Usually, this site consists of me giving you guys advice based on my own personal experiences in business and in life. But today, I want to turn the tables and share some of my favorite business lessons from some of the greatest leaders throughout history. I hope you find them as motivational and inspiring as I do!
Lesson #1 – “Whenever you can, act as a liberator. Freedom, dignity, wealth–these three together constitute the greatest happiness of humanity.” –Cyrus the Great
We’re all working towards something in our personal lives, whether it’s a corner office, a better title or a higher salary. But while it’s fine to have these goals, I think it’s also important to keep these things in perspective. Pursuing wealth is fine, but should be done in the context of providing liberation, freedom and dignity whenever possible as well.
Lesson #2 – “America is too great for small dreams.” –Ronald Reagan
From time to time, I catch myself thinking too small. The world – and this country in particular – is full of opportunities, so it’s important to keep in mind that thinking small serves no one. Shoot for brilliant, inspiring, passionate projects – that way, even if you fall short, you’ll still have accomplished something worthwhile.
Lesson #3 – “As for the best leaders, the people do not notice their existence. The next best, the people honor and praise. The next, the people fear; and the next, the people hate … When the best leader’s work is done the people say, ‘We did it ourselves!” – Lao-Tsu
There’s nothing more frustrating than seeing newly-annointed leaders in their first professional managerial roles trying to bludgeon others into accepting their authority. I love this quote because I believe it underscores the true role that leaders should play in their positions – supporting, challenging and motivating others without letting their egos cause them to disrupt group productivity for personal gain.
Lesson #4 – “The price of greatness is responsibility.” –Winston Churchill
Responsibility isn’t always a fun concept to wrap your mind around, but it’s essential. While I’d love to stay out late every night, eating rich foods and drinking good beer, I also have to accept that the other priorities in my life make this a bad idea. It isn’t always fun to acknowledge these competing priorities, but I also recognize that it’s the price of achieving greatness in other areas of my life.
Lesson #5 – “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” -John F. Kennedy
Realistically, you’re never going to reach “the top of your game,” because your game should be changing as you continue to grow, learn and reach new heights in your career. However, even if you’ve attained the leadership roles you always envisioned, it’s important to keep in mind just how important learning is to continued growth and success. Never stop learning!
Lesson #6 – “Business opportunities are like buses, there’s always another one coming.” –Richard Branson
I can’t tell you how many great ideas I’ve had – and then failed to act on… And yes, while it’s easy to get down on myself for missing out on these opportunities, I try to remind myself that there will be more chances in the future.
Lesson #7 – “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly and get on with improving your other innovations.” –Steve Jobs
I truly wish that we, as a nation, could get over the crippling fear we have of failure. If anything, failures are lessons that help us to achieve greater things down the road – so they should be celebrated, not despised!
Lesson #8 – “The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.” –Confucius
Although this lesson might seem “wordy,” what it really boils down to is that it takes practice and consistent effort to succeed in the long run. When approaching any new challenge, I try to remember that it takes approximately 10,000 hours to attain mastery in any subject – and that those 10,000 hours of tool sharpening are just as important as reaching my final goals will be.
Lesson #9 – “Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve. Thoughts are things! And powerful things at that, when mixed with definiteness of purpose, and burning desire, can be translated into riches.” –Napoleon Hill
I love the idea that “thoughts are things.” While I’m not going to go down the whole “Secret” route (really, I’ve never heard a bigger load of BS), I do think that mindset matters when it comes to success. If your thoughts aren’t in-line with the business priorities you’ve set for yourself, you need to either reevaluate your goals or get your thoughts on board with your aims.
Lesson #10 – “It’s hard to lead a cavalry charge if you think you look funny on a horse.” – Adlai Stevenson
A big part of achieving great things in your life – whether in your business activities or personal endeavors – is visualizing yourself in your desired role. If you can’t even take this image seriously in your mind, how can you ever hope to make it a reality in your life?!
Of course, these are just a few of my favorite lessons. Now I want to hear which ones motivate you! Share the business or life lessons you’ve used to guide your career in the comments section below.