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Build On Unchanging Principles of Leadership

“The foundational principles of leadership remain the same and apply to all.”

The unchanging ethos of good leaders engenders the respect and admiration of others; it inspires and attracts people of character who desire to learn from such people of influence.

If you’ve been in leadership for ten years or more, you have already discovered that good leaders learn from other leaders as they come up through the ranks. A good reputation usually precedes them, and their protégées will attest to their gifts, talents, level of influence, character, and consistency.

I’ve been involved in leadership development and management for more than forty years and have read numerous books on both. Through all my successes and failures, I have seen it firsthand in those who mentored me; their leadership principles and ethics were consistent.

John C. Maxwell remarks, “It’s still true that leadership is leadership, no matter where you go or what you do. Times change technology marches forward. Cultures differ from place to place.

But the principles of leadership are constant whether you’re looking at the citizens of ancient Greece, the Hebrews in the Old Testament, the armies of the modern world, the leaders in the international community, the pastors in local churches, or the businesspeople of today’s global economy. Leadership principles are unchanging and stand the test of time.” (1)

Embracing the Fundamentals

A study by Ron Ashkenas and Brook Manville confirms my observations and Maxwell’s comments. Ashkenas and Manville wrote, “Despite many changes in our context — as organizations have become more democratic and networked, for example — in its fundamentals, leadership has not changed over the years. It is still about mobilizing people in an organization around common goals to achieve impact, at scale.

We interviewed over forty successful leaders from a variety of organizations (corporate, non-profit, startup) across different industries. We then reviewed several decades worth of articles from the Harvard Business Review to understand the recurring messages from academics and practitioners about what leaders should do.

Our conclusion from this research, and from our own years of experience as leadership and organizational advisors, was that the best leaders with the most outsize impact almost always deploy these six classics, fundamental practices:

  1. Uniting people around an exciting, aspirational vision.

  2. Building a strategy for achieving the vision by making choices about what to do and what not to do.

  3. Attracting and developing the best possible talent to implement the strategy.

  4. Relentlessly focusing on results in the context of the strategy.

  5. Creating ongoing innovation that will help reinvent the vision and strategy.

  6. “Leading yourself”: knowing and growing yourself so that you can most effectively lead others and carry out these practices.

Sure, sometimes the starting point is different, or one of the six areas requires more heavy lifting than another, or the sequence of activities varies. And yes, leaders go about these practices in different ways depending on their personalities and their situations. But the same handful of practices are always present.” (2)

John Maxwell writes, “Small disciplines repeated with consistency everyday lead to great achievements gained slowly over time.” (3) Longevity in leadership requires a lifestyle of demonstrating solid character and reliable principles.

In Conclusion, “Nothing will test character like the age-old Golden Rule, Treating others as you would like to be treated is the universal test of character. From your living room to the board room, life becomes your classroom. The Golden Rule applies to the neighborhood retail business and the Fortune 500 companies alike; no one can bypass the Golden Rule and achieve longevity with prosperity from one generation to the next.” (4) Master the six basic principles and apply the golden rule in all your relationships and your legacy will be secure.

End Notes

(1) The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership (25th Anniversary Edition) John C. Maxwell

(2) “The Fundamentals of Leadership Still Haven’t Changed” Harvard Business Review

(3) “The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth” John C. Maxwell

(4) “3 Traits of Leaders Who Function in The Exchange of Abundance”

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