The first leadership principle is to achieve professional competence. People willingly follow leaders they trust to bring them success. That’s right, leadership is about the ability to achieve results for others, not just for oneself. As humans, we are naturally attracted to people who are go-getters and can actually get things done.

In other words, the fundamental principle of leadership is to be competent. If you’re competent, people will aggregate around you simply because you have the ability and the skills to make things happen. If you’re successful on top of that, you can make them successful, and people like that even more. It’s a recipe for basic leadership effectiveness: be competent.

There are four types of competence: intellectual, physical, emotional, and interpersonal. However, the most important one is intellectual competence, which is the ability to size up a situation, make decisions and plans, communicate the vision and the plan, and control the execution. You can miss some of these, but intellectual competence as a leader can’t be faked.

Franklin Roosevelt had the intellectual firepower, even though he was in a wheelchair during most of his presidency. He was also a masterful communicator. Churchill and Lincoln both suffered terribly from emotional upheaval, depression and anxiety even, but they were also brilliant leaders who could communicate and rouse others to action.

Steve Jobs was, by all accounts, bizarre in his personal habits, extremely difficult to work for, and hard to get along with as a person, but boy, could he conceptualize technology and see the interactions between technique and art. People willingly followed him not because he was a nice guy or easy to work for, but for quite the contrary. He demanded only the best of everyone, and he got it, or else the person was gone.

© 2012 Richard Martin. Reproduction and quotes permitted with full and proper attribution.

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