How to Be a Leader Back

What is leadership? The term gets thrown around a lot, but what is it really? What do leaders do which makes them leaders? Can leadership be learned?

I hope to answer these questions in the following paragraphs and offer some ideas on how you can develop leadership abilities.

Fortunately, leadership can be learned. This is good, because true leaders are in high demand and short supply in every field.

To be an effective leader, though, you must first understand what leadership is and what traits a leader exhibits. Contrary to some current political rhetoric, leadership is indelibly linked to character; without character, no leader can be truly successful.

Leadership is more than leading

Webster's Dictionary defines leadership as the "ability to lead." The Marine Corps defines leadership as "the sum of those qualities of intellect, human understanding and moral character that enables a person to inspire and control a group of people successfully."

Former President Ronald Reagan put it in a very practical way:

A leader, once convinced a particular course of action is the right one, must have determination to stick with it and be undaunted when the going gets rough.

Purpose & goal are vital to successful leadership

Regardless of the definition used, leadership must have a worthwhile purpose. Without a specific goal, leadership can degrade into an exercise in self-aggrandizement rather than mission accomplishment.

For example, you shouldn't aspire to be a congressman for the sake of being a prominent politician. Rather, you should aspire for high office in order to accomplish specific goals like reducing the size of government or ending government policies which harm the family.

Leadership traits provide foundation

All good leaders possess certain timeless traits.

The following list of traits provide character guidelines by which to evaluate yourself; by measuring yourself against these ideals, you can improve your weaknesses and make the best use of your strengths.

The 14 leadership traits are as follows:

1. Integrity. The qualities of absolute honesty, trustworthiness, uprightness of character and high moral principles. Integrity can be practiced by doing the following:

  • Tell the truth to both superiors and subordinates.
  • Stand for what you believe in, even if the belief is unpopular.
  • Use your power to work toward your organization's goals or for the welfare of your co-workers and not for your own personal gain.

2. Knowledge. You will quickly gain the respect and confidence of your co-workers by showing them you are knowledgeable about your area of responsibility and theirs. Keep in mind, though, that learning is a continual process. To develop and demonstrate knowledge you should:

  • Learn from experienced people by listening and studying.
  • Ask questions when unsure.
  • Notice and correct substandard performance in others, particularly those subordinate to you.
  • Show your subordinates by your actions how they should perform their jobs.

3. Courage. Courage is the quality that acknowledges fear but allows you to meet danger or opposition calmly and with firmness. You show moral courage by standing up for what is right even though it may not be popular or immediately advantageous to do so. Courage is developed when you:

  • Place duty and commitment to your organization's mission over personal feelings and desires.
  • Look for and willingly accept responsibilities.
  • Stand for what is right, even if it is unpopular.
  • Never blame others for your mistakes.

4. Decisiveness. This is the ability to weigh all the facts and make a timely decision. To develop decisiveness, you should:

  • Get into the habit of considering several points of view for each problem; then make your best choice.
  • Know when not to make a decision.
  • Remember that a good decision now is usually better than a perfect decision later.

5. Dependability. Leaders are dependable when they fulfill their commitments. As Institute President Morton Blackwell says, "In politics, you have your word and your friends; go back on either and you're dead." Dependability is developed by:

  • Being places on time.
  • Accomplishing your assigned tasks, even if you face obstacles.
  • Building a reputation for keeping your word when you've made a promise.
  • Demonstrating loyalty to your friends and supporters.

6. Initiative. Initiative is recognizing what must be done and then doing it without having to be told to do so. This is a trait to be developed not only in ourselves, but in our subordinates. Practice the following to develop initiative:

  • Find tasks that need to be done and do them without being told.
  • Look for better ways to do things.

7. Tact. Tact is the ability to deal with others without causing ill feelings or offense. It is doing and saying the right thing at the right time. In order to develop tact, do the following:

  • Apply the Golden Rule.
  • Check yourself for tolerance and patience. If you lack these qualities, make efforts to change.

8. Justice. To be just is to be fair. Personal feelings, emotions and prejudices should not be allowed to influence your decisions. To improve the trait of justice, make sure you practice the following:

  • Apply rewards and reprimands to all consistently.
  • Listen to all sides of an issue before making a decision.
  • Be aware of your counter-productive prejudices and seek to rid yourself of them.

9. Enthusiasm. Enthusiasm is showing sincere interest and eagerness in performing your job. To develop enthusiasm in others, you should.

  • Consistently exhibit a positive attitude to others.
  • Emphasize your subordinates' successes.
  • Encourage others to overcome any obstacles which they encounter.

10. Bearing. Your bearing is your general appearance, carriage and conduct. Nothing calms a tense and nervous group more than a leader who does not look or act worried. Bearing is demonstrated by:

  • Avoiding profanity or vulgarity.
  • Controlling your voice and gestures so that emotional extremes don't show in your actions. Sometimes it's appropriate to show some anger, but you should never appear to lose your temper.
  • Not reprimanding co-workers in the presence of others.

11. Endurance. Maintaining the physical and mental stamina to perform your job under difficult conditions and for long periods of time is endurance. Maintain endurance by doing the following:

  • Avoid excesses that lower your physical and mental stamina. Don't "party" or keep late hours.
  • Maintain a proper diet and exercise.
  • Finish every job, regardless of the obstacles.

12. Unselfishness. You should always give credit where credit is due. Unselfishness also means not taking advantage of a situation at the expense of others. To unselfishness you should:

  • Give credit to your co-workers for jobs well done and ensure that any recognition or praise from higher levels is passed on to the deserving individuals.
  • Help your subordinates with the mundane tasks. You'd be surprised at how respected you'll be when you help them with some of their tasks.
  • Make a sincere, honest attempt to look at situations from the other person's perspective.

13. Loyalty. Loyalty is the quality of faithfulness to your principles, your country, your organization, your superiors and your subordinates. This does not, however, mean that you are a "yes" man." As Morton's 21st Law of the Public-Policy Process says, "An ounce of loyalty is worth a pound of cleverness." To practice loyalty you should:

  • Remember loyalty is a two-way street. Be loyal to those above and below you.
  • Stand up for your organization and its members when they are unjustly attacked.
  • Discuss your organizational problems and the problems of your co-workers only with those who can help solve the problems. Don't gossip.

14. Judgment. Judgment is the ability to weigh facts logically, to consider possible solutions and to reach sound decisions. Judgment includes common sense. To develop the trait of judgment you can:

  • Do not yield to impulse. Think about the possible effects of what you're about to do.
  • Try to visualize the situation from another person's perspective.
  • When in doubt, seek good counsel.

Does all this sound like a lot to live up to? It should, because it is. Good leaders live up to the standards exemplified by these traits.

If we think about political leaders who have failed or disappointed the public, most of their faults will point to deficiencies in leadership traits.

As conservatives, we know that our ideas are right. But not only liberals fall short on leadership traits. As conservatives, we must support our ideas by cultivating the traits just discussed. If we fail to do so, we run the risk of becoming just politicians (in the worst sense), rather than leaders.


Leadership principles are general guidelines for what leaders should do. When you're in a difficult situation and don't know what to do, consult the following 14 leadership principles. They will help point you in the right direction. If you follow them closely, you will be well on your way to being an effective leader.

1. Be technically and tactically proficient. Learn everything you can about how to do your job proficiently. Know your duties and their requisite skills inside out. Then start learning about other jobs in your organization and how they relate to you. Learn the necessary political technology so you can teach others how to win. Set out to make yourself so knowledgeable that others turn to you for advice. To develop this principle, you should:

  • Educate yourself in political technology.
  • Keep up with current events and how those events relate to your profession.
  • Find and associate with capable leaders. Study how they act, and learn from them.
  • Broaden your own knowledge by associating with people outside your immediate field. You can learn a great deal from the perspectives of leaders in other areas of activity.
  • Find opportunities to apply your knowledge through leadership positions.
  • Think about the duties and responsibilities of those above you in the structure. Mentally prepare yourself to assume their duties if necessary.

2. Know yourself and seek self-improvement. Look honestly at yourself and locate your weaknesses. Ask yourself: "What can I do better?" Make an active effort to correct your weaknesses and capitalize on your strengths. Ask your friends and co-workers for honest evaluations of your leadership abilities. This will help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. You should:

  • Study the causes of the success or failure of other leaders.
  • Master the art of effective writing and speech.
  • Have a definite goal and a definite plan to attain it.
  • Work hard to be objective about yourself.

3. Know your co-workers and foster their well-being. You should know your co-workers and how they react to specific situations. Learn about their likes and dislikes, about what they find motivating and de-motivating. For example, a nervous person lacking self-confidence should never be put in a position requiring quick, decisive actions. Knowing your subordinates will allow you to match the right person to the right task. To put this principle into action, you should:

  • Be approachable; make an effort to know to your subordinates, regardless of how high your position may be.
  • Concern yourself with the work conditions of your co-workers. Make sure they have the support and training they need.
  • Ensure fair and equal distribution of rewards.
  • Encourage individual development; delegate authority where appropriate. It's an excellent way to develop leaders.
  • Share difficult tasks with co-workers.

4. Keep your co-workers informed. People are naturally inquisitive and prone to spread rumors, both good and bad. To promote morale and dispel false rumors, you should inform your co-workers of what's going on and why. By explaining the situation, you make them part of the team. Informed people perform better. They can carry out more tasks without direct supervision. Always give enough information for your co-workers to perform their jobs intelligently and to make use of their own talents. To apply this principle, strive to:

  • Explain why tasks must be done and how you intend to do them.
  • Make sure those immediately subordinate to you are passing information down.
  • Beware of false rumors, and replace them with the truth.
  • Build morale by publicly praising both individuals and groups.

5. Set the example. One of your most critical jobs as a leader is to set the standard for others to follow. If you maintain high standards in your work, your conduct, your appearance and your attitude, you can rightly expect the same of others. If you expect others to do a task, be completely prepared and willing to do it yourself, to the standard that you expect others to uphold. This is perhaps the most powerful leadership technique of all. To set a good example:

  • Show your co-workers you are willing to do exactly the same things you ask them to do.
  • Maintain a neat, presentable appearance.
  • Stay positive and maintain an optimistic outlook.
  • Ensure that your personal habits are not open to criticism.
  • Exercise initiative and encourage others to do the same.
  • Avoid showing favoritism to any subordinate.

6. Make sure each task is understood, supervised and accomplished. Before you can expect others to perform, they must know what is expected of them. Talk in a way your co-workers are sure to understand, but never talk down to them. Before a job begins, give your subordinates a chance to ask questions. Supervision is a must. Check your co-workers performance periodically to ensure they know: a) you're available to assist when necessary and b) you expect good performance. However, do not over-supervise your subordinates. Micro-management will kill their initiative and their morale.

Allow your subordinates to use their own techniques, and then follow up on their progress. To do this:

  • Issue clear, concise and sufficient instructions.
  • Encourage others to ask questions.
  • Question your subordinates to determine if there is any doubt or misunderstanding in regard to the task to be accomplished.
  • Supervise the execution of your instructions.
  • Make sure your subordinates have the necessary resources to accomplish the job.
  • Strike a balance in supervising: neither over-supervise nor under-supervise.

7. Train your co-workers as a team. Make sure that your co-workers have confidence not only in their own abilities but also in the ability of your whole group. Make sure that all people understand how their performance affects those around them. Difficult tasks become much easier to accomplish when groups have a team spirit. To foster teamwork, you should:

  • Encourage group participation in recreational events.
  • Never publicly blame an individual for the group's failure or praise one individual for the group's success.
  • Cross-train your co-workers when possible. This facilitates cooperation and mutual assistance.
  • Encourage workers to help others with their tasks, once their own duties are finished.
  • Praise the group whenever the occasion permits.

8. Make sound and timely decisions. Even when you have to act promptly in order to get a job done, take sufficient time to consider your alternatives. But when your decision needs to be made, don't waffle—make the decision! Remember that a good decision made now is much better than a perfect decision made too late. As Morton's 13th Law says: "Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good." To develop this principle:

  • Develop a logical and orderly thought process by practicing objective estimates of the situation.
  • Plan for possible events which can be foreseen, time permitting.
  • When time permits, solicit and take into account the opinions and suggestions of your subordinates before you make a decision.
  • Announce decisions in time to allow subordinates to make necessary preparations.
  • Encourage subordinates to make their plans at the same time you do.
  • Consider the effects of your decisions on all members of your group.

9. Develop a sense of responsibility in your subordinates. When your subordinates have demonstrated the skill and will necessary to do a job, let them do it. Make sure they understand this: Along with the authority to do a job, they must accept the responsibility to get the job done right.

Assigning tasks and delegating authority will encourage initiative and cooperation in achieving your organizational goals. Remember to give responsibility proportionate to skills and potential. No one is perfect; a mistake can be an opportunity for productive changes.

To develop this principle, you should:

  • Tell your subordinates what to do, not how to do it. Hold them responsible for the results.
  • Give your subordinates frequent opportunities to perform jobs usually performed by superiors.
  • Quickly recognize subordinates' accomplishments.
  • Correct errors in judgment in a way which won't kill anyone's initiative or desire to try again.
  • Give assistance freely when requested by subordinates.
  • Let your subordinates know you don't punish them for honest errors.
  • Compliment subordinates when they promptly tell you any bad news you should hear.
  • Insist that subordinates give you direct answers to direct questions you ask.
  • Accept responsibility willingly and insist your subordinates do the same.

10. Employ your people in accordance with their capabilities. If it can be avoided, don't assign people to tasks they haven't been trained to do. Don't send three people to do the job of ten and expect good results. Don't deny people of high potential the opportunity to take on greater responsibilities. Make sure you fit the right person to the right job. You don't want to assign a "closet case" to be your public relations spokesperson. To develop this principle:

  • Don't give anyone impossible tasks; they kill morale.
  • Be sure tasks assigned are reasonable.
  • If your resources are inadequate, take steps to acquire the necessary support or focus your plans on what may actually be achieved.
  • Assign tasks equally. Don't overload one person while giving few tasks to another.
  • Use all of your resources before requesting assistance.

11. Seek responsibility and take responsibility for your actions. When something needs to be done, don't wait for instructions, just do it. Ultimately, you are responsible for everything your group does and fails to do. As a leader, you can delegate authority. But you can NEVER delegate responsibility. To develop this principle:

  • Learn the duties of your immediate supervisor and be prepared to assume those responsibilities.
  • Take every opportunity that offers increased responsibility.
  • Perform all acts, large or small, to the best of your ability. You will earn increased opportunity to perform more important tasks.
  • Evaluate a subordinate's failure before taking action. Make sure the apparent failure is not due to an error on your part. Salvage co-workers when possible; replace them if necessary.
  • In the absence of instructions, take the initiative to perform the actions you believe your supervisor would want you to take.

12. Have a vision. You can't get to where you ought to be if you don't know where to go. You should have a clear idea of where you want to be and what you want to be doing in the long term. This also applies to your organization. You should have long-term organizational goals and a clear plan for how to get there. To develop this principle:

  • Evaluate honestly your personal and organizational goals. Write them down.
  • Put your goals in a timetable. This will force you to take action and be accountable to yourself.
  • List what you want to achieve each day and, later, ask yourself honestly what you did that day to reach your goals.

13. Articulate your vision. Learn to speak in public so you can articulate effectively your goals and plans. Let others know what your organization plans to do and how it will help them. If you can energize and excite others about your goals, you'll probably be able to enlist their help. Your organization will be all the stronger for it. To develop this principle:

  • Practice public speaking. Ask friends or co-workers to evaluate your performance honestly and constructively.
  • Polish your writing skills so your correspondence is easy to read and understand.

14. Network / Build coalitions. Get to know people and get yourself known. You don't need to be born with contacts, but you do need to make them along the way for both yourself and your organization. Where can you start? Evelyn McPhail, when co-chairman of the Republican National Committee, told Leadership Institute interns that young conservatives interested in achieving leadership positions in the conservative movement should get themselves known in their communities, through clubs, service organizations, coaching Little League, etc. Essentially, to network, so we would have a good base of support if we later sought office. To exercise this principle:

  • Associate yourself and your organization with those who are like-minded.
  • Attend political fund-raisers, rallies and social events.
  • Make an honest attempt to get to know and to help others. Don't schmooze, network.
  • Serve others through membership in clubs.
  • Keep an organized list of your contacts and maintain them through correspondence, visits, etc.


The Leader's Code is a guide which allows you to evaluate honestly your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. While it doesn't cover all aspects of leadership, it does allow you to gauge quickly where you are and where you need to go. It reads as follows:

"I become a leader by what I do. I know my strengths and my weaknesses, and I strive constantly for self-improvement. I live by a moral code and set an example that others can follow. I know my job, and I carry out the spirit as well as the letter of instructions I receive.

"I take the initiative and seek responsibilities, and I face situations with boldness and confidence. I estimate the situation and make my own decisions as to the best course of action. No matter what the requirements, I stay with the job until the job is done; no matter what the results, I assume full responsibility.

"I train my co-workers as a team and lead them with tact, enthusiasm and with justice. I command their confidence and their loyalty: they know I would not assign to them any duty I, myself, would not perform. I make sure they understand their jobs, and I follow through energetically to ensure their duties are completed fully. I keep my co-workers informed, and I make their welfare one of my prime concerns.

"These things I do selflessly in fulfillment of the obligations of leadership and for the achievement of the group goal."

As you read each sentence of the Code ask yourself, "Is this what I do?" If not, then you know where you're weak and need improvement. Remember, this is only a guideline and not an encyclopedia of all you need to know to lead.


Let's assume you are put in charge of an established organization. How do you gauge the effectiveness of the previous leadership? How do you know which areas need improvement? Here are four useful indicators of leadership in assessing an organization:

1. Morale. Morale is the mental condition of a group with respect to its cheerfulness and confidence.

The morale of an organization is made up of many factors. The feeling of co-workers toward their fellow employees, their supervisors, their job and the organization in general all indicate the state of morale. For an organization to function effectively and efficiently, morale must be high. Morale is checked easily by direct observation of your co-workers. Specific things to look for when evaluating morale are:

  • Appearance.
  • Personal conduct and the way co-workers treat each other.
  • Amount of arguing that occurs.
  • Frequency and presence of harmful rumors.
  • Condition of the office and equipment.
  • Response of the group to directions and memos.
  • Job proficiency.
  • Motivation of the group toward its work.
  • Amount of complaining that occurs about supervisors and/or general procedures.

Other indicators of morale include:

  • Absenteeism.
  • Rate of retention of key personnel.

To help develop high morale:

  • Teach co-workers to believe in the organization's mission.
  • Instill in your co-workers confidence in their leaders, their training and themselves.
  • Promote job satisfaction by carefully considering job assignments.
  • Keep your co-workers aware of your concern for them.
  • Create an effective system to reward good performance.
  • Make your co-workers feel they are essential to the organization.
  • Maintain a professional atmosphere.

2. Esprit de corps. Esprit de corps is the collective pride that personnel feel in the organization's history, traditions, reputation and mission. Signs indicating a high level of esprit de corps include:

  • Employees openly expressing pride in their organization.
  • A good reputation among other organizations.
  • A strong competitive spirit, without personal animosity.
  • Willing participation of co-workers in all activities.
  • Willingness of co-workers to help one another.
  • Belief that their organization is better than similar or competing organizations.

To help develop esprit de corps:

  • Make new co-workers feel welcome and explain to them the organization's history, mission and current status.
  • Publicly recognize good performance on the part of both individuals and groups.
  • Use competition to develop teamwork.
  • Instill in others the concept that the organization must excel, not just exist.

3. Discipline. Discipline is the attitude that results in prompt obedience to instructions and the starting of proper actions in the absence of instructions. In other words, discipline is doing what you're told and/or what you should do. Areas that indicate the state of discipline are:

  • Attention to detail.
  • Promptness in responding to requests or instructions.
  • Proper relationships between seniors and subordinates.
  • Individual and group dedication to excellence.

Discipline can be encouraged by:

  • Showing others, by your own conduct, that you are disciplined.
  • Encouraging self discipline among your co-workers.
  • Implementing a fair system for handing out rewards and reprimands.

4. Proficiency. Proficiency is the level of skill exercised by individuals and organizations in the execution of their duties. Some ways to measure proficiency are:

  • Degree of skill demonstrated in accomplishing tasks.
  • Leadership ability of subordinates.
  • Demonstration of a professional attitude.
  • Promptness and accuracy in passing out instructions and information.
  • Ability to react quickly to changing situations.

Proficiency can be encouraged by:

  • Thoroughly training everyone in their jobs.
  • Emphasizing teamwork and cooperation.
  • Cross-training your co-workers in other jobs.
  • Making subordinates learn the duties of their supervisors.
  • Frequently checking and testing for proficiency.


Aside from using leadership to accomplish the specific mission of your organization, there is no greater responsibility for a leader than to build other leaders. True leadership demands that you develop subordinates into leaders.

One of your primary goals as a leader is to mentor and groom your subordinates so they can, one day, fully assume your duties if necessary. If you fail in this, your organization will probably last only as long as you are its leader.

Those you train will carry on where you leave off and help take your vision further than you could hope to do alone.  If your organization or movement is to survive and flourish, YOU must continuously prepare its members eventually to lead.

Poor leaders tend not to develop leadership in others.  They fear that new, emerging leaders will threaten their own status.  For the good of your organization, your cause, and yourself, suppress this fear.  After all, who is more valuable to an organization:  one leader or a leader who can develop many other leaders for its purposes?

So when you achieve a leadership position, remember another of Morton’s Laws of the Public Policy Process:  “Expand the Leadership.”  Make that your priority.