Oswald Letter

Learn great leadership skills from the pros

Competitive Edgeby Dan Oswald

The other day, an adviser I work with who provides me with organizational development counsel sent me an e-mail. It caught my attention, not just because he sent it on a Sunday morning, which isn’t the norm, but because of what it contained. The sender has been providing advice and counsel to leaders for nearly 25 years, and he had decided to share with me a few of the leadership principles he has collected during that time.

He told me that he has about 250 principles of great leadership. 250! That’s about 10 for each year he has been advising leaders. When I read that number in his e-mail, I thought, “If I can just master 10 percent of his leadership principles, I’ll be well on my way!” In his e-mail, he shared six of the 250 with me.

Like all of his advice, what he shared was very simple and straightforward. He didn’t pontificate or belabor a point. Each point he shared took only a few words to fully explain. Here are a few of the principles he shared with me.

  • “Great leaders are demanding but never demeaning.”
  • “Their style unites the team around a common objective and produces collaboration.”
  • “Great leaders are able to bring clarity to chaos so the team can focus on what is immediately in front of them.”

Simple. Straightforward. True.

There are a lot of people who are willing to give advice about leadership. It’s your job to determine who has it right and select the nuggets you can really use.

For instance, according to Peter Economy, there are nine traits that define great leadership. I selected two from his list to share with you here. Click here if you want to see the entire list.

  1. Extraordinary leaders praise in public and address problems in private, with a genuine concern. The best leaders guide employees through challenges, always on the lookout for solutions to foster the long-term success of the organization. Rather than making things personal when they encounter problems or assigning blame to individuals, leaders look for constructive solutions and focus on moving forward.
  2. Strong leaders treat people the way they want to be treated. They are extremely ethical and believe that honesty, effort, and reliability form the foundation of success. They embody these values so overtly that no employee doubts their integrity for a minute. They share information openly and avoid spin control.

Bill McBean writes in Fast Company that there are five characteristics of great leadership. Included on his list are:

  • “Being able to communicate. Some leaders are great orators, but speaking well isn’t all that’s required of a leader. As we all know, there are lots of people who talk a great game but deliver nothing. Leaders who communicate well are those who not only share their thoughts with employees but also let their strength and personal character show through in their communication, and empower those who work for them by defining the company’s goal and showing how to get there.”
  • “The combination of humility and presence. Acting aloof, or above your employees, does not make a leader. Leaders have to be able to talk and listen to their employees on all levels of the company. At the same time, they must have the respect of their employees, the kind of respect that’s earned by being honest, having integrity, and being tough but fair.”

Read McBean’s entire piece here.

Type “great leadership” into Google, and you’ll get 368 million results in less than a second. That’s a lot of advice and information to sort through. I haven’t read it all—OK, I’ve barely scratched the surface—but I’m willing to bet there’s some really good advice in all of that information and some really bad advice. It’s up to you to determine the good from the bad, but I’d encourage you to read and think about leadership. You might not come up with 250 principles of your own, but there’s no shame in borrowing the best from others who have demonstrated great leadership. Give it a try!