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Book Excerpt: The Great Challenge of Life

If you want to be a leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a person of quality yourself. Leadership is the ability to attract someone to the gifts, skills, and opportunities you offer as an owner, as a manager, as a parent. I call leadership the great challenge of life.
 
What’s important in leadership is refining your skills. All great leaders keep working on themselves until they become effective. 
 
Here are some specifics:
 
Learn to be strong but not impolite. It is an extra step you must take to become a powerful, capable leader with a wide range of reach. Some people mistake rudeness for strength. It’s not even a good substitute.
 
Next, learn to be kind but not weak. We must not mistake weakness for kindness. Kindness isn’t weak. Kindness is a certain type of strength. We must be kind enough to tell somebody the truth. We must be kind enough and considerate enough to lay it on the line. We must be kind enough to tell it like it is and not deal in delusion.
 
Next, learn to be bold but not a bully. It takes boldness to win the day. To build your influence, you’ve got to walk in front of your group. You’ve got to be willing to take the first arrow, tackle the first problem, discover the first sign of trouble. I think we’d all agree that farming is not an easy job. Farmers must face the weeds and the rains and the bugs straight on. Likewise, if you want any rewards at harvest time, you’ve got to be bold. You’ve got to seize the moment.
 
Here’s the next step. You’ve got to learn to be humble, but not timid. You can’t get to the high life by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility. But humility is a virtue; timidity is a disease. It’s an affliction. It can be cured, but it is a problem.
 
Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. An understanding that there is something unique about the human drama versus the rest of life. Humility is a grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we’re part of the stars.
 
Here’s a good tip: learn to be proud but not arrogant. It takes pride to win the day. It takes pride to build your ambition. It takes pride in the community. It takes pride in cause, in accomplishment. But the key to becoming a good leader is being proud without being arrogant.
 
Do you know the worst kind of arrogance? Arrogance from ignorance. It’s intolerable. And it can be expensive. A young newly-wed couple gets some money from their parents to buy a new set of patio furniture. The young couple goes to the store and picks out the perfect set. When they go to the checkout counter, the clerk scans the UPC code. 
 
The couple says, “Hey, there are four chairs in this container. You’re only charging us for one.” “I know my job!” the clerk responds arrogantly. “I scanned the container. Don’t you think I know what I’m doing?” Well, the young couple tries to explain that she is wrong. The clerk won’t listen. So the young couple gets four beautiful patio chairs for the price of one. Do you think the store clerk will change her arrogant attitude when it’s time to close out her cash drawer? Probably so.
 
Ignorant arrogance is the worst kind. If someone is smart and arrogant, we can tolerate that. But if someone is ignorant and arrogant, that’s just too much to take.
 
The next step is learning to develop humor without folly. That’s important for a leader. In leadership, we learn that it’s okay to be witty, but not silly; fun, but not foolish.
 
Next, deal in realities. Deal in truth. Save yourself the agony. Just accept life like it is. Life is unique. Some people call it tragic, but I’d like to think it’s unique. The whole drama of life is unique. It’s fascinating.
 
Life is unique. Leadership is unique. The skills that work well for one leader may not work at all for another. But the fundamental skills of leadership can be adapted to work well for just about everyone: at work, in the community, and at home.
 
(Source: Leading an Inspired Life by Jim Rohn)
 

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