Executives will rise and fall. Managers will come and go. Very few leaders will have a lasting impact in their field or build a legacy team to continue their mission. 

The reason is this: They are missing one of the elements of the four-part foundation to leadership.  When even one part is missing, the chances of long-term success are slim. An intelligent, articulate manager who lacks 1 or 2 of the 4 building blocks may be promoted or even lead for a short while. But in the end, a failure to have all 4 will bring him to ruin.

The upside down business idea sets out all 4 parts: To have lasting impact, a leader must control her communication, work hard, be humble, and be an excellent judge of character. 

Each part is simple to understand but each is very necessary for long-term progress.

First, a wise leader must have controlled communication.  Or to put it this way, she must control her tongue. Angry tantrums, foolish speech, hurtful insults, and subversive gossip will destroy her reputation and effectiveness. Instead, she avoids giving needless criticism and actively looks for opportunities to affirm.

A fool’s mouth is his ruin, and his lips are a snare to his soul.” (Proverbs 18:7)

Next, a wise leader must have an exemplary work ethic.  She should always be learning. She is always looking for ways to grow professionally. She must be willing to stay late or come in early. She must lead by example — she is acutely aware that both her actual work ethic and her perceived work ethic are important to the future of the organization. She must not be intimidated by new skills or unique challenges. 

Whoever is slack in his work is a brother to him who destroys.” (Proverbs 18:9)

Thirdly, a wise leader must be marked by humility. Confidence may actually be the tool one uses to gain an opportunity, but confidence out-of-balance turns to arrogance and will stall or destroy the leader and possibly the organization. The humility of a leader will result in servant-leadership. This means the leader will not see herself as too good or too important to work on a specific task.  But humility is more than mere servant-leadership. Because servant leadership is mainly observed as outward conduct, it can still mask pride within the heart. True humility is shown by a willingness to listen, adapt and change based on the wisdom of others. Pride says “I have the answers.”  Humble leadership says, “Where I can I learn the best answers?”  

Before destruction a man’s heart is haughty, but humility comes before honor.” (Proverbs 18:12)

Lastly, a wise leader must be an excellent judge of character.  It is vital a wise leader know how recognize other leaders and recruit and reward competent and loyal team members.   Being a poor judge of character can affect people in two negative ways. The “overly cautious cynic” will be professionally isolated and miss opportunities to grow or build a team. On the other hand, the “out-of-balance optimist” will be too trusting of associates. This will result in professional distractions, the taking on of too many roles, making costly mis-hires, or seeking the false gold of ill-promised opportunity. 

A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

While other factors can certainly impact a career trajectory, these four blocks are a strong foundation on which to build a successful profession and a better life. E

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