Leadership — genuine, influential, effective leadership — is a subtle thing. It’s not something that readily reduces to a cookie-cutter recipe or paint-by-numbers formula. We all know that. That’s why there have been a thousand good books on leadership, and will be a thousand more. But for all we describe it and study it, it still seems elusive — which is why it so often surprises us when a truly great leader appears in our midst.
Why so elusive? In part, because great leadership is shot through with contradiction.
A great leader is selfless — and has a healthy ego. A great leader is by definition unitary, singular, unique — and somehow inspires thousands to emulate him or her. Great leaders have their heads in the clouds and their toes firmly in the dirt.
Here are five descriptions of what great leaders do, what we call “Five Keys to Legendary Leadership.” The first four are all essential — and are completely contradicted by the fifth. Yet somehow, the first four don’t seem to work without the fifth.
They are the four fingers and thumb of leadership.
Finger #1: Hold the Vision
Building a business takes skill, work, and capital resources. But those are details. More than anything else, building a business—really, building anything—is an act of faith. Because you’re creating something out of nothing. You are moving into the future on invisible wires, without a net.
It’s easy to say, “Hold a vision.” The hard part isn’t the vision. Anyone can come up with a vision. The hard part is the holding.
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