the top. Leaders must set the example – inspiring employees to do what is right, rather than what is easy. We must clearly define what is expected throughout the organization, ensuring integrity is first and foremost in our decision-making. Enduring leaders know that integrity is not optional.

P is for purpose. Leaders think in terms of goals. There isn’t a college football coach with a greater sense of purpose than Lou Holtz. He proved it at Notre Dame, Arkansas, the University of Minnesota and a host of other universities. Did you know that Lou once coached the New York Jets? He left the job after only eight months. Why? Because, as Lou told me, he came to the job “without a clear sense of purpose. Absent a focus of my own, I couldn’t give one to the team. I was embarrassed by my inability to provide them with proper leadership. So I left.”

Few leaders are as honest.

Mackay’s Moral: Great leaders know how to “spell out” goals and expectations.

(Harvey MacKay is Chairman of the MacKay/Mitchell Envelope Company and author of the New York Times #1 Bestsellers Swim With The Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive and Beware The Naked Man Who Offers You His Shirt. He is a regular columnist in MAIL Magazine.)


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