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3 Simple Rules of Leader Development

Looking for the Holy Grail of Leadership?

Periodically, I search for the Leadership Holy Grail. What characteristics really define a true leader? How can a leader sustain vision, and inspire and invigorate others to achieve greatness? How can leaders identify, and develop their successors—other great leaders? And, the most personal of all the questions: How can I achieve and sustain the highest level of leader development; how can I fulfill my own potential? 

Even as I’m searching, I realize that I will finish my quest frustrated, confused and empty-handed, but still, I look. I know I’m really asking for the easy way out. Just tell me the rules and I PROMISE that I’ll follow them to the letter!

During my last search, I stumbled across this insightful quote from W. Somerset Maugham: “There are three rules for creating good leaders. Unfortunately, no one knows what they are.”  Who knew this famous writer would understand the inherent frustration of leadership so well? Okay, I’m going to craft my own Holy Grail.  I’ve been training, consulting with and coaching leaders for 20+ years. Here are MY three rules:

1. Embrace the opportunities in failure. Look at them, determine and memorize the “what I will do differently”, and then walk away. Leave the past where it belongs. Behind you.

Do not let self-doubt drive you into risk aversion. Leaders take risks every day—with their visions, their relationship with colleagues, employees and clients. A visible differentiator between great, sustaining leaders and one-shot wonders is the willingness and ability to take that next well-planned risk.

2. Balance—daily—the seduction of “how you want things to be” and the pragmatism of “how they could turn out.” Crafting a vision and imagining a successful future is a required aspect of aiming high and thinking big. Sustaining leaders are willing and able to back up the vision with a realistic view of the challenges, obstacles, and limiters.

Success in business is not achieved with a Field of Dreams approach. Just because you build it, they will not come. But they (your clients, employees and supervisors) will come when they see that your vision has honest, well-thought-out actions to offset the challenges, obstacles and limiters. See far—and be real.

3. Be prepared and enthusiastic about being a great follower as well as a successful leader. There are other quality people around you whose counsel you should listen to and whose leadership you should follow. No one person can or should be the leader all the time, for all situations. Learn to listen well, question often, challenge appropriately and follow with dedication and perseverance when it’s your time to follow.

The person you are following for a time will be more successful, and you will acquire robust knowledge and experience on how to lead more effectively by actively participating as a professional follower.

Do you have a special Holy Grail of Leadership? Do you know the three rules?

How about sharing? Comment below, we'd love to hear.

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