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Conclusions Based on Observations
of Exemplary Leaders

During my leadership journey, I’ve observed many exemplary leaders in academe, business, government, and nonprofit organizations. Based on those observations, I concluded that exemplary leaders:

  • make as few decisions as possible.
  • delay making decisions until necessary to do so.
  • do not have all the answers, but ask lots of questions.
  • seek feedback.
  • don’t judge books by their covers.
  • make mistakes but quickly remedy them.
  • do not engage in cover up when they err.
  • are great followers.
  • come in all shapes, sizes, ages, faiths, races, ethnicities, genders, sexual orientations, job titles, and personalities.
  • can’t take a day off.
  • are great listeners.
  • think before they act.
  • choose their words carefully.
  • don’t delegate delivering bad news.
  • are avid readers.
  • process and synthesize information from numerous sources.
  • have integrity and zero tolerance for a lack of integrity.
  • are persistent.
  • are passionate.
  • are gritty.
  • are humble.
  • are impatient but try to be patient.
  • are smart.
  • possess high emotional intelligence.
  • endure significant stress.
  • have high energy levels.
  • strive for balance in family and career.
  • value diversity and have diverse teams.
  • need allies and confidants.
  • have edge.
  • have staying power.
  • “Know when to hold ‘em and know when to fold ‘em”.
  • are imperfect, flawed individuals.
  • seek not the perks and prestige of the position, but the opportunity to achieve great things through others.
  • care less about how great they are as leaders.
  • care more about how great their team is.
  • serve the people they lead, and
  • practice deception.

As a leader, you must appear confident even when you aren’t. You can’t wear your feelings on your sleeve. Appearances matter!


Next: Let Me Tell You a Story—Part I