Much has been written on the subject of leadership over the years. There are more than 103,000 books pertaining to “Leadership” at Amazon.com, and a huge multiple of that if you include books about specific leaders. I have read hundreds of these books over the years written by, or about, corporate leaders, world leaders, philosophical leaders, and celebrities representing all areas of fame. Great thoughts, ideas and perspectives can be gained from reading books across a broad swath of leaders. But for me, 3 individuals specifically have taught me some of the most important lessons in leadership. Here they are:
- Ronald Reagan. In her book, When Character Was King by Peggy Noonan, she describes Ronald Reagan as a deep thinker. Someone who wrote his own speeches, delivered his own messages and negotiated his own deals. He spent little time worrying about what others thought of him…other than Nancy his wife. Reagan became known as the Great Communicator and for good reason. He said what he meant, didn’t mince words, and had an unshakable conviction when he spoke. Being an effective communicator is important in all areas of life whether personal or professional. From President Reagan I learned the importance of having a clear, strong message of my own, that must be delivered with confidence and conviction.
- Bill George. The former CEO of Medtronic, has made the concept of authenticity the focus of two great books: Authentic Leadership: Rediscovering the Secrets to Creating Lasting Value, and True North. He stresses the importance of being authentic, taking action in a way that conveys complete alignment with your values and your beliefs. When people begin to operate outside of their area of “authenticity”, those around them see and feel this disconnect, thus resulting in the creation of distrust. When your actions are not in alignment with your inner values an internal conflict begins to emerge and ultimately leads to failure personally and professionally.
- Joseph A. DeRosa – my dad. I understand that you don’t know my father. No books have been written about him, nor has he been profiled in any business publications or newspapers. Yet the lessons he continues to teach me as a man are consistent with those he instilled in me as a boy. From my father I learned the importance of integrity and character – knowing what the right thing is to do and doing it…no matter what. I learned that accountability is something to seek and cherish, not something to hide from. His teaching style is by example. He worked several jobs to raise his family and taught me the importance of working hard and being the best at what you do. Finally, the most important lesson I learned from my dad is to place family first, for at the end of the day, when the work is done or dissolved, your family will always be there to provide comfort, support, and love.
When I look at the leadership lessons I treasure most, I realize just how intertwined they are. Without strong character and self-awareness, it’s impossible to operate in an authentic way. And if you don’t emulate authenticity, no matter what your message is, it will not be believed or trusted. As the late Stephen Covey said, “Seek first to understand before being understood.” To place the needs and concerns of others, in front of your own, will demonstrate your desire to first understand. Once people can FEEL your authenticity and trust develops, they will follow you even if only to catch a glimpse of where you’re going.
In the coming weeks I will be posting a blog on Leadership Lessons from 3 Influential Women. There is so much to be learned from all people, men and women, that I wanted to be sure I shared both sides. Great leaders have a combination of many different traits, talents, and attributes, all of which have been developed over the years with multiple influences.