Why are so many leaders failing today?

If ever there were a time for a new way of leadership it seems to be now. Hardly a day goes by without another story of yet another leader—whether in the realm of business, politics, law enforcement or education—falling from grace. The CEO of a sharing economy darling is ousted. A leader in pharmaceuticals becomes a public—and not positive—internet meme. Questions arise about political leaders in all parts of the world. Initiatives stall. Inaction reigns.

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Can Leadership be learned? - (2/4)

In the first post in this mini-series, I discussed IDEA #1: Define a set of principles that you associate with the new leadership competency you are seeking to cultivate. In each Master Class, I will guide you in formulating a clear set of principles and techniques associated with that competency, drawn from scientific research and exemplified by great leaders.

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The Power of Prep

In the ever-intensifying pace of modern business, the action-heroes are those managers who can move with speed from one meeting to the next, dazzling colleagues with their wit and wisdom, adding instant insight and value before zipping to their next high-impact mission.

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How Lincoln Became America's Greatest President

There is much we can learn by studying Abraham Lincoln's journey from being just another politician to becoming America's greatest president. (Wikipedia provides a compilation of "Historical rankings of Presidents of the United States," which makes it clear that in the eyes of many experts, and the public, Lincoln has consistently held this status.)

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What Would Winston Do?

In 1940, when Winston Churchill became Prime Minister of Great Britain, the nation was in a state of severe crisis. Not only had its military suffered several setbacks in World War II, but the Prime Minister's war Cabinet, deeply demoralized, was pushing Churchill to reach out to Italy's Benito Mussolini to help orchestrate a truce with Hitler.

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The Evolution of Great Leaders

Nelson Mandela sacrificed the usual trappings of a good life—family, comfort, professional success—to spend 27 years as a prisoner of conscience in his fight against apartheid. He emerged to lead his nation as its president in 1994 and chose to forgive rather than seek revenge for past crimes, helping South Africans build a new social foundation.

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How George Washington Surrendered His Ambitions (and Won Big)

We have been taught that all great leaders—like George Washington, whose birth we commemorate on Presidents’ Day—have been paragons of ambition. It is the fuel that propels them forward in life and leadership. It is the clay that they mold into purpose and action. We too should seek ambition and practice it. So why would I invite you to cultivate surrender, a quality that is the opposite of ambition? Because when we study a great life like George Washington’s, we find that while ambition brought them to the door of success, it was surrender that provided the key for them to unlock that door.

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Steve Jobs's Secret to Greatness: Yogananda

Steve Jobs planned every detail of his own memorial service, held at Stanford University in October 2011, including the brown box each attendee received as a farewell gift. One of those attendees was Mark Benioff, CEO of Salesforce.com, and two years later at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference he recounted his feelings at the moment when he opened the box: "This is going to be good," he recalled. "I knew that this was a decision [Steve] made, and whatever it was, it was the last thing he wanted us all to think about."

The box contained the book Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda. Benioff continued: "Yogananda…had this book on self-realization… [Steve's] last message to us was that here is Yogananda's book… Actualize yourself.

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How Heroes Inspire You to Be Your Best

Some time back, I was out with my wife and daughter for a night at the Metropolitan Opera. We were having such a marvelous evening infused with stirring arias, enveloped by the resplendent red carpets of the Met. At the intermission, we sat down in the Met restaurant for dinner. I was feeling so pleased with the idea that our daughter, at this tender age of seven, was getting to experience something as grand as this, imagining how she would grow up into someone with such refined sensibilities.

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Why We All Need Heroes

"You are lucky in life if you have the right heroes.  I advise all of you, to the extent you can, to pick out a few heroes,"—Warren Buffett, Warren Buffett Speaks (2007).

We're all so jaded nowadays by any talk of heroes. Our icons keep falling from grace, in politics, business and sports. (At least our comic book heroes seem safe for now.) Why then, you may ask, is Warren Buffett recommending that you look for heroes to study?

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