The laws of leadership

March 18, 2016 12:12 pm
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Leadership can seem like a mysterious quality, impossible to measure or bottle and sell, and whilst leadership cannot be taught or learned, it can certainly be developed. Leadership is like a muscle. It needs to be flexed and stretched and put under load for it to develop and grow and become stronger in an individual.

Strong leaders advance more quickly in organisations, have greater prestige and job security, and typically get greater satisfaction from their jobs. So how can we all improve our leadership quality and get a slice of that action?

Bill Cohen PhD, a former Major General in the US Air Force believes there are 8 universal laws of leadership, which are valid in both combat and non-combat situations:

  • Maintain absolute integrity
  • Know your stuff
  • Declare your expectations
  • Show uncommon commitments
  • Expect positive results
  • Take care of your people
  • Put duty before self
  • Get out in front

And who would not be inspired by a leader demonstrating these traits?

In his book “The New Art of the Leader”, Bill explores these 8 Universal Principles and presents a number of engaging and compelling examples that support his theory that leadership can be developed.

Mary Kay Ash founded a billion dollar cosmetics company in the US in the 1980s, which she started with just a $5,000 investment. She became famous for giving away a Pink Cadillac to her most successful sales woman every year. Her key to successfully motivating her vast sales team of over 30,000 was a very simple one. She took care of her people. She imagined every member of the sales team she met had a sign on his or her head that read “Make me feel important”, and she did everything she could to meet that request.

Leaders must not be minders of the shop. If people don’t have clarity on where you are going, they clearly can’t get there. It is a leader’s primary responsibility to provide that direction.

The processor caterpillar seeks out mulberry leaves as it’s food source, with one lead caterpillar setting the direction, and a number of follower caterpillars in a nose-to-tail train. A scientist conducted an experiment where he took a line of processor caterpillars and formed them into a circle. He placed a bowl of mulberry leaves in the middle of the circle and watched to see how long it would take for one of the caterpillars to break rank and head for the leaves. The caterpillars continued to walk round and round in the circle until they were too tired to make it to the food only inches away.

Men and women are not caterpillars. If you provide no vision, direction and clarity of purpose, they will follow someone else who does know where he or she wants the group to go and who can present a compelling future for them.

Direction must be followed with inspiration. People respond so much better to acknowledgement of a job well done and a feeling of achievement than they might do to an increase in salary or a bonus payment. Responsibility accompanied by growth, development and new challenges in the workplace deliver new energy and focus and engender passion and commitment from people. To inspire and lead your team today, focus on the most important factors first.

  • Treat those you lead with respect
  • Make the work interesting
  • Always give recognition for excellent work
  • Actively develop the skills of the team that you lead
  • And don’t forget that imaginary sign on their head!

Who will you inspire today?


Written by Nick Smith, Coriolis Ltd