What the Best Leaders Know

Best Leaders

The best leaders know some foundational facts. These facts position them to lead better than the average leader. The three things the best leaders know are that they can only do so much, they are human, and they will not lead forever. Let’s further discuss those three areas:

1. They can only do so much

Even the most productive and competent leader has a limited amount of time and energy in a given day. The best leaders know and accept the fact that they can only do so much. This causes them to be crystal clear about their core roles, responsibilities, and tasks. They should chose those things that only they should or can do. They concentrate on those core areas while delegating non-essential (but maybe crucial or important) tasks to other team members. You should take time to determine your core areas and spend the majority of your time and energy on them. Make sure to have a strong and well-rounded team so you can delegate anything outside your core areas to them.

2. They are human

The best leaders know they are not an indispensable leader who are immune to failure or mistakes. If allowed our human nature, which I believe is prone to be bad, can cause us to become ineffective leaders. The leaders who are not aware or on guard against their weakness can easily move to the dark side of leadership. The first step is knowing that we are all human with limitations and weakness. We all have failures and make mistakes.

Every leader has the potential to: 1) speak harsh words or the wrong thing at times, 2) allow their emotions to cause them to react badly during a tense situation, 3) make the best and most calculated decisions which end up being the wrong one, 4) allow pressure or the demand of leadership to cause them to act out of character.

The list could keep going. But I’ll stop. The key is what you do after you have a failure or mistake. When you do showcase your human flaws or weakness make sure you:

  • Own up and accept responsibility for you actions
  • Seek forgiveness to anyone you negatively impacted
  • Chose to work on yourself so your attitude or actions do not become a pattern
  • Move away from what happened by forgiving yourself, removing your memories of what happened, and moving forward

3. They will not lead forever

The best leaders know they will not lead forever. At some point your leadership will come to an end. You will no longer leader lead the team or organization you are leading now. Several things could happen: You can be replaced for a different leader. I’ve heard the average time a CEO is in their position is less than 5 years. Your books can assign you to a different team or promote you into a new position. Larger businesses tend to move their best leader around. Or you might just die.

Since the best leader know they will not lead forever, they focus on leaving a lasting legacy. They do this by positively influencing and adding value to those around them. Two practical ways you can do this is by being proactive about training and equipping those on your team and spending time connecting and getting to know each team member. These two things will show you care and will position you to leave a lasting impact on their lives. You should also consider taking a capable subordinate under your wing and training them to eventually replace you. This will protect the organization should something happen to you that makes you have to suddenly step down.

Question: Can you add to the list? What else do the best leaders know?

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Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

  • Understanding that you will not lead forever seems to be an extremely important idea that many leaders forget about. Maybe it’s because no one wants to think about their mortality but for some reason I have seen a number of situations where men simply led too long and didn’t leave a legacy.

    • I think it’s something we all need to remember when it comes to life and leadership. Thank you for reading and adding to the topic.

  • Good leaders accept responsibility for the losses and share the wins.

    • Great additional thoughts Larry! Thank you for sharing them:)

  • The best leaders know that they don’t have to be micro managers. They put trust in each team member to carry out their roles and allow them to bring their gifts, expertise, and creativity to the table.

    • That’s a huge one, micro managers will only frustrate those around them. Thank you for sharing.

  • Great post Dan. The best leaders know it’s not about them. If our hearts are not to put others first we can’t lead well. Keep up the awesome work my friend.

    • So true, Zech. They focus on their people first. Thank you for sharing.

  • I will second Chris’ comment. Leaders know how to release authority and give their team space to do the job the best way the team sees fit.

    • It’s a crucial task of a leader. Thank you for reading and adding your thoughts.

  • Great thoughts here Dan! Keep up writing. I need a reason to come visit your blog every time!

    • Thank you Paul, unfortunately I’m not able to publish more blog posts during the week due to my schedule but I’ll still be posting at least once a week:) Thank you for your support.

  • The idea of focus is huge, Dan. Simply realizing you can’t do everything is a huge step for a leader. It increasing your effectiveness because you focus in on what you do best, and you can do it with excellence. Spreading yourself thin leads to mediocrity, and no one wants that as a leader. The greatest leaders are ones that focused in on the few things they could do with excellence, and they got people around them to do the other things.

    • Thank you for sharing some additional thoughts about focusing. I always love hearing your wisdom and thoughts.

  • This is a great list- so true. Going along with number 3, good leaders are open to change. They will embrace it, even if it takes them out of their comfort zones.They’re willing to learn to things and be used in various ways.

    • Great additional points, those who change and grow will always be leading. Thank you for reading and adding to the discussion.

  • Dan! Along these lines what are you planning to do beyond this blog? What are you trying to do to leverage your influence? Whats the goal?

    • Hi David,

      First off it’s great to hear from you, I hope all is well. I’m going to continue to write books and release products that will help people increase their influence. I’m connecting with like minded people and building relationships with them. My goal is to help and add value to others. Any particular reason why your asking these questions? :) Glad to give you the answers.

  • DS

    Great job with acknowledging your limitations (#1) which seems to lead into your #3, not lasting forever. I’m on my 3rd CEO in 7 years. The end of one, all of another, and the beginning of a third. It would be interesting to more narrowly focus this to leaders of the home, or being a leader, not necessarily in the role of a leader.

    • Hello David,

      We all have have limitations but the best people see and acknowledge those areas. I agree, these points can help anyone and not just someone in a leadership role. Thank you for taking the time to read and add to the topic.

  • One thing I would add to this list kind of fits into your category of being human. I’d say good leaders realize that they don’t know everything. Have you ever been around someone who thinks they know it all and refuse to admit that they might be wrong? They can be pigheaded and overly stubborn. That reduces their ability to make corrections to mistakes since they’re unlikely to admit they made a mistake to begin with. A good leader realizes that they might not have all the information they need.

    • Oh, yes. I’ve been around those type of people. It’s never a fun experience. Thank you for adding to the topic.

  • I think the best leaders accept their own humanity and the humanity of others. I can still remember when leaders over me noticed I made mistakes – and they gave me grace. That changed the way I looked at them forever.

    • Yes, that’s a good one. Leaders need to show grace to themselves and those around them. Thank you for adding to the topic.