THE BLOG

The Essence Of Great Leadership

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

In one of my recent books, The Success Principles, I taught 64 lessons that help people achieve what they want out of life. From taking nothing less than 100 percent responsibility for your life to empowering others, these are the fundamentals to success--and to great leadership. When people ask me for the single most important principle, I share a simple formula. For years I've been teaching top leaders and thinkers in our world this formula that helps guide their decision-making and pathway to success. I don't know any successful leader who doesn't keep this on the mind daily:

E + R = O
(Events + Responses = Outcome)

The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it's success or failure, wealth or poverty, wellness or illness, intimacy or estrangement, joy or frustration) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event (or events) in your life. Great leaders don't just know this instinctively, but they make it a habit to respond in ways that generate the outcomes they want, even during extremely tough experiences or events seemingly beyond their control.

If you don't like the outcomes you are currently experiencing, there are two basic choices you can make:

Choice #1: You can blame the event (E) for your lack of results (O).

In other words, you can blame the economy, lack of money, lack of education, racism, gender bias, your wife or husband, your Board's attitude, your employees and colleagues, the lack of support, and so on.

No doubt all these factors exist, but if they were the deciding factor, nobody would ever succeed. And we'd have leaders without direction, focus, or solutions.

For every reason it's not possible, there are hundreds of people who have faced the same circumstances and succeeded.

Choice #2: You can instead simply change your responses (R) to the events (E) until you get the outcomes (O) you want.

You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of the world) and you can change your behavior (the things you do). That's all you really have any control over anyway.

Unfortunately, most of us are so ingrained in our habits that we never change our behavior.

We get stuck in our conditioned responses--to our spouses and children, to our colleagues and employees at work, to our customers and our clients, to our students, and to the world at large.

You have to gain control of your thoughts, your images, your dreams and daydreams, and your behavior. Then you will realize the measurable results that you want.

If you don't like your outcomes, change your responses!

Make It a Habit to Ask for Feedback

Leaders cannot work in a vacuum. They may take on larger, seemingly more important roles in an organization but this does not exclude them from asking for and using feedback. In fact, a leader arguably needs feedback more so than anyone else. It's what helps a leader respond appropriately to events in pursuit of successful outcomes.

If you want to have a wonderful supportive relationship with your team at work, but they are angry with you for neglecting their needs as loyal employees, what do you do? Get mad at them for being upset? You can either see it as an opportunity to improve yourself and correct your behavior, or you can see it as the world ganging up on you and insulting you. Your goal of having a supportive relationship is telling you that you may have gone off course. To get back on course you listen and take the appropriate action. Open up those communication lines and act like a true leader.

So how can you become successful in dealing with feedback? The answer is to ask for it and to create a safe space for people to tell you what they are seeing. Don't be vague about what kind of information you want. Ask for it in specific terms. Ask how you are limiting yourself, how you can improve, and what it will take to get back on course. Trust your gut feeling about things, listen to what others are saying, and look at the results of your actions. Once you know the truth, you can set about taking action to improve. Everyone will be better for it.

© 2009 Jack Canfield

Jack Canfield is America's #1 Success Coach, co-founder of the billion-dollar Chicken Soup for the Soul© brand, and a leading authority on Peak Performance. If you're ready to be more accomplished and have more fun in all that you do, learn more and access a library of resources at www.FreeSuccessPrinciples.com.