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Updated 30 Sep 2020

Four empowering lessons from great leaders

What does it take to be an extraordinary leader?

Lewis Howes, Entrepreneur, 29 October 2013  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

1. Think independently

“If you want to succeed you should strike out on new paths, rather than travel worn paths of accepted success.” – John D. Rockefeller, founder of Standard Oil Company.

The lesson: Read that quote again. It’s the secret behind the biggest breakthroughs in innovation, which is not achieved by imitating the success of others. It’s achieved by great leaders who choose to risk failure and ridicule in order to create something completely new.

The biggest turning point in my life happened when I declined the security of a job and decided to build a digital business on the simple principal of adding value to the lives of others. I was scared, broke and alone, but the opportunity I saw drove me to push through all that.

2. Be confident in who you are

“If money is your hope for independence you will never have it. The only real security that a man will have in this world is a reserve of knowledge, experience and ability.” – Henry Ford, founder of the Ford Motor Company.

The lesson: It can be easy to look at a successful entrepreneur and think to yourself, “I bet things come easy to them” or “They were just lucky.” But after spending time with successful people I’ve learnt that many of them were once broke, bankrupt and on the edge at a point in their life – myself included.

What separates these people is their decision not to allow their financial situations to dictate their emotions, define their worth or give them a sense of superiority over others. These people know that money can be easily lost and easily made. The only thing that really matters is learning how to create and offer value.

Once you learn how to create value in your market, you can shift your feelings of security from what you have to who you are.

3. Know when to move on

“Part of being a winner is knowing when enough is enough. Sometimes you have to give up the fight and walk away, and move on to something that’s more productive.” – Donald Trump, entrepreneur, television personality and author.

The lesson: As entrepreneurs we’ve learnt to fight for what we want, and we hate losing. But not every fight is worth your time. The trick is to always remember the big picture and not allow your ego to get in the way of being productive.

I’ve learnt that there’s a big difference between perseverance and stubbornness. Stubbornness involves me forcing things to work, while perseverance requires me to work consistently with what’s already working. Some of the best decisions I’ve made involved saying no to a potential partnership or pulling the plug on a product that wasn’t working.

4. Pursue excellence, not fame

“Having success for a year or two, that’s called being hot. Being in demand. Excellence is being able to perform at a high level for a long period of time.” – Jay Z, music artist and entrepreneur.

The lesson: I know a number of people who have experienced overnight success with a product or start-up, but allowed their success to fool them into thinking they were special. They neglected the critical business feedback they received from their partners and clients.

Once an entrepreneur stops growing, learning and being open to feedback, it can spell the end of their business.

Unfortunately, some entrepreneurs need to ‘lose it all’ before they learn this lesson. So make it a point to pursue excellence, not fame. Excellence is who you are. Fame is who you once were.

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About the author

Lewis Howes, Entrepreneur

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