6 Rules for Aspiring Leaders

6 Rules for Aspiring Leaders

by Dave Donohue

Leadership is about people, and while it’s not an easy job – it takes time and effort to become a great leader – its tenets aren’t complicated. 

Leaders work with people, developing teams that are empowered to perform extraordinary things. Under good leadership, team members will work hard, be motivated and perform at levels well above expectations. The following six rules are designed to help new and aspiring leaders build successful teams.

Rule No. 1: Leaders are technical competent.

Leaders are technically proficient. They have a well-rounded understanding of their position and that of their subordinates. Proficiency is learning gained from experience, training and education. Learning allows them leaders to establish relationships with peers and potential mentors, provides a channel for professional development and develops a network that can be used to grow ideas into actions. Learning also places the leader in a role of student, demonstrating that personal and professional growth is expected at all levels.

Leaders understand the skills and roles for their team. They understand how individual roles come together to make the team effective, and can identify areas of weakness in individual or team training that can be developed. Leaders constantly evaluate their proficiency and that of their team, and identify gaps and areas for improvement. Continual team evaluation provides a foundation to improve performance. Leaders show that competence and proficiency are expected from everyone.

Rule No. 2: Leaders are trustworthy, honorable and respectful.

Leadership is built upon trust. Leaders should be trustworthy, honorable and respectful. They know their actions are always being observed, and that any dishonorable action corrodes the trust needed to lead. Leaders revisit their ethical center and ensure they are staying true to their ethical core; they frequently examine their actions and motivations, and compare them with their values. If the leader acts outside ethical boundaries, they admit their action, hold themselves accountable and make amends.

Rule No. 3: Leaders care about people.

In the age of social media and short-term relationships, leaders take time to learn about their team and what matters to its members. Leaders ensure others are cared for, recognized, rewarded and nurtured even at their own expense. The best tool to assess a leader is to see what the leader willingly gives to others.

Leaders use every opportunity to recognize and reward their teams, perhaps even spending their own time and money. Leaders also reward and recognize nonteam-related achievements, recognizing that a person’s interests and priorities are unique, important and worthy of recognition.

Rule No. 4: Leaders nurture high potential.

Under a solid leader, team members will perform extraordinary feats. With few exceptions, people want to be successful, and the goal of leadership is to make success possible. Leaders identify team members who work hard, lead and have a passion for success. They develop team members, harness their enthusiasm and energy, focus their actions and then let them perform.

Rule No. 5: Leaders use discipline sparingly.

If avoiding discipline becomes the goal, innovation and creativity will be destroyed, and the team will fail. Discipline should be used lightly and creatively. Leaders recognize that building a solid team with a foundation of expectations and outcomes provides motivation for success. Discipline is not punishment. It ensures an individual is aware of expected behaviors and guides them toward what is expected. As soon as the behavior is corrected the process ends. Leaders recognize the rulebook does not fit every situation. If a member violates a rule but is doing the right thing the right way for the right reason, they are not disciplined – they are rewarded for focusing on success, not policy.

Rule No. 6: Your team is the best in the world.

Leaders recognize that leadership is a privilege, and that teams will perform above and beyond the expectations if given the opportunity. Leaders never discuss their successes, but will never miss the opportunity to speak on their team members’ achievements. They will defend their team against unjustified criticism. Few things will be more devastating to team members than a leader who will not defend them or who deflects failure from leadership to team members.

The leader willingly accepts personal repercussions for their teams’ actions. The leader is responsible for members’ actions and failures. While sharing success with all members of the team is important, accepting the entirety of failures is one of the few things that exemplify true leadership.



A great message for everyone’s future.



“Get all the fools on your side and you can be elected to anything.”

 ~ Frank Dane

Dave Donohue is the owner of Mid-Atlantic Emergency and Safety Consultants.  January 8, 2016. 

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