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The Building Blocks of Leadership | What are they?

What Does It Take to be a Great Leader?

Nothing in life travels in a neat formation accompanied by bugles and cavalry. A lot of it shows up filthy and unkempt, prominent in the mess we’ve made around our foxhole. These lessons are typically the offspring of hubris, naivete and ignorance … or from overlooking the land mines hidden beneath our feet.

Every Tuesday, we’ll share valuable and practical leadership tips and tools to help you BE a better leader so you can BECOME a better leader. Remember … you won’t BECOME a better leader until you start BEING a better leader  … implementing NOW the changes necessary to adopt the proven strategies of successful leaders. You might start by building on the communication matrix and making sure you’re defending the castle to get done what only you can do. Make sure to take some time so you’re thinking past today.


This is the introductory article to an upcoming 10 part series on the building blocks of


Some of the greatest battles will be fought

within the silent chambers of your own soul.”

— Ezra Taft Benson

As a business leader, how often have you paused to wonder, “Am I a very good leader?” “Is it possible that I’m really just a ‘legend in my own mind’ and that when I turn around and look closely, not many people are following?”

Leadership is the centerpiece of our business success. We start out with what God gave us, and stumble, fall, grow, learn and build from that foundation, emboldened by our success, nurtured by our failures.

What does it take to be a great leader?

Your business will not survive … let alone thrive … if you don’t become the best leader you can, quenching your own thirst for knowledge while nurturing successful leadership behavior around you. What does it take to be a good leader? How much is inherited, and is that all we’re going to get? Where can we go to fill in what’s missing? What if we apply the best practices that others have learned and shared?

Yes, it’s possible that we’re not quite the leaders we think we are. So, how do we measure our capability and success as leaders? If our company is making money, does that cover it? If our company is growing, have we arrived? Do we just need to look around to see if anyone is following us?

Leadership definitions are limitless

There are countless definitions, metaphors and analogies to describe Leadership, and I’ve probably used all of them on one occasion or another. Leadership is communication. Leadership is influence. Leadership is about achieving accountability. It’s all this … and more.

Inspire people to achieve a common goal

In some form or another, leadership is about inspiring a group of people to achieve a common goal. It’s measured by performance at every level … growth, profits, longevity, turnover, succession … and its demands can be unforgiving.

The libraries and bookstores are overflowing

In many ways, leadership is a bottomless bucket of attributes, skills, qualities and characteristics that are required to move our organizations toward success. Our libraries and bookstores are chocked full with books and articles on the subject. They’ve been written by and from every perspective … from classic sources like Machiavelli’s The Prince, to Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, from the perspectives of Genghis Khan and Napoleon, McArthur and Patton. There are books with a religious perspective, sharing the leadership lessons gleaned from the teachings of Mohammed, Jesus and Buddha.

Who hasn’t written a book about leadership?

There are countless books from and about business leaders of every stripe … from Alfred Sloan who built General Motors, to GE’s legendary CEO, Jack Welch … to technology leaders like Bill Gates and Steve Jobs. Academicians and consultants as well as a wide range of observers and students also fill bookshelves with their thoughts and observations.

What are the Building Blocks of Leadership?

As I launch an extended discussion about leadership over the next several months, we’re not going to re-create or summarize that rich body of work. You should devote time to some of those works, however, as they will provide valuable perspectives and ideas that will inform your leadership style and focus.

Instead, we’re going to explore on some of the most important building blocks of leadership. I’ve been thinking about this a lot over the last few years, and as I’ve talked to CEOs, taken notes and captured my own experiences, I realize that many of these key attributes start with one of the letters in the word L.E.A.D.E.R.S.H.I.P., which we’ll use as a platform for our extended conversation.

Join the Conversation | Next week … L = Loyalty

Next time, we’ll begin with L = Loyalty, a powerful but often misunderstood touchstone of a successful leader. I’ll be writing an article every week over the next several months to stimulate this dialog, which will be published here and in the New York Times affiliate, the North Bay Business Journal.

In the meantime, let’s engage in a vibrant conversation about leadership. Join the conversation and offer your comments. Are there attributes you think I overlooked, or maybe you disagree with my choices? Either way, feel free to share your thoughts along the way.

What do you think are the most important characteristics of leadership? Which ones do you cherish as critical to your success?


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