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How to Be a Great Leader

Great leadership qualities; be like the best.

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Great leadership qualities; be like the best.

One of the reasons I attended a federal military academy as a young man, rather than a normal university, was that I knew I needed to develop leadership skills if I wanted to become an entrepreneur. After graduation, I went into the U.S. Marine Corps and became a pilot to test my skills in the real world.

I still remember the commanding officer of my Vietnam squadron saying, “Gentlemen, your most important job is to ask your troops to risk their lives for you, your team, and your country.” He went on to say, “If you don’t inspire them to do that, they will probably shoot you in the back. Troops don’t follow a leader who does not lead.”

The same thing goes on in businesses every day. Most businesses fail because they have weak leadership, not because of outside factors.

The greatest leaders

I grew up in a world of great leaders. Unfortunately, most of them were murdered. Even more interestingly, tach leader, could technically be called a “terrorist.”

President Kennedy

My favorite President was John Kennedy. As a student in high school, I remember hearing him speak and feeling uplifted, inspired, and optimistic about the future of the United States and the world. My mom and dad were so moved by President Kennedy, they left their jobs, took cuts in pay, and volunteered for President F. Kennedy’s Peace Corps. Although our family struggled financially, our days in the Peace Corps were the happiest days for the family. We felt we were working for a noble cause and a brighter future for the world.

President Kennedy was a terrorist to anyone who was a racial bigot. As a result, the Civil Rights Movement made tremendous progress during his presidency, and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed shortly after his death.

Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.

Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. was also a terrorist to racial bigots. When he spoke of little white girls and little black boys, I believed he signed his death warrant. When he delivered his “I Have a Dream” speech, one of the greatest orations in history, he sealed his fate. The following is an excerpt of his speech—little more than a group of words—which I am certain terrorized bigots all over the world:

“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, its vicious racists, with its governor having his lips dripping with the words of interposition and nullification; one day right there in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”

The idea of little black boys and girls joining hands with little white boys and girls was a thought that many believed had gone too far. We know what those people are called.

Nelson Mandela

On December 6, 2013, the last great leader passed away. How Nelson Mandela avoided being murdered is beyond miraculous. No one had to call him a terrorist. He called himself a terrorist to anyone who believed in apartheid. How he united black and white South Africans without being murdered, is a testament to his leadership.

Many in the United States believed he was a terrorist, even after he was released from prison and became the President of South Africa. It was only recently that his name was finally taken off the U.S. government’s terrorist watch list.

In my opinion, Nelson Mandela is the last of the great leaders. Rather than despair over the lack of great leaders, I believe his passing is a message to us all. The passing of a leader means that we all need to step up and dare to become greater leaders ourselves.

Which leads me to ask you: do you have a cause worth risking your life for?

Say, “I’ll do that;” the benefits of volunteering

One of the most valuable lessons rich dad taught me about leadership was, “A leader’s job is to bring out the best in people, not be the best person. If you are the smartest person on your business team, your business is in trouble.”

Naturally, I get many questions from people on how to be a better leader. I always have the same advice: volunteer more.

In most organizations, it is hard to find people who actually want to lead. Most people are just fine being told what to do.

I tell people, “At your church, volunteer to take on projects. At work, volunteer to lead projects. In your community, volunteer to coach sports teams.” By doing this, you can gain valuable leadership experience—and make a lot of friends who can help you out down the road, both in business and in life.

The secret of a true leader

Through volunteering, you can get feedback on your real-life leadership skills. If you volunteer to lead and no one follows, you have some real-life learning and correcting to do! You’ll need to ask for some feedback and act on it.

A true leader knows when to listen to others. I have said before that I am not a good businessman or investor. I am average. I rely on the advice of my advisors and team members to help me be a better leader.

And the secret is, that’s one of the greatest traits of a leader—to ask, genuinely, how they can be better. As my squadron commander used to say, “True leaders are not born leaders. True leaders want to be leaders and are willing to be trained.”

Improve your leadership skills by learning from other like-minded individuals in our free, online community.

Original publish date: December 10, 2013

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