Leadership and The Disraeli Way

I’ve never written a blog post before. I’ve always thought it might be worthwhile, but never had the proper motivation, I suppose. I would always think, “I’m too busy,” but here I am, amidst starting my own business(es) where I am more leveraged for time than ever and taking a shot at it.

My motivation was a reminder of the passing of a mentor, 3 years ago this week. Dr. Warren Bennis was considered to be the godfather of leadership studies. He authored or co-authored over 30 books on leadership, studied and taught courses on it at Harvard and MIT and was an adviser to at least two Presidents. Inexplicably, I was selected as one of about 40 students to be in a class on leadership of which he was a professor. At that time, Dr. Bennis was the Dean Emeritus of the Business School at the University of Southern California, where I attended. I can say without hyperbole that this class changed my life.

In the article referenced above about the passing of Dr. Bennis, the author used a story that I remember our other professor for the class — none other than the late Dr. Stephen B. Sample, the then President of the University — used to also describe Dr. Bennis. It involved the storied distinction between two 19th century British prime ministers, William Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli. “[Dr. Bennis] would say that [when you dined with] Gladstone [you would find that he] is just the wittiest, most charming, most intelligent person around. But when you dined with Disraeli, you usually left thinking, ‘I am just the wittiest, most charming, most intelligent person around.'”

To me, leadership makes the people around you shine; your success is derived from the success of others. I have worked for people who were always “the smartest person in the room” and whose sole intention seemed to be to make sure you knew they were the smartest. I firmly believe that the best leaders are the ones that make you feel like you are the smartest one in the room. “That Disraeli way, which puts others in a position to contribute and shine, is the way of the true leader, Warren said,” as attributed by the article’s author, Rob Ashgar. I couldn’t agree more.

I think this message resonates more today than any other time in my lifetime, as certain leaders are so concerned about their success and appearance that they will literally say or do anything in pursuit of self-aggrandizement, regardless of its truth or veracity. I don’t need to be the smartest guy in the room, (which is good because unless I am visiting my son’s First-grade class room, I am going to be hard pressed to find such a room), but I intend to follow in the footsteps, as best I can, of Dr. Bennis and the Disraeli Way and make sure my success is derived from the success of colleagues, clients, employees and anyone else with whom I am fortunate enough to come in contact.

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