Leaders Take Us Where We’d Otherwise Not Go

In People Development
Quote from: Brain Pickings, David Foster Wallace on Leadership

This post title is pinched from 16 Leadership Lessons from a Four Star General, a distillation of  General Stanley McChrystal’s key leadership learnings.  Juxtaposing McChrystal and author David Foster Wallace contributes to the leader-follower conversation.  McChrystal reflects that:

Leadership is the art of influencing others.   Leaders awaken and encourage in others a sense of possibility and responsibility … Great leaders intuitively sense, or simply ask, how people feel and what resonates with them … I found soldiers would tolerate my being less of a leader than I hoped to be, but they would not forgive me being less than I claimed to be … A leader decides to accept responsibility for others in a way that assumes stewardship of their hopes, their dreams, and sometimes their very lives.

In Wallace’s 2000 Up, Simba: Seven Days on the Trail of an Anticandidate, he observes how:

A real leader can somehow get us to do certain things that deep down we think are good and want to be able to do but usually can’t get ourselves to do on our own … A leader’s true authority is the power you voluntarily give him, and you grant him this authority not in a resigned or resentful way but happily; it feels right. Deep down, you almost always like how a real leader makes you feel, how you find yourself working harder and pushing yourself and thinking in ways you wouldn’t be able to if there weren’t this person you respected and believed in and wanted to please.

McChrystal’s key leadership learnings

  1. Leadership is the single biggest reason for success or failure.
  2. Leadership is difficult to measure.
  3. Leadership is neither good nor evil.
  4. Leaders take us to where we’d otherwise not go.
  5. Success is rarely the work of a single leader.
  6. Leaders are empathetic.
  7. Leadership is not popularity.
  8. The best leaders are genuine.
  9. Leaders can be found at any rank and at any age.
  10. Charisma is not leadership.
  11. Leaders walk a fine line between self-confidence and humility.
  12. People are born; leaders are made.
  13. Leaders are people, and people constantly change.
  14. Leaders are human.
  15. Leaders make mistakes, and they are often costly.
  16. Leadership is a choice.