A couple of years ago I wrote this list of 51 rules to leadership excellence. Yet today, I receive the occasional email from readers wishing to express their appreciation for reminding and informing them of what it takes to be an outstanding leader. People often cite their favorites and, surprisingly, there are not one or two rules most often cited. These guidelines resonate with people based on what they need or want to learn the most, so favorites vary from person-to-person.

A bit of reflection upon the issues that most commonly keep leaders from achieving excellence led me to expand upon a few of the 51 original rules. Here's the short list.

1. If you want to control your future, let go of the control.

You may feel some conflict around this one; how does letting go result in achieving the outcome you seek? Easy. When entrepreneurs have a vision, they often attach themselves to one particular path as a means to get there. Your vision must be fluid, like water. Holding on to things like, a niche that isn't working, a product that isn't selling, or a certain way of doing things, will build a dam and halt your progress. Stop trying to control everything within the confines of your current belief system. Maintain a 5000-foot bird's-eye view of your business so you can see alternative paths and new and innovative ways of achieving your goals.

2. Don't make excuses. When it comes to being a respectable leader, there are none.

I learned this one very early on in my career. As a young assistant to the VP of sales and marketing at NBC-TV, I made a choice that gained me the unwavering respect of this highly regarded leader. I told the truth, even though it didn't bode well for me. At the age of 20, to outright admit that I made a costly mistake and that I had no excuse for it, was a split-second decision, but one I'll never forget.

Leaders don't pass the buck. They don't place blame on others, or make excuses for poor decisions. An outstanding leader accepts responsibility, apologizes when appropriate, and learns from their poor choices. They even use their mistakes as an example to present learning opportunities for others.

3. Never forget that your team, not your product, nor your bank account, is your number-one asset.

I am often contacted by entrepreneurs who have a scalable business model, yet they are not growing it successfully. Any number of issues are at the root of this problem and the proper management of human capital is most often among them. These business owners either don't know how to hire right, they hold on to poor performers, and/or they do not focus on employee satisfaction, so retention is low. You can have the best product or service known to mankind, but if you don't have the people to bring it to fruition it will never meet its fullest potential. My colleague, Dave Bookbinder, wrote an excellent book on the topic: The NEW ROI: Return on Individuals. Create a culture built around your people, (the right people) and the return on investment will certainly reveal itself in the bottom line.

4. Before you even think about stepping into a leadership role, define and understand your values. Otherwise, you have no road map to lead yourself, or others, to success.

Starbucks recently made the decision to close their online stores. Shocking in this day and age, I know. Yet, you have to respect the coffee giant's commitment to one of the values responsible for their success: offering customers the experiential destination that makes Starbucks--well, Starbucks.

Invest considerable thought into identifying the core values that must become a part of your business. These values will drive your decisions and give you and your employees consistent and much-needed direction for every step along the way.

5. Experiencing fear is natural and normal. Just don't allow it to keep you from your dreams.

Ask any honest leader if they've ever been afraid and they will say yes without hesitance. Fear can paralyze or motivate you, your choice. Fear is not a bad thing, nor is it a weakness. It's a sign that you're moving outside of your comfort zone, and for entrepreneurs that's a necessary step. Don't try to shove your fear down. Instead, give it some positive attention by acknowledging it and accepting that it's a good indicator of growth.

What "rules" do you have around success? Add to the list here.

Published on: Oct 16, 2017
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.