COMMENTARY: Eight Laws of Leadership

Take a look around. Business, education, politics. If there’s one thing we don’t have enough of, it’s good leaders —men and women who have the vision and the ability to change things for the better.

Former Air Force General William Cohen wrote a fine book called The Stuff of Heroes in which he identified eight laws of leadership. Here are his rules:

  1. Maintain absolute integrity.
  2. Know your stuff.
  3. Declare your expectations.
  4. Show uncommon commitment.
  5. Expect positive results.
  6. Take care of your people.
  7. Put duty before self.
  8. Get out in front.

His laws embrace important competencies like knowledge, communication skills, commitment, optimism, caring, and a powerful sense of duty. But General Cohen also recognized that the foundation of a successful leader is character, including trustworthiness, honor, and courage.

The best leaders draw on these moral qualities to influence others through inspiration, persuasion, trust, and loyalty. They do the right thing despite the costs and risks and do it not because it will yield approval or advantage, but because it’s the right thing.

In these cynical times, it’s easy to think such leadership is unattainable; yet in every walk of life there are hundreds of men and women —parents, teachers, coaches, civic activists — who fit this mold. What’s more important, every one of us could be among them.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 5

  1. Commercial and community environments rightfully attract the popular attention to demanding and improving leadership performances. However, I believe the greatest demand and rewards for achieving excellent leadership performance is in our family. Parental leadership performance is HUGE and VITAL to children’s development. Aside from the excellent thought provoking “8 Rules” by General Cohen; I would only add “PRESENCE”. Philosophers call it 90% of parenting; but my assessment is that presence is VITAL to healthy, happy kids !!! There simply cannot be any substitute for modeling positive loving presence.

  2. How wondweful. Thanks so much because we need leaders like Me. Cohen in each & every places you look, broken with empty promises. How sad & shameful we have become….soulless characters.

  3. In short, I am quite inspired by your e -mails .I am an African woman from Nigeria and the greatest problem of the country is leadership.

  4. 1. The problem is often NOT that there are too few leaders but that there are too few good followers (individuals that know how to follow, why they are following, who to follow, ethics, etc.) Submission to a good leader is not an inferior position. Our culture does not teach submission even though the greatest leaders in history knew how to submit to a greater authority.
    2. The rules of leadership are the same as the rules for being a good leader.

  5. The Leadership laws are just outstanding that all need to read and understand that are in positions of Leadership.
    The problems with lack of leadership today comes from the need to be liked rather than respected. Leaders must be able to stand for what is right and truthful. After teaching and coaching for 50 years we in leadership positions must help our young people realize that being truthful is a great virtue. We all must help support parents about the need to take a stand with their children to teach honesty, truthfulness and respect for authority.
    You cannot Lead without Integrity. Keep talking about Leadership and what it takes to Lead. Our country must continue this work.
    Thank You – Bill McDonald

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