Rudyard Kipling’s poem, “If”, has always been a great favourite of mine and in many ways encapsulates the spirit of great leadership across its four verses (along with many essential mottos for one’s personal life).
Verse 1 – in times of great adversity and difficulty a great leader must keep his head, even when other less skilled people are trying to blame the leader for their company’s woes. A leader must be level headed, clear thinking and brave. He/She must also have the humility to understand why others are falling to pieces under the pressure of the situation, and make allowances for their “heat of the moment” comments and feelings.
Verse 2 – a great leader must have vision for the business, but not pursue them at all costs if new facts come to light that change the picture. But it is important to have time to think – to work “on” the business as well as “in” the business. There’s always going to be bumps along the way, but a true leader will not be knocked down for long, and will get back up and, with tenacity, take the business back onto an upward plane.
Verse 3 – Big Hairy Audacious Goals, as Jim Collins would say, means taking big risks for big rewards – though you might not win every time. But if you have the backbone, the moral fibre, to come back from a heavy defeat with grim determination and a will to win, then you have a lot more chance of achieving your goals than those who fall away at the first real disappointment.
Verse 4 – Communication. A successful leader has to communicate at all levels as well as walking the four corners of their business. It’s also imperative to know the competition and understand what threats they pose to you. In summary, you need to earn the respect of your friends and foes alike.
If you, as a leader, can keep a cool head in troubled times, create an inspiring vision for your Company, be brave when the big decisions need to be made, and can communicate effectively and earn widespread respect – then, “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it, And – which is more – you’ll be a man, my son”.