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10 Critical Lessons For Promising Leaders

February 13, 2016 » Successful/Effective Leadership

There are many critical lessons that promising leaders must learn if they are to turn “promise into reality”. These critical lessons produce a rich palette of personal and professional leadership attributes, competencies, skills and experiences that consistently achieve results and establish collaborative, collegial relationships.

Before you are a leader, success is all about growing yourself. When you become a leader, success is all about growing others.  Jack Welch

No Shortcuts

There are no shortcuts to successful/effective leadership. It is something that is earned on a developmental journey attempted by many; but successfully completed by few. Those who do complete the journey are able to produce successful results consistently and effectively based on their personal rather than positional power. How? Before they begin to grow others, they grow themselves by developing a rich palette of personal and professional leadership attributes, competencies, skills and experiences. In order to develop that palette, they quickly learn 10 critical lessons that become their compass to leadership. 

10 Critical Lessons

Here is my list – a compass that will help lead you toward successful/effective leadership – and by no means is it complete! My hope is that others will share the critical lessons they learned that supported their journey to becoming successful/effective leaders.

  1. Your personal (and most important) partnership: family members. It’s critical that you clarify your goals with family members; that you drum up their support; and that you define how issues will be dealt with when conflict arises, because this is what will provide a solid platform for your leadership journey. Without this platform, your chances for success are slim to none!
  1. Your corporate partnership. Corporate values are the essence of the company’s identity. How can you lead an organization if you don’t believe in, support and reflect the very core of what it stands for? Leaders carry the corporate values deep into the organization, and for this reason, it is they who have the most influence on the people who drive its success. You must be able to put the company, its values and future first or it will put your promising leadership career second.
  1. Your professional partnerships. Never underestimate the impact of business and/or professional relationships on your future – both the positive and the negative. People who are your colleagues today will be your superiors, subordinates and important resources tomorrow. Spend as much time nurturing those relationships as you do achieving your goals and objectives. They hold a key to your future success.
  1. The #1 skill set. Communication, negotiation and relating skills are a must. Corporate recruiters rated those skills ahead of managerial ability by a two-to-one margin and even ahead of teamwork, technical knowledge and leadership. Social media prowess, texting and emails will make you popular; but face-to-face communication, negotiation, and relating to and influencing people you work with and for, make you promotable. If this is not your strong suit, you need a new suit. If you would like to try on a new suit, come on over to and experience a FREE session. Learn how to achieve Results with Relationship.
  1. Your emotional I.Q. Self-awareness/control and situational-awareness/control are extremely important. You must understand how to not take things personally. Mental Sublimation: knowing how, why, when and where to keep your mouth shut, particularly when the beliefs, attitudes or behaviors of others create negative feelings in you that move you to say or do something not in your best interest, is a must have capability. Opening your mouth at inappropriate times with inappropriate utterances is a career killer.
  1. Find a mentor or sponsor. This individual will be one of your most important and influential relationships. This is a person who has expertise in those areas of interest that are perfectly aligned with your leadership goals. It is a person who can help you with a variety of business and professional challenges from advocating for a project or promotion right through to acting as your sounding board or “big picture guide”. Your mentor or sponsor might be a respected person from within your organization or from the outside world. Choose this person carefully.
  1. Be politically savvy and astute. You may not be “into office politics”; but being “out of it” is not in your best interest. If you think you can advance without serious political skills, you are mistaken. Understand the rules of the game and what you have to do to play the game well. Understand the corporate culture: the focus, actions and behaviors of key leaders; what gets punished and what gets rewarded; and the attention and allocation of resources. Pick your battles carefully. Think and act strategically.
  1. Face challenges head on. View problems as challenges and challenges as opportunities. You will face many of both. You won’t win them all. No significant progress will ever be made in your career without a few mistakes along the way. One of the hallmarks of a person’s character is his or her ability to learn from their mistakes and move forward. Remember to forgive your mistakes but never forget what they taught you. Without this quality, success is out of reach.
  1. Be sociable. Do you enjoy entertaining and socializing with superiors, colleagues and subordinates in your home and other social venues? You hate it and refuse to do it?! Wrong answer. Entertaining is a prime requisite for promising leaders on their way up the corporate or professional leadership ladder. The relationships, connections, positive social interactions and dynamics that begin to develop in this phase of a leader’s development will pay big dividends for years to come.
  1. Set high personal and professional standards. Your integrity is your signature and compromising your standards is self-defeating. The quickest path to failure is the one on which you try to please everyone else. Always do the right thing rather than the popular or expedient thing. You’ll never go wrong.

The Scent of Leadership

Leadership isn’t rocket science; but becoming a successful/effective leader isn’t a cakewalk either. There’s a certain scent in the air around people who carry the aura of leadership. Those are the people who do the right things, at the right times, for the right reasons, with the right people, producing the right results, in the right way. The sooner you learn these 10 critical lessons, the sooner you will carry that aura of leadership.

May the scent be with you!

My hope is that you, the reader, will share the critical lessons you learned on your successful leadership journey, so that others may benefit from your experience. If any of the thoughts in this blog strike a chord with you, share it with others who you want to support in their effort to improve their leadership results, relationships and career prospects.


Dr. Don MacRae is the author and passionate leader of Situational Communication® and the CEO of Lachlan Enterprises Incorporated (The Lachlan Group).

Do you know the primary reason leaders and potential leaders fail today? It’s not because of what they do but rather how they do it – in other words, their communication, negotiation and relating skills. Find out “how to” improve both your success, and your communication, negotiation and relating effectiveness, by taking advantage of the FREE version of the Situational Communication® website/webinar.

Situational Communication®: The Strategic Leadership Communication Process and Relating Styles of Successful/Effective LeadersEmotionally intelligent communication, negotiation and relating strategies that maximize a minimum amount of time to consistently achieve successful results and develop effective relationships.

Enhance your personal, business and professional leadership credibility, respect, fairness, pride and collegiality. Learn to communicate, negotiate and relate to others with personal power, influence and persuasion every time – particularly in difficult and challenging situations.

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