How the Best Leaders Lead
Proven Secrets to Getting the Most Out of Yourself and Others
Author: Brian Tracy
Pub Date: February 2010
Print Edition: $24.95
Print ISBN: 9780814414347
Page Count: 256
e-Book ISBN: 9780814414354
Buy the book:
I N T R O D U C T I O N
The Race Is On
‘‘Great hopes make everything possible.’’
We are living in the most challenging times for business and economics
that we have experienced in our lifetimes. Only the fit
will survive. The race is on, and you are in it. If you are not committed
to winning, to conquering against all odds, you will be
brushed aside and passed over by people and companies more
determined to win than you are.
Some time ago, Harvard University made three predictions
that apply to the current economic situation. First, they said,
there will be more change in your business in the year ahead
than ever before. Second, there will be more competition in your
business than ever before. And third, there will be more opportunities
in your business than ever before.
But these opportunities will be different from the business
that you are accustomed to in the present, and you must move
quickly to take advantage of them if you are going to survive and
thrive against your competitors.
As it happens, these predictions were made in 1952. A fourth
prediction was added later: Those individuals and organizations
that do not quickly adapt to the inevitable and unavoidable
changes of today will be in different fields or out of business
within one or two years.
Charles Darwin said, ‘‘Survival goes not necessarily to the
strongest but to the species that is most adaptable to changing
Damon Runyon once wrote, ‘‘The race is not necessarily to
the swift, nor the contest to the strong, but that’s the way to bet.’’
You have heard the old saying that the Chinese character for
crisis is the same character used for opportunity. This is because
within almost every crisis there is an opportunity of some kind,
if you can find it.
Brilliant on the Basics
When Vince Lombardi took over the Green Bay Packers, he was
asked if he was going to change the players, the plays, the training,
or other key aspects of the team. He replied, ‘‘I’m not going
to change anything; we are simply going to become brilliant on
The Green Bay Packers had been doing poorly for some years.
In his first meeting with the team, he famously picked up a football
and said, ‘‘Gentleman, this is a football.’’
From then on, Lombardi concentrated on the basics, running
drills aimed at making his team faster and more effective at executing
plays than any other team. He took the Green Bay Packers
to two Super Bowl Championships and made football coaching
Consistent with the Lombardi method, the key to leading and
succeeding in times of crisis and rapid change is to become ‘‘brilliant
on the basics.’’
In this book, based on my work with more than a thousand
companies in fifty-two countries, I will share some of the best
thinking and action skills used by top executives and company
owners to achieve outstanding results in difficult markets against
When you practice these ideas and put them into action, you
will get results out of all proportion to your efforts. Sometimes a
single change in direction, inspired by an insight or an idea in
this book, can change your business, and your life, quickly and
The Seven Responsibilities of Leadership
There are seven basics that never change, the key responsibilities
of leadership in any organization. On a scale of 1 to 10, your
ability in each of these seven areas determines your value to
yourself and your contribution to your organization. Here they
Your First Responsibility: Set and Achieve
The number-one reason for business and executive failure is the
inability to achieve the sales, growth, and profitability goals for
which the leader is responsible.
Setting and achieving business goals embraces every part of
strategic and market planning, including products, services, people,
productivity, promotion, finances, and competitive responses.
We will touch on these critical factors in the pages
The Second Responsibility of Leadership: Innovate
As Peter Drucker said, the purpose of a business is to ‘‘create and
keep a customer.’’
Only through continuous innovation of products, services,
processes, and promotional methods can companies create and
keep customers. As Bruce Henderson of the Boston Consulting
Group wrote, ‘‘All strategic planning is market planning.’’
The Third Responsibility of Leadership: Solve
Problems and Make Decisions
This is so important that I will dedicate an entire chapter to the
problem solving and decision making skills that you absolutely
must master to be an effective leader. Remember, a goal unachieved
is merely a problem unsolved. A sales target unachieved
is a problem unsolved. The only obstacles that stand between
you and the business success you desire are problems, difficulties,
hindrances, and barriers. Your ability to go over, under, or
around these problems is central to your success.
The Fourth Responsibility of Leadership: Set
Priorities and Focus on Key Tasks
One of the most important jobs you do is to deploy limited resources,
especially of people and money, into those areas where
they can make the greatest contribution to the success of the
The law of the excluded alternative says, ‘‘Doing one thing
means not doing something else.’’
Time is your scarcest resource. It is limited, perishable, irretrievable,
and irreplaceable. The way you allocate your time can
be the critical determinant of everything you achieve—or fail to
The Fifth Responsibility of Leadership: Be a Role
Model to Others
Albert Schweitzer once wrote, ‘‘You must teach men at the school
of example, for they will learn at no other.’’
Throughout the ages, the example that you establish in your
character, attitude, personality, and work habits, and especially
the way you treat other people, sets the tone for your department
You do not raise morale in an organization; it always filters
down from the top. There are no bad soldiers under a good general.
One of the great questions for you to continually ask yourself
is, ‘‘What kind of a company would my company be if everyone
in it was just like me?’’
Marshall Goldsmith, top executive coach for senior executives
in the Fortune 1000, has demonstrated over the years that a
single change in a behavioral characteristic of a key executive can
cause a positive multiplier effect that impacts the behavior of an
enormous number of people.
Leaders conduct themselves as though everyone is watching,
even when no one is watching.
The Sixth Responsibility of Leadership: Persuade,
Inspire, and Motivate Others to Follow You
Tom Peters said that the best leaders don’t create followers, they
create leaders. It’s true that you want your people to have initiative
and the liberty to act on that initiative. But all initiatives must
be in the support and service of what you are trying to achieve as
If people aren’t following you, you are not a leader. If no one
is listening to you, believes you, or cares what you say, you are
not going to succeed. If people are only going through the motions
to earn a paycheck, the greatest business strategy in the
world will fail.
You must motivate others to follow your vision, to support
and achieve the goals and objectives that you have set, to buy
into the mission of the organization as you see it. Today, getting
others to follow you takes more than command and control. You
have to earn their trust, respect, and confidence. That is the key
to sustainable success as a leader.
The Seventh Responsibility of Leadership: Perform
and Get Results
In the final analysis, your ability to get the results that are expected
of you is the critical factor that determines your success.
In the pages ahead, I will show you a series of simple, proven,
practical methods and techniques used by top executives and
business owners everywhere to get better, faster, and more predictable
results in any business or organization or in any economic
Each Crisis Contains an Opportunity
‘‘Professional soldiers pray for peace, but hope for war.’’
What does this saying mean? It means that soldiers pray for
peace because war is so terrible: Every sensible person wants to
live out their life in peace and for as long as possible, including
But only during warfare, during critical moments on the battlefield,
is it possible to achieve distinction and be rapidly promoted.
Professional soldiers hope for war, in the back of their
minds, so they can demonstrate their fitness and capability for
Viktor Frankl, a survivor of Auschwitz during World War II
and the founder of Logotherapy, famously wrote, ‘‘The last great
freedom is the freedom to choose your own mental attitude
under any set of conditions.’’
A senior executive friend of mine, whose company had suffered
sales declines of 40 percent in less than a year and was
reeling from the reversals in the economy, told me how he maintained
a positive attitude every day.
He said, ‘‘Each morning, when I get up, I have a decision to
make. I can be happy, or I can be very happy. I therefore decide
that today, I will be very happy, and I allow that attitude to guide
me throughout the day, no matter what happens.’’
You too can choose your own attitude under any given set of
circumstances. You can decide to be positive, constructive, and
forward-looking. You can look upon each ‘‘crisis’’ as an ‘‘opportunity,’’
even if it is only an opportunity for you to grow, mature,
become stronger, and perhaps even achieve the kind of ‘‘battlefield
promotions’’ that will stay with you for the rest of your career.
Welcome to the twenty-first century!
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