George Grellas left a great short essay on leadership in a comment on Hacker News. Writing in response to “Wash the Dishes When Nobody Else Will” This is reposted with his permission (re-formatted from a single block of text).
Want to be a great leader?
Work hard to develop extraordinary skills.
Become an independent thinker and have the courage to follow your ideas.
Respect others and never think more highly of yourself than you ought.
Avoid bad habits of sloth, dissipation, dishonesty, and other qualities that would cause others to lose respect for you.
Set goals that challenge you to do your best and follow diligently after them.
Apply all this consistently to every part of your life, always striving to better yourself in even the smallest ways while maintaining integrity.
An Example of Leadership
In my student days, I worked in restaurants. I worked with a guy who was a Mexican immigrant, who washed dishes with me for several years in a busy restaurant.
He worked hard.
He was always upbeat.
He never complained.
And he radiated a sense of joy all about him.
Why? Because he was content with what he was doing while obviously striving to improve himself at the same time.
He would often sing while he worked. And that was inspiring. That man might never make a mark in the broader society but I could see he would be a fine leader wherever his life circumstances took him.
These same qualities can be found in the startup world, but they are by no means limited to those who seek success in business.
They are life qualities. It profits us all to follow them.
My Take: To Be of Use
I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
who do what has to be done, again and again.
I want to be with people who submerge
in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
and work in a row and pass the bags along,
who are not parlor generals and field deserters
but move in a common rhythm
when the food must come in or the fire be put out.