Jim Rohn: The qualities of skillful leadership

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(NOTE — Jim Rohn, one of the great personal development philosophers of our time and one of my favorite motivational authors, died today. Below is one of his many articles that influenced me. It is reprinted in his honor.)

Jim Rohn (via JimRohn.com)
Jim Rohn (via JimRohn.com)

If you want to be a leader who attracts quality people, the key is to become a person of quality yourself. Leadership is the ability to attract someone to the gifts, skills and opportunities you offer as an owner, as a manager, as a parent. I call leadership the great challenge of life.

What’s important in leadership is refining your skills. All great leaders keep working on themselves until they become effective. Here are some specifics:

1) Learn to be strong but not rude. It is an extra step you must take to become a powerful, capable leader with a wide range of reach. Some people mistake rudeness for strength. It’s not even a good substitute.

2) Learn to be kind but not weak. We must not mistake kindness for weakness. Kindness isn’t weak. Kindness is a certain type of strength. We must be kind enough to tell somebody the truth. We must be kind enough and considerate enough to lay it on the line. We must be kind enough to tell it like it is and not deal in delusion.

3) Learn to be bold but not a bully. It takes boldness to win the day. To build your influence, you’ve got to walk in front of your group. You’ve got to be willing to take the first arrow, tackle the first problem, discover the first sign of trouble.

4) You’ve got to learn to be humble, but not timid. You can’t get to the high life by being timid. Some people mistake timidity for humility. Humility is almost a God-like word. A sense of awe. A sense of wonder. An awareness of the human soul and spirit. An understanding that there is something unique about the human drama versus the rest of life. Humility is a grasp of the distance between us and the stars, yet having the feeling that we’re part of the stars. So humility is a virtue; but timidity is a disease. Timidity is an affliction. It can be cured, but it is a problem.

5) Be proud but not arrogant. It takes pride to win the day. It takes pride to build your ambition. It takes pride in community. It takes pride in cause, in accomplishment. But the key to becoming a good leader is being proud without being arrogant. In fact I believe the worst kind of arrogance is arrogance from ignorance. It’s when you don’t know that you don’t know. Now that kind of arrogance is intolerable. If someone is smart and arrogant, we can tolerate that. But if someone is ignorant and arrogant, that’s just too much to take.

6) Develop humor without folly. That’s important for a leader. In leadership, we learn that it’s okay to be witty, but not silly. It’s okay to be fun, but not foolish.

Lastly, deal in realities. Deal in truth. Save yourself the agony. Just accept life like it is. Life is unique. Some people call it tragic, but I’d like to think it’s unique. The whole drama of life is unique. It’s fascinating. And I’ve found that the skills that work well for one leader may not work at all for another. But the fundamental skills of leadership can be adapted to work well for just about everyone: at work, in the community and at home.

To Your Success,

Jim Rohn

(Reproduced with permission from Jim Rohn’s Weekly E-zine. To subscribe, go to www.JimRohn.com All contents Copyright © JimRohn.com except where indicated otherwise. All rights reserved worldwide.)

9 Responses

  1. Gary McElwain


    This is a great tribute to a great man. He will be missed by many.
    But many will pass on his wisdom and philosophies.

    Thanks for reminding us!

    Gary McElwain

  2. stevedevane

    Hi Gary,

    Yeah. I miss him already, but he lives on through his great work and in our thoughts.

    I appreciate your insight.


  3. Steve Bedwell

    Hi Steve,

    Sorry to hear that Jim Rohn passed. I heard him speak at a National Speaker’s Association annual conference a few years ago; very insightful.

    I was struck by Jim’s advice to be a “quality person” who continues to work on him- or herself.

    Over the last couple of days I’ve been pondering the idea that making very small changes in key areas can add to to major gains. I’m reminded of a quote by another professional speaker called Alan Weiss: “Improve by 1% a day, and in 70 days you’re twice as good.” The math works out too 🙂

    For example, in a marketing context, improve lead generation a tiny bit, improve conversion a small amount, raise the lifetime value of each customer just a tad…and watch the profits compound.

    Great post,


  4. stevedevane

    Hi Steve,

    I never had the pleasure of seeing Jim Rohn in person but his audios and writing had a profound influence on the way I view the world.

    I agree with Weiss’ perspective. It reminds me of the Slight Edge philosophy.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective.


  5. Darling

    Condolences to the family of Jim Rohn. He is such a good man. I’ve seen him once in a conference for Leadership Awareness camp and boy I have never looked at wanting to pursue my goals the same way ever!

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