5 timeless leadership lessons

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Here is an excerpt from an article written by Steve Tobak for CBS MoneyWatch, the CBS Interactive Business Network. To check out an abundance of valuable resources and obtain a free subscription to one or more of the website’s newsletters, please click here.

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(MoneyWatch) COMMENTARY Forget all the latest leadership concepts and fads. Forget all the platitudes and parables, the laundry lists of attributes and qualities. Forget all the executive coaches, mentors, researchers, and inspirational gurus. Forget all the books and blogs.

I’ve got something you can read in less than an hour that will teach you everything you need to know about leadership. No, I’m not kidding.

Of course, you can’t just read it and walk away a great leader. That’s not how it works. What you do with it is entirely up to you. But everything you need to know is there.

I came upon this little treasure in 1995. I had just become vice president of marketing for a well-known public technology company, which was terrifying because it was a huge opportunity, I’d never done that sort of thing before, and I definitely didn’t want to screw it up.

Hanging around the business book section of a large used bookstore searching desperately for some inspiration, a little paperback caught my attention. It was called The Tao of Leadership: Leadership Strategies for a New Age, by John Heider.

The beat-up book, written in 1985, set me back $2.40. I know that because the yellowed receipt — now a bookmark — is still in it. I’ve read it so many times, its 81 lessons are mostly bound with scotch tape. This humble little book changed my entire perspective on management and leadership.

Here are five timeless lessons I’ve excerpted. There’s a revelation or two, but there’s nothing like reading Heider’s book all the way through.

[Here is the first “timeless lesson”]

Knowing What Is Happening

•  When you cannot see what is happening in a group, do not stare harder. Relax and look gently with your inner eye.

•  When you do not understand what a person is saying, do not grasp for every word. Give up your efforts. Become silent inside and listen with your deepest self.

•  When you are puzzled by what you see or hear, do not strive to figure things out. Stand back for a moment and become calm. When a person is calm, complex events appear simple.

•  The more you can let go of trying, and the more open and receptive you become, the more easily you will know what is happening.

•  Stay in the present. The present is more available than either memories of the past or fantasies of the future.

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To read the complete article, please click here.

To read Steve’s other articles, please click here.

Steve Tobak is a consultant and former high-tech senior executive. He’s managing partner of Invisor Consulting, a management consulting and business strategy firm. Contact Steve, follow him on Facebook, or connect on LinkedIn.


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