Leadership Principles

This is my personal diary of leadership attributes that I have learnt and accumulated over my professional career. I thought I would share this and be as a reference of who I am or might want to be. On many of these attributes, I have real experiences of being tested and tried and still believe while I have gained some muscle memory on these, many are still work in progress.

This is also a summary from 2 letters I had to write to my Son when he finished middle school and finishing high school. I had to pen some ‘lesson learnt from parent to child’. I find the list is also a list of key attributes I care as a leader and wanted to pass it along to my family (immediate) and if the opportunity presents itself with my friends as well.

My role models or people from whom I have learnt important lessons that I remind myself constantly  are  Scott McNealy, Steve Jobs, Colin Powell, Ronald Reagan, Jeff Bezos, Ed Zander, Elon Musk, Vinod Khosla, George Pavlov. With that, what are the key attributes?

Conviction: A strong belief in something leads to conviction that takes care of fear, worries of failure and even failure. Steve Jobs is a role model.

Change Agent:  Leaders tend to change status quo, By that, I mean if you want to be a leader, expect change and change.  Scott McNealy was a change agent and he is/was a  role model for this.

Responsibility: Being a leader means being responsible. With assumption of responsibility, a lot of other skills can be enhanced or acquired. Almost all of them have this key attribute.

communication. Observe everything. Take all the inputs and be able to synthesize. All of the names above are good at it. Ronald Reagan, Colin Power to start with.

Taking Risks: As the famous saying goes, there is no risk, then there is no reward. To me, risk is not just about reward, but its about experimentation and learning early enough. Its important to fail early and soon than later which is harder. So take risks. The person who epitomizes this for me is Vinod Khosla.

Perseverance: Conviction + perseverance is what takes one to be successful (Just make sure you have people to tell you about your blind slides and listen to them).  The person who epitomizes this for me are almost everybody but two in particular – Elon Musk & George Pavlov – a colleague at a former company.

Think big, but act small: Its actually TBASIF – Think Big, Act Small, Invest Frugally.  Dream the big things. But learn to find the simple, easy starting or insertion point. The person who epitomizes this attribute are Elon Musk and Vinod Khosla.

Sell, Sell, Sell: An entrepreneur is selling all day long to everybody. Selling to his friends, colleagues, investors, board members, employees and his customers and most importantly to himself as well. We all need to be sold or reminded as well. Most of the above names are – notable ones being Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Steve Jobs.

Complainer vs solver: If you complain all the time, you will never be able to lead. If you lead a group of people and are constantly solving their problems, you are not a leader. Tell them to come up with solutions not problems. Become more of a facilitator. Perhaps Colin Powell.

Believe in your gut: As Ed Zander the former COO of Sun Microsystems said – life is all about refining your gut. I think nature has built our chemistry in a way that the complex pro/con analyses results in a simple answer and that answer is reflected in driving some hormones in your stomach (perhaps from the survival instincts in early years of evolution).  When you go with your gut, you feel good. So when you come to cross roads in your decisions, ask you gut and check infrequently how you did against your gut.

Decisions: The first decision is the right decision. The second decision is worst decision.  The third decision is no decision – Scott McNealy.