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What Makes a Successful Leader?

James Norris, a principal at The Vanguard Group, once wrote: "While it is revealing to consider what constitutes a leader, your search for understanding, for some kind of leadership formula, is apt to end in frustration. It is like studying Michelangelo or Shakespeare: You can imitate, emulate, and simulate, but there is simply no connect-the-dots formula to Michelangelo's David or Shakespeare's Hamlet."

Nevertheless, the Nightly Business Report--a popular television program celebrating its 25th anniversary--joined forces with the Wharton School to identify the most successful leaders. The result is a new book, Lasting Leadership: Lessons from the 25 Most Influential Business People of Our Times.

The profiled individuals, selected from over 700 names submitted by NBR viewers, include such leaders as Mary Kay Ash, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffett, Michael Dell, Peter Drucker, Bill Gates, Alan Greenspan, Steve Jobs, Charles Schwab, Ted Turner, Sam Walton, and Oprah Winfrey. Each was chosen because they produced innovative and profitable ideas, affected political or social change, fashioned new business opportunities, or transformed a company or industry.

Lasting Leadership identifies eight attributes the winners share. The first two are prevalent in all values-based leaders: their ability to build strong corporate cultures and their history of telling the truth. In other words, these leaders Live By The Values They Profess.

Reading about other successful leaders will help you refine your own leadership style, but the real inspiration lies within. As Norris concluded, "I suppose, when all is said and done, it really comes down to this: People are leaders because they choose to lead."
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