You Have To Want To Lead

You Have To Want To Lead

Leading can be gratifying but also lonely. Ambition and the determination to succeed may mean sacrificing friends and family.

Think of how many children of great men have had unhappy lives. That loneliness is why statesmen like summits: they meet those rare others who face the same pressures and responsibilities.

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@lila_vhh

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Career

weforum.org

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Know When To Step Down

Often leaders have chosen to stay on when they should have bowed out. Without intending to, they often undo much of their own work and cause problems for their successors.

An increasingly frail Winston Churchill should not have tried to be prime minister again in 1951. His government drifted, while his chosen successor Anthony Eden grew increasingly embittered. 

Key People To Keep On Side

The people to keep on side can vary: in a democracy, leaders need to worry about who's important in their context.

Bismarck sought to keep a stable relationship with Wilhelm of Germany above all, while the Democratic Party in the USA rose to power by seeking the support of different racial and economic groups.

See And Ride The Currents Of History

Effective leaders are able to manage both the day-to-day issues that press in on them and the bigger picture. A knowledge of history shows patterns amidst all the noise of current events and reminds of unusual possibilities.

Bismarck famously said that a statesman “must wait until he hears the steps of God sounding through events, then leap up and grasp the hem of his garment”. And he did that when he manoeuvred across the chess board of Europe to create the new state of Germany.

Listen

Choosing good and independent subordinates and listening to them is a safeguard against making bad decisions.

In the Cuban Missile Crisis, President John F. Kennedy insisted on hearing his advisers’ different points of view before deciding how to deal with the Soviet challenge in Cuba. 

Don’t Believe Your Own Propaganda

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of modern Turkey, accounted for his limitations by issuing an order to ignore instructions he gave in the evenings – when he liked to carouse with his friends. But history has far more examples of leaders whose convictions of infallibility grow in proportion to their power, eventually leading to the failure of their plans.

The Traps That Power Lays

A job can subtly warp your judgement so that you only see things from one perspective.

Think of Richard Nixon trying to use the institutions of the American government to shut down the Watergate scandal. Or the unexpectedly long American war in Vietnam.

Be a Good Communicator

That means above all understanding your audience and targeting your speech.

Winston Churchill and Pres. Roosevelt masterfully used their communication skills to prepare and keep their nations in a war that at times seemed hopeless.

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RELATED IDEAS

  • They are skilled at articulating a compelling vision that inspires followers.
  • They read the environment and sense the needs of followers to tailor a message that will have the most impact.
  • They are good storytellers who use symbolism and metaphor to make stories come alive.
  • They display deep belief in the promise and possibilities of the organization
  • They show sense of optimism for the probability of success.
  • They have the will  to take personal risks and make sacrifices to turn the vision into reality
Have a Succession Plan

Alexander the Great built one of the largest empires in history in just a few short years, and it fell apart just as quickly. As soon as Alexander died, his generals carved up his empire into pieces.

Every leader wants to build something that lasts, and that means finding someone to take over once you step down. Failure to do so can mean the undoing of your life's work in just a few short years.

There are two kinds of historical events to learn from
  • Specific events. Their usefulness is limited to particular events that will not be repeated in the exact same way. What did this person do right, or wrong? What ideas worked? What strategies failed?
  • Broad behaviours that repeatedly surface in many fields and eras. These behaviours are often ignored. How do people think about risk? How do they react to surprise? What motivates them, cause them to be overconfident, or unsure?

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