Learning leadership lessons isn’t just from books on leadership. There are many classics that can teach you good leadership skills.
Leadership Lessons from the Classics
I’m a firm believer in the idea that great leaders are avid readers. There have been dozens of times in my life when I’ve come away from reading a good biography, autobiography, or just a book on leadership by a successful entrepreneur, with pages of notes on methods for improving myself or my company.
So, I love non-fiction titles. But what about works of fiction? Can you learn leadership lessons and principles there? Absolutely!
Let’s start with To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee. You won’t find many greater examples of leadership in literature than Atticus Finch. This is a guy who stood firm in his beliefs, despite accusations and hatred from many around him. That’s what I call sacrifice. Around our office, we call it doing work that matters!
Perhaps the most obvious leadership lesson in Moby Dick is not to be like Captain Ahab! Here’s a guy who sacrifices his life, and the lives of all but one of his crew, seeking revenge on a whale. Ahab was so hyper-focused on his own crusade, that he ignored the fact everyone around was telling him it was a really bad idea. Listen to the people around you!
What can you possibly learn from The Great Gatsby when it comes to leadership? How about the idea that you reap what you sow? On the outside, Jay Gatsby was polished and had it all together. But behind the scenes, he was involved in some really shady things and hung around with questionable characters. Integrity wasn’t Gatsby’s strong suit, and as a result, his life and fortune fell apart quickly.
If you’ve read The Grapes of Wrath, you know the Great Depression was especially hard on the Joad family. When a horrible drought destroys the land and makes farming impossible, the Joads pack up and move west in search of jobs and better lives. Things aren’t great, but they adapt along the way. So, be willing to change when things don’t go exactly as you’d hoped or expected. Adaptation is a key component of achieving success in the marketplace.
Finally, George Orwell’s 1984 is a case study in leadership by fear. Invasion of privacy, intimidation, secrecy, manipulation…it’s all there. 1984 shows leadership gone completely, off-the-rails wrong. What’s worse, this isn’t bad leadership by within a business or company. It’s bad leadership by a government! Want to know how not to lead? Read 1984.
See what I mean? Reading is an incredible way to open your mind and learn from others!
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