What is leadership? Are leaders born, or can they be created? Or is it a little of both? How does one develop leadership qualities? What are some of the characteristics of great leaders? This is important, because leaders are the ones who drive change around them.
The first quality I want to look at is planning. Leaders plan and then execute their plan. One of the best examples I can think of is Dwight David Eisenhower. As our 34th President, he was responsible for initiating the interstate highway system for national defense. This allowed the government to move troops and supplies quickly around the country if needed.
The side benefit was that long distance travel quickly became easier. People were now able to drive to visit relatives and vacation destinations far away. In the tense 1950’s, it brought us all closer together. Transportation of goods flourished too, and we still fill up those highways today.
Eisenhower may be best known for his role as Supreme Allied Commander of all our forces in Europe. After successfully planning and implementing the invasion of Africa, he was responsible for the invasion of France and Germany. An extremely high risk operation with massive amounts of planning, and tons of moving parts, D-Day was the pivotal moment in the entire war.
The five-star General actually wrote a letter in which he accepted personal responsibility for the failure of the invasion. He never had to deliver that letter. Though the price was very steep, his troops established beachheads that enabled us to bring massive numbers of troops and supplies into the fight. It ultimately won us the war in Europe.
Benjamin Franklin said, “Failure to plan is planning to fail.” While you can’t account for every contingency, every military leader understands that whatever your objective, it all starts with a plan. Smart leaders try to plan for as many contingencies as possible.
So what is planning? First, you have to figure out an goal or objective. You have to develop an approach that will let you reach the goal, and if necessary, recruit people to help you get there. You get them behind your vision, and you continue to motivate them. You track progress to the goal, make course corrections when needed, and even improvise when necessary.
Smart leaders know they need to change themselves first, according to Grand Master In Ho Lee. They pull from the front and push from behind. They cheer from above, and walk along side. When the objective is reached, they celebrate together with the whole team.
But none of these things happen on their own. They each take deliberate thought and intentional action. As Dave Ramsey says, “No one ever wanders out of debt.” It takes a plan. So does weight loss, education, career change, career development, self defense training, parenting, and most everything else we want to accomplish.
If you can think of it, you can probably plan for it. Leaders plan. Next week, we’ll look at another element of leadership. Until then, I’ve got to go and make some plans…