By way of a quick explanation: I wrote the following post for a friend’s son’s 16th birthday. All of the principles here in apply to both men and women equally. However, the audience was a soon-to-be 16-year-old boy and the gender pronouns are chosen with that in mind.
Reflections on Leadership and Manliness
One of the key attributes of manliness is leadership. Great men are always leaders among men.
While there are many elements that comprise manliness, the nature of leadership is the most defining characteristic. To define leadership is to define manliness. The best way to define leadership to talk about the qualities that comprise it. I will be using one of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s essays on leadership as a general topical roadmap with a few notable additions, supplemented with my own thoughts on a variety of topics and quotations from many of the great minds and leaders in history. It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive all encompassing definition or discussion of leadership or manliness. I am merely highlighting key points and parts from which further self-discovery and enlightenment can develop.
First, as a prerequisite and almost assumed set of axioms, Leadership requires a team to lead, and a cause or goal that the leader is guiding that team towards.
1. Leadership is selfless dedication. A leader must be single-minded toward the task at hand, and value the cause and the team above one’s self. The leader is absolutely responsible for his team and should place their safety, and general well-being above his own. A Leader’s goal is always what is best for his team in spite of his own personal preferences, wants, or even needs. A leader is focused on his cause or goal and gives everything he has to accomplish it and to lead his team toward success. Doing ones best is the bare minimum allowed. Most leaders have a fair amount of pride, self-confidence, and ego yet a great leader realizes that those are secondary to the needs of the team and the cause. A great leader does not allow personal preference to color his judgment: he puts others needs first. A good leader remembers that while he is leading, he is not A person: he is a function. Therefore he does not take attacks or losses personally. He is able to respond calmly and De-escalate most situations. This is known a servant leadership. A great leader listens to his team and to his advisers and strongly considers what they are saying.
2. Leadership Requires courage and conviction in the value of the task at hand. These are derived from a clear and focused vision for the future based on reflection. They are derived from reflection on the best course of action and strategy. This clarity of vision combined with effective strategy creates a basis of intellectual authority and reason. This helps create a strong basis for your conviction. Courage is being brave in the face of fear and opposition. It is doing what’s right when no one else is looking and especially when everyone else is looking. Leadership is most effective when it sets an example of excellence. Courage flows from conviction. Courage and conviction provide certainty. Meditation and reflection on ethics and principles are the surest way to program ones instincts and native natural responses. If you know why something is right or wrong and you have already done that homework it is much easier to make quick defective decisions that are usually correct. The “what” is secondary to the “Why.”
3. Leadership requires fortitude of spirit: force of will. A man Who is convinced that he is doing the right thing must be willing to stand strong against opposition, and stay strong through reverses of fortune. He must be willing to rise from defeat and do battle again and again. He must never give up, for he knows that truth, beauty, and goodness are always worth fighting for. A leader knows that he must never compromise on principles, but compromise as much as is needed on methodologies and styles. A wise leader knows how to strike that delicate balance has the insight to tell the difference. A leader must be willing to learn from his mistakes, publicly admit when he was wrong, and then grow, discover, and explore anew. He must be willing to get back on his feet armed with this new enlightenment, and begin to fight again. Dare greatly so that if you succeed, you know the triumph of high achievement, and at worst if you fail, you failed boldly so that your place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat. Ignore critics, yet pay attention to counsel. Be anti-fragile: Refuse to be crushed; Refuse to accept failure. And never make excuses. Benjamin Franklin once said that, “he who is good for making excuses is seldom good for anything else.”
4. A Leader must be humble. He knows his worth and is proud of his accomplishments. However he also knows that he is but a man, equal to all other men. He knows that he is not God. He is willing to listen to the wise counsel of the team he has constructed around him. He places others before himself and knows their value. He treats people as ends in and of themselves, as all people are infinitely valuable. He sees his place in the universe and in society and in the organization. He sees that his responsibility as a leader is a sacred trust, not to be donned lightly. He knows that he is responsible for everything and everyone that happens in and around his purview. And he is grateful for the trust and responsibility given to him. A good leader always says thank you. A good leader takes responsibility for the mistakes and errors that he commits as well as for those of his subordinates. And he is Quick to give away the credit to his team. A good leader knows that a team’s performance reflects directly upon the leader. He knows that the reward of a thing is to have done it. He does not seek the limelight for himself except as necessary for the good of the team and the project or cause. A leader is generally gracious and polite because he values other people as equals. A leader is respectful, honest, fair, and just. A leader knows that reputation is really all that he has. And that reputation is built upon character. Honesty is the cornerstone of character. Honesty and character holds a man together in the worst of storms. Without his integrity he collapses. A Man is absolutely trustworthy. He inspires and is loyal himself. He is helpful to his colleagues, friends, betters, and subordinates. A man must be friendly and warm and open. A man must be courteous to all. Especially when it is difficult to do so. The most important quality any man or woman could possess is kindness. Kindness must be authentic and is based on empathy and a genuine care for other people. Niceness is easily forged and is inherently superficial and manipulative. Be kind. A leader knows how to follow and how to be obedient to his masters. His own obedience establishes a hierarchy of authority and a chain of command by example. Of course a leader also knows when and how to challenge his superiors when necessary. This, of course, is dictated by his principles and ethics in which he has already done much reflection. A leader sets the tone through his attitude: therefore cheerfulness is usually recommended. A good attitude covers a host of ills. A good leader is thrifty with his resources and manages his resources (both people and physical) strategically and well. He is not wasteful. A leader is also brave and reverent (respectful and humble) all of which we have already talked about at length. A leader is also clean: both physically and in integrity. He should be above reproach and without fault. If one can lead through example, one will find that the course ahead is much easier.
5. A leader does thorough homework. He knows that knowledge is power: knowledge give him an edge and lends authority. A leader embraces lifelong learning and is curious about everything that he does not yet know. A Leader is well-rounded and commands a basic knowledge of many topics and, ideally, in depth knowledge on a few. A leader is constantly pushing himself to be better educated and engages in much self-study. You will have observed that As a Child, everyone focuses on teaching the child: Knowledge and information is handed directly to the child. However, as a man, people rarely teach or hand information and knowledge directly to the man. He is required to teach himself and to be intentional about growing his “mind-garden.”
6. A good leader attempts to persuade and enlist help whenever possible. He attempts to convince and use reason to diplomatically achieve his goals. He orders only when necessary. People work harder, give more of themselves, and feel better when they believe in a cause or in a man. morale depends upon your team’s good will and generosity. Persuasion generates these much more effectively. Leadership by persuasion and acceptance of team decisions to the contrary are the basis of democracy. A good leader asks and requests. A bad leader bosses.
7. A Good leader has a sound heart, a sound mind, a sound body, and a sound spirit. The heart is the emotions and creative self. It cares for the delicate and for others: it fights for beauty. A sound mind is the intellect and rational self. It cares and fights for ideas and truth. A sound body is the physical self: needs. The body looks out for itself and its own well-being. It provides for the physical and physiological needs and protects the rest. The spirit is one’s will: vision and courage. The will fights for goodness. The will also drives the mind, body, and soul. It is the charioteer guiding those three horses of self along the narrow Rocky Clifftop road of life. The will keeps the body mind and soul on the right track. General Patton said, “If you are going to win any battle you must do one thing: you must make the mind (will) run the body; never let the body tell the mind (will) what to do. The body is never tired unless the mind (will) is tired.”
A great leader knows that he is what he regularly does. Actions make the man. Aristotle builds upon this idea by saying that, “excellence then therefore is not an act but a habit.” Make excellence your habit. Right action and right feeling flows from right thought. If you change the thoughts you change the man. However, as artists, we know that if we change the feelings we can change the thoughts. Therefore “you must hold yourself to a higher standard than anyone else expects of you.” (Henry Ward Beecher). “Resolve to perform what you ought, perform without fail what you resolve.” Benjamin Franklin
8. Great leaders delegate. General Patton said, “Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you.” Surround yourself with brilliant and talented teams of people who have many conflicting ideas: make sure they are a well-rounded and diverse group. They will provide thoughts, ideas, perspectives, and reasons that you would never think of on your own and will provide the fodder you need to rise the highest possible level. Never be afraid to be the dumbest, least talented, least connected, least wealthy, least interesting person in a room, For what an incredible room that is! Iron sharpens iron. Seek out excellence, and you will inadvertently begin to emulate the qualities that make them excellent. Excise and discard all mediocrity. Mediocrity only serves to act as an anchor and drag you down to its own level. Never tolerate mediocrity. Only settle for your best, and the best of your team. Perfection and miracles are the bare minimum. A Leader is only as good as his team: the better one’s team, the better one leads.
9. Inspirational quotes
The supreme quality of leadership is integrity. – Eisenhower
A genuine leader is not a searcher of consensus but a molder of it. – MLK
The price of greatness is responsibility. – Churchill
Treat people as if they were what they ought to be, and you help them become what they are capable of being. -Goethe
You are not here merely to make a living. You are here in order to enable the world to live more amply: With greater vision; with a finer spirit of hope and achievement. You are here to enrich the world. And you impoverish yourself if you forget that. – Woodrow Wilson
We will either find a way or make one. – Hannibal
Victory belongs to the most persevering. -Napoleon
In Every battle there comes a time in both sides consider themselves beaten. Then he who continues the attack wins. – Grant
Success is not final. Failure is not fatal. It is the courage to continue that counts. – Churchill
The Chief cause of failure in life is sacrificing what you want the most for what you want at the moment.
Discipline is the denial of self for future gain. – Peter Kerr
10. The secret to happiness
The secret to happiness is to ignore it entirely. Do not pursue happiness: the surest way to be miserable is to seek happiness. Happiness was never intended to be an objective. Happiness is a symptom: it is the byproduct of a well-lived life. It is the result of living a good life. Living a good life is not necessarily easy, it is not necessarily full of wealth, nor is it necessarily particular successful. Here is how one lives a good life: be kind to others and yourself. Seek and fight for truth, beauty, and goodness with excellence. Don’t strive for merely being good: be excellent. Seek perfection. Truth is honesty. It is fact. Truth is integrity. Truth is not feeling or opinion. Beauty is life, art, song, love, elegance. It is delicate, and fragile. Goodness is kind, humble, and loyal. Truth, Beauty, goodness require protection. They require men to lead the defense of them. As you seek truth, beauty, and goodness you will realize how intertwined and interconnected they are. You will begin to see them as three facets of the same universal reality: each distinct yet the same. Live your life in excellence: Grow! Strive for perfection. Live in Purity of mind, and deed.
Vincit qui se Vincit: he conquers, who conquers himself.
11. There are also a couple of other specific things you can do to grow as a man, as a leader, and to assist you in living a good life. You Must do these in some form every day.
There are 8. things that I attempt to do every day:
1. Create something: paint, whistle, doodle, play an instrument. It doesn’t have to be good. Just create something that never existed before.
2. Consume information, art, science, politics, tv, film, and anything else that strikes your fancy.
3. Experience everything that you can. Adventure.
4. Schedule unstructured Play.
5. Dream and Meditate or Pray, preferably in nature. Reflect.
6. Enjoy good food and drink, or other pleasurable non-destructive vices.
7. Have great conversations: connect to at least one person in a meaningful way.
8. Exercise your body.
9. Do something intentionally productive. Achieve something. Winning begets winning.