The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership

Skills and experience might land someone in a leadership position, but they don’t make someone a true leader. In their new book, The Ten Golden Rules of Leadership: Classical Wisdom for Modern Leaders, LIU Post professors Panos Mourdoukoutas, Ph.D., and Michael Soupios, Ph.D., explore the qualities and practices of outstanding leaders, such as Aristotle and Sophocles, which have remained constant since civilization began.

These principles from ancient philosophers can be applied to the challenges we face in the modern workplace.

1. Know thyself
Understand your inner world, your bright and dark sides, your personal strengths and weaknesses. Self-comprehension is a fundamental precondition necessary for real leadership.

2. Office shows the person
The assumption of authority brings out the leader’s inner world. It reveals whether the leader has undergone a process of honest self-discovery that allows for the productive application of power.

3. Nurture community in the workplace
Community development and positive sentiment are virtues leaders must nurture by providing the right support, guidance, and incentives.

4. Do not waste energy on things you cannot change
Do not waste resources and energies on things you cannot control, and therefore, cannot change.

5. Always embrace the truth
Effective leaders should always embrace the truth, always encourage candid criticism throughout the organization, be skeptical of flattering appraisals, and never let authority place a wedge between them and the truth.

6. Let competition reveal talent
Nurture an environment that can use the forces of competition constructively, create a platform that releases the ingenuity and creativity of your employees in pursuing corporate goals and objectives, identify subordinates who use competition as a constructive force, steer away from subordinates who use competition as a destructive force.

7. Live life by a higher code
Dedicate yourself to a higher standard of personal conduct; don’t harbor ill-will toward those who offend; be ready to assist those who are in need without asking something in return; remain calm in the face of crisis; dedicate yourself to principle without compromise; earn the trust, respect, and admiration of your subordinates through your character, not the authority conferred upon you by the corporate chart; turn authority into power.

8. Always evaluate information with a critical eye
Don’t rely upon old premises, assertions, and theories. Develop a critical mindset that accepts nothing at face value, certify the credibility and usefulness of critical information, analyze the context that produces critical information and the messengers who convey it, and never rush to judgments.

9. Never underestimate the power of personal integrity
Personal integrity is a critical asset for real leadership. Always set an honorable agenda, adhere to a code of professional conduct, never try to justify dishonesty and deceit, rather “fail with honor than win by cheating.”

10. Character is destiny
True leadership is ultimately traceable to factors of character and personal integrity; much of what is called “destiny” lies in our hands, not in mysterious forces beyond our control.

One final note: The authors recognize that for some readers what has been presented here will appear naively idealistic, that what we propose seems to tear at the fabric of common sense. We wish to assure those so inclined that we are not in the habit of tilting windmills. We fully comprehend the hard realities and dark truths of administrative life–the politics, the intrigues, the treacheries. Accordingly, we do not endorse milquetoast models of management any more than we believe a few soothing words can result in all things becoming “sweetness and light.” But at the same time, we are confident that the attainment of corporate objectives involves a good deal more than some cynical understanding of the term “expediency.”

We are convinced that enduring success is ultimately traceable to those rare men and women who, by virtue of their personal insights and integrity, are able to command the loyalties and commitments of their subordinates. To our way of thinking, failure to see matters in these terms constitutes the real naiveté as well as the greatest impediment to building a meaningful enterprise.

Excerpt from the Ten Golden Rules of Leadership (AMACOM, 2014). Reprinted by permission of the authors.