There must be more words generated on the topic of leadership than any other topic in business. Next to dieting (and maybe that other subject), it is the world’s largest self-help topic.

It’s also mostly practiced poorly. (Much like that sentence is constructed.)

If the drug producers produced a pill for effective leadership, its popularity would be a close second to the little blue pill.

It would be nice to dispense with the need for pills, endless blog posts and new shelves of books each year that say ostensibly the same thing. We need the e=mc2 for effective leadership. We need the unified theory of leadership and performance. We need something that connects behaviors with outcomes and that simplifies it to the level where everyone can readily grasp what it means to lead effectively.

Or, maybe we need the real acid test for character. The nightly news is filled with leaders from name brand firms that failed this test. It’s actually an easy test, but for too many, it’s tempting to cheat.

Note to everyone: character is critical when it comes to hiring. (And firing.)

Leading in Dangerous Situations:

I believe the closest we get to understanding what pure effective leadership looks like comes from studying those who lead in dangerous situations. Sadly, our century is filled with examples.

From firefighters running back into burning or collapsing buildings to warriors operating in the heat of a firefight with terrorists, there is a purity to these examples that we in business must be inspired to pursue and emulate.

The principles and behaviors of those leading in these difficult circumstances reflect:

  • Unyielding focus on mission
  • Unrelenting effort
  • Extreme competence in their roles
  • Trust earned by giving respect
  • Credibility earned one encounter at a time
  • Selflessness in pursuit of protecting others

Is it possible that a winning organization and team can be built around these same principles and behaviors?

I think so.

To our first responders and warriors, thank you for modeling the formula.

To the rest of us, is it really that hard to understand how to get this leadership thing right?

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Leadership Books by Art Petty