To succeed in business, or in life, for that matter, eventually you need to learn leadership. Only that way can you gather the support and resources necessary to accomplish things.
You can learn from great business executives or successful military figures. Or you could learn from people who were all that and more, like Alexander Hamilton, George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, John Adams, Patrick Henry, and Benjamin Franklin. All lead complex lives, all were flawed, and all found ways to overcome their weaknesses and problems to accomplish what at the time seemed impossible.
In the book The Leadership Secrets of Hamilton: 7 Steps to Revolutionary Leadership from Alexander Hamilton and the Founding Fathers, author Gordon Leidner, someone with decades of engineering and management experience, applied transformational leadership theory to the histories and actions of these people. Transformational leaders bring out the ability of others to achieve more than they thought was possible. In times like these, that would be good, indeed. Here are the seven steps toward leadership the Founding Fathers took -- and so can you.
You don't win a race if you haven't put time in running. You don't pass a test if you haven't studied. You don't have money if you didn't spend time making it. And you don't lead if you haven't prepared yourself to do so. Hamilton and Franklin were both examples of people who came from humble beginnings, knew they lacked the background to succeed, and set out methodically to improve their minds, characters, circumstances, and abilities. See where you fall short from what a leader must do and know and then work to improve.
Exemplify moral integrity
A transformational leader looks to help others exceed and stretch to accomplish great things. There are leaders who gather followers through promises or bribery or bluster. But such relationships are ephemeral. Before people are willing to brave difficulties and trials for you, they want to see that you are trustworthy, honest, and possessing good judgment. In Leidner's words, you must demonstrate moral integrity. One reason that Washington led colonial troops and became the first president was this aspect of his character.
Go beyond self-interest
Great things generally start with great ideas that move people. No one moves for what is singly and deliberately a leader's self-interest. What you get out of a change should be at the very back of the line. Consider others and something greater.
Establish clear goals
The world of jokes is full of stories that revolve around someone giving bad directions. If you want to bring an organization somewhere, you need to understand the steps necessary and to make clear the goals for people that will take everyone there. Hazy goals can be a cover for a focus on self-interest or insufficient understanding of how to achieve the envisioned end. Not knowing exactly how to proceed is normal. Use it as a clue that you have to think and experiment more to find the way.
Respect your people
Leadership is inherently different from command. You bring people along, not just tell them what to do. Part of leading is listening and respecting that others are as necessary to the goal as you. In the attempt to get support for the Constitution, many asked why there were no specific guarantees as to individual liberties. Madison and others recognized that there was a valid criticism and added the Bill of Rights, the first ten amendments to the Constitution. When people raise questions and criticize aspects of what you do, don't dismiss what you hear. Consider that they might be correct.
Convey an inspiring vision
Ordinary goals lead to ordinary ends. Great leaders see beyond tradition to find new possibilities and inspiration. James Madison's brilliant mind conceived of much that would become the constitution and structure of federal government for a new country. The ideas were bold and significantly different from previous structures. Getting people to agree to the new plan was difficult, but an inspiring vision can convince others to invest intellectually and emotionally what is necessary to succeed.
Be a mentor
No one arrives at a position in life through their own efforts only. Even someone as driven as Alexander Hamilton often received help along the way. If it hadn't been for people in St. Croix, where he was born and raised, who saw his potential and paid for his transportation to the mainland for schooling, he might have lived and died in obscurity. Help others become what they might if only someone took interest and lent a hand. And, as Leidner suggests, remain humble and keep learning. All of us can keep moving along.