It takes a lifetime to achieve the kind of business leadership success you imagine today, and it's a practice--similar to medicine--that can never be perfected. That's actually good news; it means that you can always improve and learn new skills as a manager.

If you're an entrepreneur, it's even more important to pinpoint the kind of leader you want to be. Keep in mind that listening (true active listening) is one of the best skills to hone, and everyone can do it better. Start by considering this advice from business leaders. They've already done some of the hard work for you, so sit back and soak it up.

1. Peter Drucker on Management vs. Leadership

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." It's kind of like the difference between ethics and morals. They're very similar and there's plenty of overlap, but still a subtle difference. Ideally, a great manager balances them both and makes the best choices for the company at any given time.

2. Steven Covey on Management vs. Leadership

""Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out." You don't have to take Drucker's words alone as gospel--there are plenty of other gurus who have different definitions of these two traits. Find what works for you and seek out the inspiration.

3. Anne Mulcahy on respecting your employees

"Employees who believe that management is concerned about them as a whole person, not just an employee, are more productive, more satisfied, more fulfilled. Satisfied employees mean satisfied customers, which leads to profitability." Happy wife, happy life? More like happy employee, happy company. Happiness breeds good things--foster it.

4. Jack Welch on management for life

"Management is all about managing in the short term, while developing the plans for the long term." You should be able to see the forest for the trees, but still quickly identify a pine vs. a maple. In other words, set short-term goals that will snowball into long-term goal achievement.

5. Henry Mintzberg on expecting mistakes

"The great myth is the manager as orchestra conductor. It's this idea of standing on a pedestal and you wave your baton and accounting comes in, and you wave it somewhere else and marketing chimes in with accounting, and they all sound very glorious. But management is more like orchestra conducting during rehearsals, when everything is going wrong." Management isn't as glamorous as people think, but a great leader-conductor knows that practice makes perfect and mistakes are learning opportunities.

6. Warren Buffett on bad economics

"When a management with a reputation for brilliance tackles a business with a reputation for bad economics, it is the reputation of the business that remains intact." You can't save a doomed ship, and even if there's a chance, the odds of succeeding are slim to none. Choose your projects wisely.

Great management isn't born; it's made. Anyone has the makings of a leader, but how quickly you learn is up to you.

 

 

Published on: Oct 21, 2014
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.