When everything is going great, winning is easy; whether in business or war. The comparisons are so frequent that Sun Tzu’s The Art of War is frequently quoted for business lessons. Strong leadership is required in either case.

One particular leader who stands out as personifying the characteristics that all great leaders should follow is Dwight Eisenhower. Eisenhower’s leadership skills helped him lead and win World War II as well as be elected to two Presidential terms. Understanding how Eisenhower utilized his leadership skills can benefit to everyone in a leadership position.

Eisenhower created four key qualities of effective leadership every business leader can use. These include:

Be Prepared – Eisenhower was once summoned to Washington but not told why. When he arrived he was asked by General Marshall what to do about the war. Because of his preparation he recommended a brilliant plan.

Every good leader must always be prepared. The expected is relatively easy to prepare for. It is the unexpected that keeps us up a night. What could occur? What should we do? What else don’t we know? Etc?

Ask the questions that you need to as early as possible so that you can always be as prepared as possible.

Be Courageous and Confident – Leaders are confident, but not cocky and willing to push the envelope. When he was asked his opinion by General Marshall, Eisenhower was willing to demonstrate bold, decisive action in his plans.

Good leaders are willing to take calculated risks based on their preparation & experience. Once they make a decision they go with it until it is time to make another.

Have Perseverance – A good leader perseveres. Major Eisenhower was held in the same position for years before getting promoted from Major to Lieutenant Colonel.

When things are not going according to plan a good leader stays with the plan, confident in their decision. They also constantly review progress on the plan & measure successes & those less than successful.

Be Prepared to Modify Plans – Leaders are always prepared to change plans with very little notice. Eisenhower famously said, “”In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.” Every plan is based on assumptions. When what actually happens is not aligned with these assumptions the plan won’t achieve the intended goals.

Good leaders establish plans based on their experience, preparation, confidence & preserve until…they determine the current circumstances warrant a change. Every strategic plan is based on the best information, assumptions & decisions available.

Once tactics are no longer yielding the desired results & it is determined they won’t in the future, it is time to make the changes needed to move the organization forward. The leader must be prepared to take decisive action.

Great leaders constantly balance preparation, confidence, perseverance & flexibility. Although challenging, this is what separates good leaders from great leaders.

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