Leadership by Example The Ten Key Principles of All Great Leaders
By Sanjiv Chopra
Thomas Dunne Books Copyright © 2012 Sanjiv Chopra
All right reserved. ISBN: 9780312594909
Leadership by Example The 10 Tenets of Leadership
Sanjiv Chopra, MD
with David Fisher
I imagine most of you have looked up into the sky and marveled at the sight of a flock of migrating birds flying in V-formation. It is quite a beautiful sight. Each of them keeps its place behind the leader, twisting and turning through the air as the leader does. Following without the slightest squawk. It’s much easier to be a follower than a leader. Scientists have proven that being a follower requires birds to expend much less energy than the leader. It’s easy to be a follower when someone up ahead is cutting down the wind resistance for you.
But what few people know is that this formation has no single leader. One bird flies at the point until it tires and then it drops back and is replaced by another. During the long migration most of the birds have both the opportunity and the responsibility to become the leader of the formation.
Our lives are similar. Very few people are leaders all of the time, in everything we do, but all of us can become the leader for a certain time, in specific situations. Maybe it’s not surprising that the majority of us do not think of ourselves as leaders. In fact, as children we’re taught to be followers: We even play games like ‘Follow the Leader,’ in which there is only one leader but many followers. As you begin reading this I’d like you to pause for just one moment and try to count the number of times in the last day that you’ve been a leader? Literally, pause and think about it. And while you’re answering remember that it is possible to lead at many different levels: In a committee, in your business situation or at a social club, maybe at your religious
institution or the Little League or your university or most important, in your own life in ways that resonate uniquely for you.
It’s the definition of leadership that confuses many people. There is the belief that to be a leader you must have followers and, surprisingly, that isn’t completely correct. Leaders take charge by virtue of their actions and decisions, others choose to follow. A true leader simply moves forward doing what he or she believes is correct, and what resonates for them, often without knowing or even being concerned if there is anyone behind him or her. For example, in 1989 a nine-year old girl living in Nashville, Tennessee named Melissa Poe saw an episode of the inspirational television program Highway to Heaven in which the leading angel, Michael Landon, traveled a quarter-century into the future to show what the world would be like if we didn’t begin to deal seriously with our environmental problems. It was a cold, harsh world, devoid of beauty. This young leader took this message to heart and began by doing a number of things; she recycled, planted trees, educated her friends and even wrote letters to newspapers and politicians, including the President of United States, George H. Bush. The president wrote her back a nice letter urging her to stay in school and not to partake of drugs.
Instead, Melissa eventually founded an organization she called Kids For Clean Environment. Her first club had six members. Remember, this was before kids had easy access to the Internet. To spread the word she picked up the phone and called billboard companies asking them to donate advertising space. Eventually her letter to the president was posted on 250 billboards and she was invited to appear on the Today Show. From the determination shown by one young person, KIDS F.A.C.E. has grown to become the world’s largest environmental youth organization. It
now has more than 300,000 members in 2,000 club chapters in 15 countries and, in addition to raising environmental awareness, through ongoing projects those young people have planted more than one million trees.
When Melissa Poe started out she had no intention of becoming a leader, she simply wanted to make the world a better place. Few people set out knowingly to become leaders, rather they see a need and they find a way of dealing with it, and often others choose to follow their example.
The topic of leadership has fascinated me for as far back as I can remember. To most people of the world Mahatma Gandhi is a legend, but for me, growing up in India in the 1950s, he was revered as a saintly person who had wrought us our freedom from the mighty British with the sheer force of his truth and determination and dedication to truth. I can still hear my parents and grandparents speaking of Gandhi with awe. And I wondered, how could one man, who so often looked frail, make such a tremendous difference in the lives of so many millions of people? In school we studied his life, and for the first time I began asking the questions: What makes an effective leader? How can one lead in both simple and grand ways in their everyday lives? What are the attributes of leadership? And what can we learn by listening to the stories about great leaders like Gandhi?
If I ask you to conjure up images of people you consider to be great leaders from the pages of history, from ancient times right to our contemporary time, who would come to mind? Whose stories excite your imagination? Who are those individuals you most admire? Most people, when asked to identify the great leaders, usually respond by naming historic political and military leaders and perhaps some of the better known businessmen. The stories of their lives resonate with them. What is it we learn from those stories? The question becomes, more specifically, how can you, in your everyday life, develop some of the same qualities of leadership that these people have demonstrated?
For three decades Howard Gardner, the Hobbs Professor of Cognition and Education at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, has championed the GoodWork Project. According to him, good work has three essential attributes: Good work is skilled, it is moral or ethical and it is meaningful. Leaders do good work. These qualities are often found in Leaders. Gardner has talked and written at length about leadership. In Leading Minds: An Anatomy of Leadership, he wrote that great leaders provide leadership in two principled ways: Through the stories they tell and through the kind of lives they lead.
Ken Blanchard, the author of The One Minute Manager
and 30 other bestselling books on effective business management techniques, agreed completely, pointing out, "The best way to teach people is by telling a story."
The lives of great leaders, men like Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill and Nelson Mandela are infused by their passion and sense of purpose. Their courage and accomplishments become legendary tales. Those stories of their good works are told and retold by the people they inspire and then they’re told by historians. They leave an everlasting legacy and often they influence our world culture and our way of thinking. Books are written about them, documentaries and movies are made, often little children learn about them in school and sometimes portray them in biographical plays. Those stories resonate with people throughout the world and they do so for a long, long time. And that way the lessons of leadership taught by St. Peter or Alexander the Great, Joan of Arc, Galileo and certainly America’s Founding Fathers, men like Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin and George Washington, continue to have a profound effect on all of us today. You don’t have to be British to appreciate the extraordinary leadership of Sir Winston Churchill. Or you don’t have to be Indian to remain in awe of Mahatma Gandhi’s principles and his inspirational leadership. And from all of these people we can identify those elements of leadership that we can apply to our own lives, to make our lives better, to improve the lives of those people who matter to us and make a positive contribution to the world.
I like to use mnemonics; a mnemonic is a word or phrase used to help remind us of something larger. For example, "‘Every good boy does fine,"’ helps people remember that the notes of the musical treble clef are E,G, B, D and F. The last name of the legendary business leader Lee Iacocca also is a mnemonic standing for "’I am Chairman of Chrysler Corporation (of) America." And I use a mnemonic to describe what I believe are the salient qualities inherent in leadership.
The word leadership is defined simply as "‘exhibiting the skills of a leader"’ or "‘demonstrating the ability to lead,"’ but in fact its meaning is substantially more than that. Within the word leadership can be found the ten letters that spell out the unique attributes exhibited by leaders - the singular qualities that set them apart and the lessons we can learn from them.
The letter L, for example, reminds me that leaders must listen well. Good leaders hear the words of the world around them. They listen with both heart and soul and they understand what needs to be done. The E stands for the amazing empathy and compassion that many of them demonstrate, the ability to understand and relate to the needs of others – to be in their shoes and feel compelled to take action. A is for the attitude, invariably upbeat and courageous, that draws
other people to them and engages their support. The D reminds us that leaders have great dreams and are decisive; they dream of what is possible but they also are able to make the difficult decisions that are absolutely necessary for success. The letter E reminds us that great leaders are effective, their words may be inspirational, but their actions drive positive change. The R is for resilient. A great leader often is a risk taker, someone who refuses to accept defeat or the status quo after those first few attempts and will try again and again until a goal is achieved. The S represents the sense of purpose we see in great leaders, who put their cause and their beliefs ahead of their own needs. The H always reminds me that leaders have humility – but they also have that important quality of humor. They are likeable, that’s part of the reason we can identify with them, and why we follow them. The I in the leadership mnemonic stands for integrity. Certainly being a leader requires both integrity, the ability to stand for meaningful principles, and also for imagination. A leader often has wild, improbable ideas, and he or she has the imagination to believe that they can find the means to accomplish their goals. And finally P; leaders have people skills, they adhere to their principles – and they pack the parachutes of other people, which is a metaphor for mentoring.
Leadership is a simple but powerful word, and by examining it we are reminded of the qualities each us need to become leaders in our own lives.
While my journey to an understanding and great appreciation for the qualities of leadership started early in my life, it was only after I became the Faculty Dean for Continuing Education for Harvard Medical School and was privileged to lead an amazing department that I begin to seriously study the techniques of effective leadership. I read hundreds of books on the subject, from biographies of great men to straightforward business books; I attended several courses on the subject, I found opportunities to discuss it with my colleagues around the country and the globe. These individuals included the most brilliant clinicians and scientists and even Nobel Laureates. Over the years I began to formulate my own ideas about leadership. I reflected long and hard, wrote down those ideas and from those notes emerged a lecture on leadership.
I’ve been privileged to lecture about these 10 Tenets of leadership for a number of years now; as a Keynote Speaker throughout the United States and in a dozen countries abroad. I’ve delivered this address to literally tens of thousands of people, many of them my colleagues in the field of medicine but also to professionals from an extraordinary variety of other fields. The response has been most gratifying, whether I’ve given the talk to 50 people or 8,000. A question that I have been invariably asked is "Dr. Chopra, do you have a book on this? We would love to share this with our colleagues and our children to inspire them with the wonderful stories you weave into your talk." Very often, days or weeks or even months after the talk, people will write to me or call me to tell me that they remember the talk, they were inspired by it and that they have integrated a number of these tenets into their lives and shared them with the people that matter most to them in their lives. They tell me they feel they are leading in much more effective ways now.
Leadership By Example Copyright @ 2012 by Sanjiv Chopra Continues...
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