When Walter Isaacson released his biography of Steve Jobs, there were countless articles written about what you can learn about leadership from Steve Jobs. There isn’t a day that goes by that the Internet isn’t flooded with suggestions about how you can lead more like Richard Branson. Or Abraham Lincoln. Or someone else.
These articles are written with the best of intentions. But you aren’t Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, or Abraham Lincoln. And while there are lessons you can learn from lots of great leaders, you still have to chart your own course.
Every leader has her own history, her own back story. Every leader has her own set of experiences that have led her to leadership. A leader’s unique history and unique experiences are their own. Your history and your experiences have shaped you, and your role as a leader is to use everything you are and everything you’ve learned to lead.
Every leader’s organization has its own individual identity, its own DNA. The organization’s history, it’s core competencies, it’s competitors, it’s challenges, and it’s opportunities are uniquely their own. Apple and HP are different. Like Virgin and Southwest are different. Your organization is different, and your role as a leader is to lead your organization.
The best lessons you can learn from effective leaders are principle-based. From Jobs, you might learn the value of being relentless in pursuit of excellence. From Branson you might learn to break from the orthodoxy of the Industrial Age. From Ulysses S. Grant (one of my favorites), you might learn to use all the resources at your disposal to generate the major outcome you need without making excuses.
You are going to have to be the leader you have to be now. You are going to have to chart your own course. If someone were to write about your leadership, what lessons would your leadership provide? What principles would help a future leader to be the leader they need to be?