Leadership Is More Mental Than Physical

I recently listened to the audiobook The Truth About Leadership.

One of the sections of the book that stood out to me discussed which qualities were inherent in the best leaders. These qualities are important whether these leaders are army generals or fortune 500 CEO’s.

The top four qualities were…

1. Honest – People know that you mean what you say. You have a clear set of standards you live your life by. You are honest with yourself and your followers about what is (and isn’t) worth making sacrifices for.

2. Forward Looking – You know where you and your followers are going. You have a vision and you can tie that vision to the hopes, dreams, and aspirations of your followers.

3. Inspiring – You must be positive, upbeat, and encouraging. Your energy signals your commitment and followers need to feel this passion.

4. Competent – You must have a track record of success. Others need to know that you know what you are talking about. You must have the confidence to admit you don’t know everything.

As I listened on, the book said something more about this information that I found even more interesting.

Followers expect these qualities in their leaders and are unlikely to follow them otherwise. Without these qualities the relationship will not work.

Relationships between followers, however, are different. In order for two followers (co-workers) to have a strong relationship only two of the four qualities are expected; honesty and competency.

Followers expect their co-workers to be trustworthy. They also expect that they will be able to do their jobs well. They don’t however, feel the need for them to be forward looking or inspiring. These qualities are only necessary for those in leadership positions.

Leaders need to ‘Think Big’ in order to hold a strong relationship with their workers. Followers don’t need to do this.

The follower’s job is to row the boat. The leader’s job is to steer it. If a leader doesn’t grab the helm he is unlikely to gain respect from his followers.


Being forward thinking requires thought. Envisioning a future that does not yet exist takes creativity. Sometime it can take hours, days, or weeks in thought to construct the reality you want, even though it is only constructed in your own mind.

Being inspirational simply means expressing this reality so others will be spurred to action by your explanation of the future.

These two qualities don’t involve physical work. They involve mental work.

Seeing the future and steering your organization in the right direction is the job of the leader. If you don’t have this vision your followers won’t want to follow you. If you can’t express your vision to others, you will cause a similar reaction.

This is not to say that every thought a leader has is handed to him on golden tablets. Sometimes leaders are wrong.

Knowing this, your followers still want you to steer the ship. Not wanting to look into the future they will look to you to do this for them.

If you have not looked into the future and don’t have an answer to the questions “Why are we doing this?” then the next question in their minds will be “Why the F*** am I following a blind man?”

As a leader your job is to use your mental energies to figure out where to steer the ship. If you do not fulfill this role as a leader then you may find yourself with no one to follow you.

Then, as stated in The Truth About Leadership, you’ll no longer be a leader of a group… you’ll just be out for a walk.