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Bigger is Better

Good leaders are visionaries. Great leaders convince others to share their by expressing it in memorable and inspirational ways.

While a sophomore at Harvard in the late 1960s, Kent Keith wrote a guide for high school student leaders. The booklet included a challenge for student leaders to always do the right thing, even if doing so goes unnoticed or unappreciated. Spelled out in what he called "The Paradoxical Commandments of Leadership," the ten principles reflected Keith's awareness that doing what's right provides greater personal meaning than being glorified for our actions.

Publisher Harvard Student Agencies sold nearly 30,000 copies of the pamphlet over the next several years. Keith went on to earn a B.A. at Harvard, became a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, and attended Waseda University in Tokyo. He worked as an attorney, a university president, and a member of the governor of Hawaii's cabinet. Keith went nearly 25 years without hearing about the Paradoxical Commandments.

In 1997, while attending a meeting of his Rotary Club, Keith was surprised to hear the invocator recite the Paradoxical Commandments in the form of a poem attributed to Mother Teresa. Intrigued, Keith located the source of the poem in a book about the beloved humanitarian and learned the commandments had hung on a wall of Mother Teresa's children's home in Calcutta. In the ensuing months, he encountered people from all walks of life following the commandments he penned almost thirty years earlier. His book, Anyway: The Paradoxical Commandments: Finding Personal Meaning in a Crazy World, is for people wanting to learn more about the commandments and the philosophy behind them.

My favorite of Keith's Paradoxical Commandments is the following: "The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway."

Values-based leaders Have a Vision and Convince Others To Share It. But when you share your vision, you're likely to encounter opposition from those resistant to change. Writes Keith, "big men and women with big ideas are threatening to small men and women with small minds." Succumbing to discouragement, most business leaders refrain from cultivating visions. However, successful leaders follow Keith's advice: "If your big idea is shot down, simply pick it up, dust it off, and get moving again."

Employees want to feel important and useful, that they're contributing to the success of their organization. Therefore, workers are attracted to visions with grand aspirations. Adds Keith, "People want to make a difference; people need a reason to hope, a goal to work toward. Small ideas don't bring out our best. Big ideas do."

So think big! Have a BIG Vision and Convince Others To Share It.
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