Leadership is a fundamental “soft skill” to succeed in any organization. However, leadership is made up of different skill sets and facets.
Great leaders in their different organizations have their own interpretation of how leadership should be expressed. Nevertheless, all their insights make them great leaders in their field.
All these instruments are crucial and should be fundamentals to what a good leader should be.
Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Barack Obama are undoubtedly great leaders of the modern era. Their success in business and politics are products of their leadership.
Looking at their leadership styles and recommendations are invaluable gems in whatever field you want to excel be it in business, your professional career and even at home, these skills are crucial.
Let’s take a look at what insights and recommendations they have on leadership.
Jeff Bezos has been a household name for a long time. His success (and failures) as captain of Amazon have been almost legendary and copied by other great institutions.
Amazon famously has its 14 Leadership Principles as part and cornerstone of the company. Interestingly, its fourth principle, “Be Right, A Lot”, is one of the most important according to Bezos.
Amazon’s fourth principle says that leaders should be right a lot. They should have strong judgment and good instincts. They should also seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.
Sounds easier said than done right? Well, it does. But according to Bezos, it is more than possible. Bezos said, “You’re not going to be right all the time, but I think with practice, you can be right more often.”
How does one do that? Again, let’s take it from the man himself, “People who are right a lot, they listen a lot, and people who are right a lot, change their mind a lot,”.
It may be hard for most people as most people seek out information to support their already biased minds and beliefs. However, according to Bezos, “People who are right seek to dis-confirm their most profoundly held convictions, which is very unnatural for humans,” he said. “Humans mostly, as we go about life, we’re very selective in the evidence we let seep into us, and we like to observe the evidence that confirms our pre-existing beliefs.”.
So how does this work in the real world? Leaders with multiple viewpoints and clear understanding of the bigger picture, rather than having a narrow mindset increase the chance of them making the right and informed decision.
Let’s take a look at what this great leader has to say again. “Life is complicated, the world is complicated,” Bezos said. “Sometimes you get new data, and you change your mind. Sometimes you don’t get new data, and you just reanalyze the situation, and you realize it’s more complicated than you initially thought it was, and you change your mind.”
Need I say more? Let’s move on.
Another household name. His accomplishments and philanthropy often overshadow how great of a leader he is. But what makes him a great leader, you asked? Well, according to Gates, there is one simple habit that separates successful leaders from everyone else. I’ll let the co-founder of Microsoft say it all:
“As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”
This quote by Bill Gates is counterintuitive on what most of us understand about traditional leadership. It is not about being a “Big Boss” who merely gives orders and uses their authority to drive fear and produce results.
People tend to look up to leaders who inspire them, not feared by them. Leaders who include everyone and letting them know that they matter. Leaders gather light so that they can scatter it.
He is considered to be one of the best orators of recent history. Barack Obama has mobilized the people of all races and creeds. His leadership pulled the American people from crisis after crisis.
According to him, one of the greatest and most underrated leadership skills is being an effective communicator.
Now let’s say you have as a leader, created the best mission and vision statement to your organization, it is specific, timely and actionable. However, you lack the leadership skills of being able to get your message across to your people. It sounds like an impending disaster regardless of the mission/vision statement.
Barack Obama’s skill as an effective communicator can be summarized into 3 key takeaways.
- Connect. Effective communication means that your audience can be able to relate to what is being communicated. Be personal, relatable and hit close to home. Your audience should be able to know what’s in it for them or why they are affected so that they would take action.
- Openness. Obama has been known to reach across the aisle, between the Republicans and the Democrats. The reason for this is his openness to listen and to sincerely hear what both sides have to say. Being open to all sorts of viewpoints and opinions makes a leader more informed and better at making big decisions.
- Inspire. It is the idea of filling someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something, especially to do something creative. Obama does this by having and showing conviction not only in his speeches but also in his actions. During times of crisis, he maintains his composure, showing the people his courage under fire. All leaders should aspire to be the same.
Bringing It All Together
Now, there are a million skills, interpretations, and styles of what a great leader should be. But if I were to get lessons on great leadership, I would look up to those who inspire and have done something greater than themselves.
Jeff Bezos’s open-mindedness makes him a great leader by having many viewpoints and can see the bigger picture with clarity. This makes his decision making more chances of being right.
Empowering and inspiring others is what makes him and his institution great. With his leadership, he is able to bring people closer to his organization’s goals.
Below are additional resources and online courses to further improve your leadership skills based on the insights of the great leaders above.
Openness – Acumen Presents: Al Pittampalli on Open-Mindedness – Gain the power of persuadable leadership and learn to open your mind to new ideas
Effective Communication – Mastering Effective Communication