“The Contagious Behaviors of a Great Boss” from the WSJ is the best leadership article I have ever read.
That is saying a lot b/c I have read hundreds of them.
The article is so good b/c the advice is so succinct and the author has so much credibility (he’s done nothing but study leadership traits for ten years).
The author has seen “many flavors of contagious leadership behavior,” but “only two have consistently produced superior results—and George Washington was the embodiment of both.”
The author also illuminates two leadership traits that often do not work:
1. Likability (a pattern of playfulness, optimism, enthusiasm, humor). A lot of Silicon Valley founders believe this is the best trait to lead a thriving, growing company. But likable bosses don’t always inspire confidence, and in times of crises, likability traits are actually off-putting to employees.
2. Fear. In tough times, fear can work to rally the team. But in good times yelling and screaming becomes toxic and teams become demoralized.
Here are the two George Washington traits that always work:
1. Relentlessness (a combination of courage, tenacity and outsized effort). Washington pushed himself and others relentlessly, and he endured everything his troops endured. He fought in the front lines; he manned positions all night; he was the first to cross the icy Delaware River in his famous winter attack on Hessians, and he refused to court adulation or compliments.
2. Emotional Control. Washington was very stoic and made few friends among his staff. He also rarely used profanity, rarely berated soldiers, and restrained both anger and excitement, irrespective of the situation. Bosses who are diligent, reserved and composed are deemed to have more integrity.
Washington was not a great military strategist or particularly talented in general. But, relentlessness and emotional control made him one of the greatest leaders in history.
As always, we are happy to send key excerpts from this excellent article to those not subscribed to the WSJ.
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