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Great Leaders Know That Good Ideas Aren't Enough

Leaders don't become great through charisma or vision alone. At its core, leadership is about executing on ideas.

Video Transcript

00:11 Samuel Bacharach: Think about the great leaders. What do we remember them for? Do we really remember them for their charisma, we remember for their inspiration? Probably we remember them for is what they accomplished. We remember people for executing, and I think in that sense, if you wanna understand what leadership is about, understand the skills of execution. I know for the last number of years, everybody's been talking about execution, another "mysterious" term.

00:38 Bacharach: But execution for me is a very simple thing. It's convincing people to join you in your effort. Mobilizing them, making sure they get their act together. You create a coalition and then accomplishing something, implementing. Think of entrepreneurs. One thing entrepreneurs know is that great ideas are a dime a dozen. Great ideas are a dime a dozen for individual entrepreneurs and organizations. The trick is to know that good ideas are not enough, and that is to mobilize people around ideas. To have some of the good political competence to mobilize people around ideas, to create coalitions, to be able to create a sense of movement, and then to go the distance. Then to go the distance, to manage those coalitions, to make sure you have the right culture, the right feedback, to make sure that you can implement.

01:29 Bacharach: So if you ask me what leadership is about; it's not about charisma, it's not even, and I hate to be sacrilegious, it's not even about vision necessarily. It's about execution. One thing that I tell a lot of my students over the years: "If you think of great leaders, people we really admire, the greatest of them all, people like Martin Luther King, Mother Theresa, you go on and on with the great list, Abraham Lincoln. Each one of them. We may remember them for their vision, but they're in history for their execution. They knew how to get things done. So to me, leadership, it's about the micro skills of execution.

Last updated: Dec 4, 2013

SAMUEL B. BACHARACH | Columnist | Director, Cornell's Institute of Workplace Studies

Samuel B. Bacharach is the McKelvey-Grant professor in the department of organizational behavior at Cornell University's ILR School, and is director of Cornell's Institute for Workplace Studies in New York City. Among his books are Get Them on Your Side and Keep Them on Your Side. His latest volume, A Good Idea Is Not Enough: Leading for Change and Innovation, will be published this November by BLG.

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