Sunday, July 31, 2011

Leading from the Front

Alexander the Great is one of my favorite historical figures. I admire Alexander, not because of his exploits and conquests, but because of his greatness in leadership. The stories of Alexander show what it takes to lead from the front. During battle, he was the first one over the wall. He would lead the way, placing himself in great peril. How inspiring is that? Yes, Alexander died at the age of 32, but in his short lifetime he conquered most of the known world and is considered one of the greatest military leaders of all time. Leading from the front has risks, but also results in extraordinary dedication and efforts, and can lead to great accomplishments.

The principal of leading from the front does not only apply to military leadership. This principal is also a key component of spiritual, political or business leadership. Outside of battle, what does leading from the front look like? It is courage, courage to do the right thing. I believe that at our core we know what is right, but sometimes lack the courage to lead from the front.

Here is what I believe leading from the front looks like in business:
  • Courage to take responsibility for making decisions and taking actions to make things happen. Leaders do not abdicate responsibility for the success of the organization. Leaders make difficult decisions and take the difficult actions necessary to ensure success.
  • Courage to take responsibility when the organization fails. When things go badly, the leader is always accountable for the failure and the leader must take responsibility for making corrections. 
  • Courage to lead by example. Leaders do not ask more of others than they are willing to do themselves.
  • Courage to sacrifice for the common good. Leaders put the needs of the organization above their personal needs, knowing that a great organization will ultimately provide great rewards for everyone.
  • Courage to define, live and defend what the organization believes in. Leaders live the values of the organization and confront others who violate those core values. 
In business, what do we we risk by leading from the front? We risk our leadership positions and sometimes our financial wellbeing. Like many entrepreneurs, I have had to do whatever it takes to ensure my company's success and survival. During difficult times, when I have cut my salary, or depleted my savings to loan the company money, when I have worked extremely long hours to help out wherever I could, I take comfort in knowing that this pales in comparison to Alexander leading him men over the wall into battle. I am most gratified when I see the company follow my lead, and make sacrifices to do whatever is necessary to prevail over hardship. With this attitude, I believe that we will always prevail and that we will accomplish great things.

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