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7 Original Maxims To Be a Boss People Love

I ran out into the middle of the road and aimed my rifle through the windshield at his head.

He kept coming.

I had a few seconds to decide whether he was trying to kill us or he was just on his way to work.

Sccreeeeaaaaaaccchhhh! His brakes locked up and the car skidded slightly sideways to a stop about 30 yards away.

I’ve never seen someone do a three-point-turn so fast. After he changed his drawers I’m sure he had to get his car serviced too. He must have just been on his morning commute. Saddam’s information minister was telling everyone we weren’t even there, after all.

I was a Marine in Iraq and I had to make a decision. Luckily I made the right one, restraint.

My point is, decisiveness is critical in leadership and one I’ve developed a maxim for below — but it only, like all maxims below, works the best when promptly filtered through your gut, heart, and intellect first. In this case, my gut quickly told me the driver wasn’t hostile. My heart wanted to give him every chance to correct things. My intellect said just wait a few seconds. I bet the driver was even more thrilled with this decision than I was.

Being in leadership positions in corporate, volunteer, and military capacities for 25 years has helped me hone a few truths down to a few words.

Here they are. I hope you find them useful too.

#1. Confidence Promotes Simplicity

Insecurity spawns unnecessary complexity.

I used to have a boss that would overcomplicate everything. He did this for two reasons. He wanted to have his fingers in every single thing he could. Not just because he couldn’t bring himself to delegate and trust, but in case it was successful he could take credit. Second, he was insecure in his abilities which led him to over-complicate a subject to make his handling of it appear more intelligent. Similar to how a kid might change stickers on a Rubic’s Cube and leave it out for people to admire.

A good leader usually loves simplicity. They aren’t threatened that simplicity will make them appear unsophisticated. The simpler the better. Simplicity allows people to focus more clearly on what really matters and not be distracted by the noise complexity can generate.

Good leaders can simplify problems so their team becomes more focused and efficient in solving them.

“Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers…”― General Colin Powell

#2. A Leader Has To Take Responsibility For Just One Thing: Everything.

The hallmark mindset for every great leader I’ve ever known has been complete ownership of everything that takes place in their sphere of influence.

That’s everything. Just to clarify — everything.

That’s the old lady who needs help crossing the street on your way to the office or returning the twenty the man dropped by accident at the store.

This does not mean the leader has to do everything though. Quite the opposite. They have to delegate to others at work, then trust them, then publicly or upwardly own the other’s mistakes if they mess up. It can be tough for many to do this, especially the more proud and insecure among us.

Excuses find no home in the minds of the best leaders.

Remember, only everything.

“Success on any major scale requires you to accept responsibility . . . . In the final analysis, the one quality that all successful people have is the ability to take on responsibility.”— Michael Korda Editor-in-Cheif, Simon & Schuster

#3. Confidence Wears Humility

These two character traits go hand in hand. When a leader is confident, they don’t need to be brash. When a leader is humble and competent they exude confidence, often without even speaking.

Humble confidence is the intangible crown worn by the best leaders.

Humility does not mean self-deprecation or low confidence. It just means the leader knows they are smart and able, but that doesn’t make them a better human being than those that may not be as smart and able. Instead, they view any gifts they have as solemn responsibilities, not earned trophies.

They also know that right around the corner is someone smarter, better, and wiser than they…and that someone could be in their own team.

If so, their humility would cheer that discovery instead of being threatened by it.

“Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.” -C.S. Lewis

#4. You Can Lead Others Only As Far as You’ve Led Yourself

If you want to lead others towards their potential, you must already be approaching yours.

The example a leader sets that they have mastered their own emotion, intelligence, and willpower will be inspirational and build confidence in those who follow them.

Know yourself to lead yourself — lead yourself to lead others.

“Care for your psyche…know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves.” –Socrates

#5. Micromanagement Is the Prime Suspect in the Death of Initiative

Most people who read my articles are probably rolling their eyes. “If he says micromanagement again I’ll throw my shoe at him.”

But I will. That’s OK. I’ll e-duck your shoe. It’s just that I believe so strongly in how damaging it is.

Initiative in the people you lead is the most valuable asset a leader has. Initiative is the harnessed can-do creativity and willpower of someone who wants to do their best to help accomplish the mission.

Stifling this force of initiative with an incessant need to do it all and direct every detail is the most powerful way a leader can shoot themselves in their foot.

The more minutia you try to control as a leader, the less you’ll get done because your people will stop doing on their own.

“Invariably, micromanaging results in four problems: deceit, disloyalty, conflict, and communication problems.” — John Rosemond

#6. EQ Beats IQ

Emotional intelligence simply reigns over IQ as far as critical components to good leadership. Knowing and feeling how your people feel, see, and think — this critical perception, is needed by any leader.

You can take a technical genius of an employee and make them a manager and their intelligence may not translate at all to effective leadership.

Because intelligence does not equal wisdom.

Emotional intelligence also means controlling your own emotions. Emotional intensity is acceptable and even useful in motivation, but emotional chaos is damaging to morale.

“I don’t want to be at the mercy of my emotions. I want to use them, to enjoy them, and to dominate them.”–Oscar Wilde

#7. Indecision is Fear Disguised as Deliberation

Decisiveness is courage and critical thinking marching forward hand-in-hand.

This is where the art of leadership comes in. No one can tell you when it’s time to decide but it’s usually now.

Decisiveness doesn’t mean rash, thoughtless action. It means action taken after deliberate, critical, but timely thought.

Think. Decide. Act. In just enough time to maximize the wisdom of the decision, yet not let the window of benefits reaped from it close.

“It’s better to be boldly decisive and risk being wrong than to agonize at length and be right too late.”― Marilyn Moats Kennedy


I’ve always loved boiling down concepts to a few words. I hope you’ve found some value in the above maxims.

They’ve helped me be a better leader over the years.

All of them hinge on having the right heart to lead — a servant’s heart.

If you have that plus empathy for others and a growing competence in your craft, you’ll become one of those excellent bosses. Not just a boss, a leader.

A leader who decides not to shoot you in the head while you’re just trying to drive to work for Pete’s sake.

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