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Define Leadership Excellence

Define Leadership Excellence?

Easier Said Than Done!

How do you define leadership excellence? There are thousands of books, resources, classes and experts, together forming what amounts to a leadership industry.

It’s no surprise then, that leadership definitions abound. But as Einstein once said:

“Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not one bit simpler.”

Who better to turn to, for passionate but pithy advice, than Tom Peters?

Peters asks you to imagine having waited six months for that meeting with Mr/Ms Big.

You finally get into the room for the five minutes you’ve been given, and…

…he/she looks at you but doesn’t see you.

Peters uses very few words to define leadership excellence:

“the definition of excellence in leadership is the person who is completely there for you.”

So how do you begin to apply Peters’ definition?

He quotes Dee Hock, the founder of Visa, who proposed a short “Ph.D” in Leadership as follows:

“Make a list of all the things done to you that you abhorred. Don’t do them to others. Ever. Make another list of things done to you that you loved. Do them to others. Always.”

Tom Peters suggests that for budding leaders, this is:

“99% of what you need to know.”

Like we said, passionate but pithy. If you have 1 and a half minutes to spare, watch Peters define leadership excellence for yourself…


The Six Most Important Words for a Leader? And the Least Important?

A leader who is “completely there for you” will be saying very different things to one who isn’t. UK management thinker and writer, John Adair, has some good suggestions on the importance of choosing the right words. Managers wanting to be leaders would do well to consider:

The 6 most important words… “I admit I made a mistake.”

The 5 most important words………. “I am proud of you.”

The 4 most important words… “What is your opinion?”

The 3 most important words… “If you please.”

The 2 most important words… “Thank you.”

The 1 most important word… “We.”

The least important word…….”I.”

Helping Others to Shine

Read our new book:

Uncommon Leadership: how to build competitive edge by thinking differently

Uncommon Leadership

As astute as the modern gurus are, we shouldn’t ignore history’s shining examples of leadership excellence.

Warren Bennis, a leading thinker on leadership, tells an old story about the difference between the two 19th-century British political leaders, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli.

It was said that, when you had dinner with Gladstone, you left feeling he was the wittiest, most brilliant, most charming person on earth. But when you had dinner with Disraeli, you left feeling that you were the wittiest, most brilliant, most charming person on earth.

When with Gladstone, he shone. When with Disraeli, you shone.

No prizes for guessing which of these Peters and Bennis would use to define leadership excellence.

Define leadership for yourself

If you’re interested in developing your leadership skills, return to our Leadership page. This contains a range of articles, tips and resource links which compliments this collection of stories.

Or turn to our handy e-guide: Leading Insights, packed with more leadership stories, and some leading insights into how they can be used!

Insights such as:

  • Uncommon insights
  • Tipping point leadership
  • Find the glass
  • Leaders need to be cathedral thinkers
  • Would you recommend your service/organisation to your friends?
  • Putting on a performance
  • Would people pay to see your team perform?
  • Bricolage leadership
  • Resourceful leadership
  • Nudging leadership
  • Mirror leadership
  • Chameleon leadership
  • Catalyst leadership
  • Chrysalis leadership
  • Saliency, sagacity and serendipity
  • Infectious leadership
  • Infected leadership
  • Great work days
  • Defining moments
  • Conveying what you care about
  • The kind of goals leaders set matters
  • Motivating leaders


Where to go from here:


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