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Best-practices leadership, circa 1950s

by on
in Best-Practices Leadership,Leaders & Managers,Management Training

While cleaning out his attic, a British business leader stumbled upon some typewritten notes on leadership from the ’50s. The notes were handed out at Eaton Hall near Chester, England, during his military officer training.

Dated in tone but clear, concise and purposeful, the notes transcend their original military context:

Leadership is “the art of influencing
a body of people to follow a certain course of action, the art of controlling them, directing them and getting the best out of them.”

Leaders must stand by their decisions “regardless of popularity or of difficulties.” Nonetheless, “Orders must be constantly renewed and, once they have become inapplicable or out of date, they must be abolished.”

“The leader must know and understand
his men and treat them as human beings.”

“An officer must want to lead.
He must be proud of his command.”

“The leader must have his heart in his job
and be cheerful and enthusiastic even when conditions are difficult and the task unpleasant.”

“The leader must be loyal
to both his superiors and to his men. He must inspire loyalty.”

Management “takes time
and it requires the taking of infinite trouble … you cannot deal with material you know little or nothing about. Your men are your material; you must know all about them. … You must give each one individual study and be prepared to make an individual approach to each. You must be something of a psychologist.”

Specifically, you must “put their interests before your own,” “be their champion but also their chief critic,” “know their names and use them,” “be yourself and don’t act a part” and “be self-critical.”

“You will always have something more to learn,
so be prepared to profit by experience.”

“Being a leader is a big job, a fine job and a thoroughly worthwhile job. See that you become a leader in the real and best sense of the word.”

— Adapted from “Leadership lessons from 1955,” Stefan Stern, Financial Times, ft.com.

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