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11 important factors of leadership from Napoleon Hill, 1938

Feb 21, 2013
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Entrepreneurial success largely depends on leadership. As an entrepreneur you have to inspire, lead and keep your team on track to reach the goal. But leading a team, especially in a startup firm, is definitely a daunting task to be accomplished. In his 1938 master piece, Think and Grow Rich, Napoleon Hill come to our aid to give us few clues on how to lead and be successful. His assertions are equally relevant today as it was in 1938.

Leadership begins with an understanding of leadership itself that can be learned through becoming an intelligent follower. However, among the most critical qualities of a leader courage to embrace challenges and life stands first along with ability to make decision with enough confidence. Here goes a checklist from Napoleon Hill:

  1. Unwavering courage based upon knowledge of self, and of one’s occupation. No follower whishes to be dominated by a leader who lacks self-confidence and courage. No intelligent follower will be dominated by such a leader very long.

  2. Self control. The man, who can’t control himself, can never control others. Self control sets a mighty example for one’s followers, which the more intelligent will emulate.

  3. A keen sense of justice. Without a sense of fairness and justice no leader can command and retain the respect of his followers.

  4. Definiteness of decision. The man who wavers in his decisions shows that he is not sure of himself. He can’t lead others successfully.

  5. Definiteness of plans. The successful leaders must plan his work, and work his plan. A leader who moves by guesswork, without practical, definite plans, is comparable to ship without a rudder. Sooner or later he will land on the rocks.

  6. The habit of doing more than paid for. One of the penalties of leadership is the necessity of willingness, upon the part of the leader, to do more than he requires of his followers.

  7. A pleasing personality. No slovenly, careless person can become a successful leader. Leadership calls for respect. Followers will not respect a leader who does not grade high on all of the factors of a pleasing personality.

  8. Sympathy and Understanding. The successful leader must be in sympathy with his followers. Moreover, he must understand them and their problems.

  9. Mastery of detail. Successful leadership calls for mastery of details of the leader’s position.

  10. Willingness to assume full responsibility. The successful leader must be willing to assume responsibility for the mistakes and the shortcomings of his followers. If he tries to shift this responsibility, he will not remain the leader. If one of his followers makes a mistake, and shows himself incompetent, the leader must consider it is he who failed.

  11. Cooperation. The successful leader must understand, and apply the principle of cooperative effort and be able to induce his followers to do the same. Leadership calls for power, and power calls for cooperation.

Complement with Benjamin Franklin on Decision Making: from a 1772 letter to Joseph Priestley

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Ruhul Kader is a technology and business analyst based in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is also the co-founder and CEO of Future Startup and author of Rethinking Failure: A short guide to living an entrepreneurial life. He writes about internet business, strategy, technology, technology policy, and society. He can be reached at

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