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Advice from World’s Leaders: How to Avoid Fear of Failure, Risk and Change

Updated on November 4, 2011

Last weekend, I picked up a good book by Gary Burnison (CEO of Korn/Ferry International) that documents the ups and downs of leadership among some of the top CEOs and leaders in the world. The book came as inspiration to me, since I am currently in the process of looking for a job in a new location (hopefully one that is based on creative thinking, one that inspires and one where my input is irreplaceable). I truly desire to excel in a position that matches my curiosity and desire to make a difference through my work, and although I have a long way to holding a leadership position, I can see the parallels in Burnison’s conclusions and the necessary measures that I have to make in order to feel respected and valued by the quality of my work.

In the beginning stages of one’s career, there is always that uncertainty that lingers, since starting anything anew requires plenty of energy, focus and competency. And obviously, none of us want to fail at accomplishing our goals when we are doing our best. This book, however, emphasizes that there is no one path to success, but rather, that achievement comes by developing the qualities of a leader who is not fearful of appropriate risk and change. Depending on the situation and the needs that will enable positive outcomes, each leader values experience and intuition to make decisions that will benefit the team as a whole and does so at the expense of the risk of failure.

Burnison interviews top leaders and CEOs about their leadership approach, their experience and lessons learned in their positions. Here are some of the main highlights of the book….

  • To succeed in the new post-Millennium leadership environments, one must have a high level of innovation, creativity and strategic thinking.
  • The overarching commonality that most of the interviewed leaders shared is the following: tremendous courage around the possibility- and even the inevitability- of failure. This does not mean that leaders never fail- they often do. It simply means that they are not paralyzed by the fear of failure and find inner strength to move forward.

“Success is never final, failure is never fatal. It’s courage that counts.” –John Wooden

  • The most important aspect of failure is not defeat or loss, but when the following choice is presented: to either allow fear to rule or shift the setback to lesson learned.
  • Great leaders are comfortable with ambiguity, paradox, social complexity, and change.
  • Admirable leaders are comfortable with themselves and are socially attuned to a high degree: they listen closely, respond appropriately to others’ needs, build effective teams, understand others and are accessible.
  • Motivating and managing any kind of team requires a high level of emotional intelligence (reading body language, sensing emotion and knowing how emotions lead to certain behaviors).
  • Leadership is all about the other person: no matter the topic, that person should leave your office feeling better than before.
  • Leadership requires introspection and understanding of the consequences of one’s words and actions.
  • Setting priorities is a must: when there are so many things to look after, priorities offer clarity and ability to carry out objectives more effectively.
  • Leaders often possess charisma, but they never let their personalities or egos get in the way. Great leaders are authentic and humble.
  • Be open and transparent: don’t have walls separate you from others.
  • Hard work and doing more than is expected will garner respect and promotion. There are no shortcuts to success.
  • One should have passion for the work s/he does.
  • As a leader, one must care about people over the product: it is inevitably the people that make a business/team successful.
  • Personal qualities make a leader, but oftentimes circumstances and timing are essential to the possibility of attaining a leadership position.

I strongly feel that by incorporating many of these leader qualities, we can prosper greatly in our jobs and careers. Exhibiting leader qualities attracts respect, value and reward; and if we can be leaders in all aspects of our lives…why we would be, figuratively, on top of the world!


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    • AnesaK profile image

      AnesaK 6 years ago from USA

      Thank you, Topnewhottoys!

    • Topnewhottoys profile image

      Topnewhottoys 6 years ago from Salisbury, Maryland

      Good points, and well presented