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Thoughts on Good Leadership

Martin C. Doege
January 10, 2008

1. A good leader primarily places demands upon himself before demanding

things from others. What he seeks most is to be perfect himself and to serve
as a good example.

2. A good leader knows (from personal experience) that perfection is often only
achieved after errors and difficulties, therefore he acknowledges errors (in his
own work and that of others) and moves on, trying not to repeat the error and
remaining confident about what he does—he does not get “stuck” because of a
problem. If necessary, he changes gears for a while, follows a slightly different
road, until he has gained the necessary understanding to solve his original
problem. He knows that reaching a higher level of understanding sometimes
involves activity that some people like to call “games”, “procrastination”, or
“not pertinent”, but he knows better than that.

3. A good leader wants to be able to understand and do things on his own

(although once he has understood how they work he should delegate them,
either to other people or a machine—he should not get into a false competition
with the people he is leading). A good leader is curious about how things
work exactly; he cares about the road, not just the eventual outcome.

4. A good leader knows that self-control and self-restraint are the basis of good
leadership. To to be able to lead others one must first be able to lead oneself.
That does not mean that a leader should not show emotions; particularly
positive emotions are necessary for good leadership at all times. He knows
that being an inspiration to others is partly based on intellect and partly on

5. A good leader is confident and bases his decisions on his permanent values,
not on outside conditions that may vary from day to day. He listens to

advice, but also considers if the person giving the advice has been following
that advice himself in his life or not.

6. A good leader leads and learns by example, knowing that when he starts
a project the right way, it will be gladly picked up by the people he is
leading. But of course the ultimate responsibility for the project rests (in his
mind) primarily on his shoulders, no matter who is doing most of the actual
work—after all he is the leader.

7. A good leader tries to discover leadership potential is people around him

and is never afraid if somebody with leadership abilities turns up in his
circle. Rather, he encourages and mentors him, but also gives him ample
room to make his own mistakes (see point 1). A good leader knows that
good leadership skills are partly inborn, but also partly learned, and require
mentoring—they are a rare commodity.

8. A good leader is always willing to learn new things or to consider ideas from
anyone, without prejudice. He is not arrogant and thinks of the opinions of
his inferiors as genuinely important and worthy of consideration, without
letting his behavior be dictated by them. He knows when to be stubborn
and when to give in.

9. A good leader knows that most people do not want to lead themselves, but
rather want to be led wisely. He knows that leadership is a privilege and
obligation, not an entitlement.

10. A good leader sometimes sets aside his day-to-day activities and thinks about
the grand perspective, about whether his work is ethical, honorable, and
serves the whole of humanity, he looks for more abstract ways of thinking
about the big picture, he mulls the nature of leadership itself. And if he has
found out something worthwhile he tries to communicate it to others (see
point 7).