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The virtues of leadership PDF Print E-mail
Written by Alixe MacRae   

ImageWell, Napoleon had his difficulties; but his view of leadership was spot on. Recent news reports suggest that RCMP Commissioner William Elliott didn't heed the late Emperor's advice. Elliot's story contains many lessons for the independent business owner. You may not be on the front horse in the Musical Ride, but you never want to be confused with the back end of that animal.

Accusations include the facts that Elliott was perceived as verbally abusive, close-minded and arrogant. Although the results of the review panel tasked with taking a look at the leadership issues inside the RCMP haven't been made public, we all know that intentions aside; perception is reality. Let's review these accusations.

Verbally abusive. The workplace is not the sandbox. The independent business owner is:  the adult, the role model and the calming influence when chaos reigns. Admiral Nelson (a great leader by anyone's reckoning) stated that "you cannot be a great officer without being a gentleman."

As the leader in your business, you cannot say anything to anybody that you would not say to your mother. Verbal abuse indicates you have a weak argument. If you cause tears; you have failed.

Close-minded. The essence of a great leader is the ability to listen; really listen. You are not the font of all knowledge - no one is. My grandmother would often say "Two heads are better than one; even if one is a cabbage."

Millions of consultants earn millions of dollars by packaging the suggestions of your team into a slick PowerPoint presentation. Be your own consultant by being open to the ideas and concerns that mean most to your team.

Arrogant. Do you lie awake wishing that your organization had a union? Well, if you're arrogant you can sleep easy. An arrogant leader can expect to find their team seeks a better form of communication. You think you know everything? Ask your wife and kids. If you have neither, that's also an answer.

So what does a great leader do? Well, to use another quote, this one from the great British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli: "I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?" Put your people first.

Great leaders share certain easily identified qualities. Among them:

The ability to listen. A great leader listens to everyone always. If the speaker never has anything worthwhile to say; they should find another employer.

The ability to lead by example. Consider your company values - courtesy, consideration, care and co-operation. Everyone's credo is different. Choose your own.

The ability to value dissent. An opposing view will often offer new perspectives.

The ability to inspire through action. A leader can't have followers if he's running at the back of the herd - he should be willing to be scared.

The ability  to admit mistakes: Get over it, the only people who don't make mistakes do nothing.

The ability to shares success. You didn't do it alone. Remember their contribution; they will. And they will sabotage you if you don't.

A regular contributor to Home Goods Online, Alixe MacRae is one of this country's best known merchandisers, having held senior positions at a variety of well-known Canadian retailers including Stoney Creek Furniture, Sears Canada and The Bay. She recently started her own business Concierge Relocation ( Her company specializes in move management, especially for those dramatically downsizing seniors and their overwhelmed children.

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