No matter how much the world changes, there will be timeless truths about the best way to lead others to success.
Self-made industrialist Andrew Carnegie was the wealthiest man on the planet in the early 20th century and was a student of what it takes to achieve greatness. In 1908, he met with the journalist Napoleon Hill and decided that Hill would be the vehicle for sharing his strategies with the world.
Their conversations became the basis for nearly all of Hill's writings from that point forward, including his 1937 book "Think and Grow Rich," which became one of the best selling books of all time.
Hill collected and edited the notes from these initial conversations with Carnegie and published them in 1948 as "Think Your Way to Wealth."
At one point, Carnegie tells Hill that "successful leaders in all walks of life" exemplify a set of specific traits, with the best possessing all of them. We've summarized them below.
1. They have a definite purpose and a definite plan for attaining it.
Great leaders are always working toward an overarching goal.
"Nothing great is ever achieved without a definitive motive," Carnegie says.
3. They surround themselves with talented people who share their vision.
Carnegie refers to the ideal team as a "Master Mind alliance." "Great achievement always is the result of coordination of minds working toward a definite end," he says.
4. They are able to be self-reliant.
There are still plenty of times when a leader needs to act on their own initiative, effort, and judgement.
5. They have intense self-discipline.
You can't control others if you can't control yourself. "There are no exceptions to this rule," Carnegie says.
6. They are persistent.
Great leaders don't abandon plans at the first sign of opposition.
7. They are creative.
"Able leaders must be eternally seeking new and better ways of doing things. They must be on the lookout for new ideas and new opportunities to attain the object of their labors," Carnegie tells Hill.
8. They are decisive.
It's dangerous to be impulsive, but it is better to make an imperfect decision than none at all.
9. They collect all possible facts before making judgements.
"Able leaders take nothing for granted without a sound reason. They make it their business to get at the facts before forming judgements, but they move promptly and definitely," Carnegie says.
10. They are enthusiastic.
Being overly enthusiastic can be just as off-putting as someone who is too dry or cynical, but effective leaders know how to transmit their drive to their team and use that energy toward a goal.
11. They are fair.
Playing favourites or treating an employee you don't like with disdain won't yield positive results for long.
12. They have an open mind.
"The man with a closed mind does not inspire the confidence of his associates. Without confidence great leadership is an impossibility," Carnegie explains.
13. They go beyond what is required of them.
"I have never known an able leader in business or industry who did not endeavor at all times to render more service than any man under his authority," Carnegie says.
14. They are tactful.
Great leaders know how to be graceful, serving as an attractive public figurehead for their team.
15. They listen more than they speak.
The best leaders don't use conversations as an excuse to feed their ego, but rather learn as much as possible from whomever they're speaking with.
16. They pay attention to detail.
Successful leaders are aware of the responsibilities and output of all their subordinates, but in a way that doesn't lead to micro-managing.
17. They are determined.
The best leaders bounce back from defeat, confident that they are now better equipped to achieve victory.
18. They can take criticism.
"The man who 'flares' up with resentment when his work is criticized will never become a successful leader," Carnegie says. "Bigness overlooks the smallness of criticism and carries on."
19. They know when to restrain themselves.
Leaders can lose the respect of their people if they indulge in excesses too often.
20. They are loyal.
"Loyalty begins with loyalty to one's self," says Carnegie, referring to the dedication to one's vision. Loyalty to your team and clients becomes an extension of this.
21. They know when to speak frankly.
A diplomatic leader knows when to refrain from saying something that will be offensive or compromise their goals, but choosing to hide the truth through deceit is an easy way to develop a reputation for being untrustworthy.
22. They understand others' motivations.
Great leaders have the ability to step outside themselves and imagine the perspectives of both their subordinates and their competition.
23. They are exceptionally likeable.
People will give their all for a leader they love. "Sound leadership is based upon effective salesmanship, the ability to be sympathetic and to make one's self pleasing to others," Carnegie says.
24. They are focused.
The best leaders hone their attention and energy on a single project at a time. "Concentrated effort gives one power that can be attained in no other way," Carnegie explains.
25. They learn from mistakes.
It's just as important to learn from your own mistakes as it is from others' mistakes.
26. They assume responsibility for the mistakes of their subordinates.
"Nothing destroys one's capacity of leadership quicker than the habit of shifting responsibilities to others," Carnegie says.
27. They recognize the achievements of others.
A great leader understands that an excellent performance should be commended, Carnegie says, since people are often more motivated by verbal recognition of their efforts than they are by solely a cash bonus.
28. They treat others the way they would like to be treated.
Carnegie tells Hill that he places supreme importance on the Golden Rule, saying that it is a simple insight into the proper way to do business.
29. They are optimistic.
Some people wear a pervasive cynicism as a badge of honour, but those who choose to be positive set themselves up for success and have better reputations.
30. They assume responsibility for the actions of their entire team.
Even though Carnegie makes this point at the end of his spoken list to Hill, he says that if he could go back he'd list it as the first point due to its importance.
31. They are able to act without being guided by emotion.
Carnegie finds that the best leaders have a degree of Stoicism about them, in the sense that they can separate themselves from their emotions when it comes time to make an important decision and see things objectively.