Over my career, I’ve read hundreds of leadership books, some better than others. The other day, I finished another book and when I put it down, I made this note in my journal. “Every leadership book I’ve ever read has come down to three things: first, lead yourself. Second, lead others, and third, lead others to lead.
Think about it. The first level of success, indeed the foundation for all other success in life, is to be able to focus our own lives in order to achieve our desired goals. Can we order our time, focus our energies, and accomplish our tasks in a meaningful way that moves us toward our goals?
Furthermore, think about how many great careers have been destroyed because of the lack of self-discipline. Pastors have lost their ministries and wounded their churches because they couldn’t focus their desires in healthy ways. They lost every opportunity of leadership because they didn’t lead themselves well.
People pay attention. If they see we can’t lead ourselves, they doubt we can lead anyone else. They won’t follow someone they don’t trust will be able to lead when the moment becomes difficult.
Every great leader should have their mission and vision down cold. They should be taking steps every day that bring them closer to their goals. They should say an emphatic “NO!” to anything that doesn’t get them to where they want to go. Leading themselves have to be the first step of any great leader.
Second, leaders lead others. Well, isn’t that obvious? One would think, however, a lot of what is called “leadership” is actually “manipulation”, “demagoguery”, or even “bullying.” A true leader knows there is something better. There is a better place, a better way, a better outcome — and these leaders are so sure they can get their followers there. Because they can see something better, they encourage, teach, push, even drive people to get there. Why? Because it’s better for everyone on the team. When the product is successful, everyone in the company celebrates.
Third, it’s not long in the process before the leader realizes that if the team is to succeed, more leaders are going to have been identified and trained. In some ways, training leaders becomes the most important task of a leader. If everyone is going to achieve the goal, then people have to be led in teams of twos, fives, tens twenties, fifties, and hundreds. Each level of leadership requires a different level of skill. The legacy of great leaders is the number of leaders they leave behind.
There you have it. Every leadership book you’ve ever read is about one of the three topics or some combination of the three. Lead yourself. Lead others. Lead others to lead.
It all comes down to this — Leadership 1 2 3.
Think about how much time I’ve just saved you now that you don’t have to read any more leadership books. You can thank me later.