Reverse Engineering Great Leaders

Andrew Carnegie

Andrew Carnegie

Leaders possess certain innate abilities and characteristics that set them apart from an also ran. In reverse-engineering what makes a great leader, we found four such characteristics.

A Servant of the People

There is a Russian comic strip that shows two labourers watching the limo of a politian drive by. The one person says to the other, “There goes the servant of the people!”

The reason why the comic is so funny is because how it so starkly contrasts with reality. Except if you’re the President of Uruguay. President José Mujica lives in a farmhouse, flies economy and donates most of his salary to social projects. He truly is a servant of the people. That’s what makes him such a remarkable leader.

Delegates Like the Dickens

Andrew Carnegie was known to have said that “no person will make a great business who wants to do it all himself or get all the credit.” Delegation is only one of many skills a leader should have, but it’s also probably the most underrated.

As a leader, you must recognize which matters demand your attention the most and what should be appointed to others. The problem is, learning to delegate not only requires the skill of knowing which tasks should be delegated, but also with whom you should entrust each task.

The Right Stuff

Great leaders tend to be bound by a higher moral code, and conduct themselves accordingly – even when no one is watching. Even when it’s not trendy, politically correct or financially rewarding. They do it because it’s the right thing to do.

For example, a natural leader would likely pick up litter they encounter during a private stroll in the park. Not because someone told them to (no one did), not for reward or applause (because no one is watching), and not because it’s convenient (it’s anything but). They do it because taking initiative and doing the right thing is in their DNA.

Leaders are aware of their surroundings and know that if they don’t do it,  no one else will.

Optimistic and Resilient

There is a Chinese saying that goes “fall down five times, stand up six.” Great leaders fall down, make mistakes, experience rejection and so on as many times or more than their peers. The difference is they get back up again and keep on going. Every business suffers setbacks and disappointments. When problems arise, try to profit from them. Experience is your servant.


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