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The paradoxical commandments of leadership

Posted on September 22, 2015 at 7:00 AM

We've all studied and read so much on leadership.  This particular article is a unique look at the ever-elusive qualities that make for an effective leader.  I must agree that leadership can be hard.  Maybe if we take a few minutes to recognize that on the natural, leadership is challenging, then maybe it makes it a bit more tolerable during those hard times.  Take a look and see how it resonates with you!


Harvey Mackay SEPTEMBER 20, 2015 — 2:00PM

Leading an organization, public, private or nonprofit, requires making tough decisions. It’s just part of the job, whether it’s in the job description or not.


Business school classes in leadership offer sound advice based on solid research and practical experience. In theory, it all works beautifully. You make the rules, you set the example, you toe the mark and everyone follows your lead. Training is important, even if it doesn’t prepare you for every scenario.


To become the best leader you can be, you must take advantage of every opportunity to learn and improve.


But even more important, is setting standards for what you will and will not do, and what you will and will not tolerate.


One of my favorite examples of well-defined leadership comes from Kent Keith, under what he calls the “paradoxical commandments of leadership.” I’ve added my thoughts to these “10 commandments” and hope they help you prepare your value statement.


1. People are illogical, unreasonable and self-centered. Love them anyway.


I’ve learned that co-workers and customers do not always respond as I would hope. But if I want to keep them as colleagues and customers, I need to cut them some slack.


2. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Do good anyway.


If you are doing well, then you should be doing good. The good you do will outweigh the criticism you endure. In truth, it would be more selfish to abandon your good works in order to avoid conflict.


3. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway.


There will always be those who will want to jump on your bandwagon or be jealous of your good fortune. That shouldn’t prevent you from doing the best you can do.


4. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway.


Do good because it’s the right thing to do, not because you are looking for lifetime recognition. Remember, virtue is its own reward.


5. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway.


I maintain that lying and cheating make you more vulnerable. Being honest and frank translates into trust, which is the most important five-letter word in business.


6. The biggest men with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men with the smallest minds. Think big anyway.


Small-minded people rarely accomplish big things, and they are not leaders. Take some risks and trust your judgment.


7. People favor underdogs, but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway.


Top dogs were underdogs once, too. Great leaders mentor their replacements because they know they won’t be the top dogs forever.


8. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway.


You can’t predict the future, but you can be prepared to face problems with careful planning.


9. People really need help, but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway.


A helping hand might get slapped away. But if you stand by and do nothing when you have the capacity to be helpful, shame on you. That’s not leadership, that’s cowardice.


10. Give the world the best you have and you’ll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have ­anyway.


Put a smile on your face and give your detractors a big, toothy target. You never have to apologize for doing your best. You should apologize if you do less than your best.


Mackay’s Moral: When you lead with a purpose, people have a reason to follow you.


Harvey Mackay is a Minneapolis businessman. Contact him at 612-378-6202 or e-mail [email protected]

Categories: Leadership

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