As leaders, we should be continuously learning from other leaders. We should also be continuously learning from our mentors, colleagues, friends, direct reports, circumstances, businesses, families, and any other opportunity that brings valuable lessons. This is why, regardless of our specialty, we should regularly scan what is happening in unrelated areas. So often, we can gain helpful insights, lessons, and affirmations.
Our leadership styles will vary depending on our personalities, attitudes, backgrounds, contexts, and circumstances. Nevertheless, some common denominators seem intrinsic to quality leadership. For example, maintaining a sense of humility and gratitude are often associated with great leaders.
Bryan Cranston, best known for his lead role in Breaking Bad, ties these concepts together recently in an interview with Parade. Cranston was asked how he stays so grounded in that he is known as one of the nicest people in Hollywood. His response is very instructive (Mark K. Updegrove “The Parade Interview: Bryan Cranston” April 27, 2014, pp. 10–15):
“I don’t know why I’ve been so fortunate in this life, but I’m not going to take it for granted. Never feel you’re entitled to anything. . . . I saw the way [Tom Hanks] behaved on the set, his ability to convey respect and appreciation for others, and I made mental notes. That’s the way I am leading this cast [in All the Way]. Let’s keep the drama in the show, not around it, and let’s all be thankful.” (p. 15)
By his statements, Cranston makes it clear that he is always willing to observe other people and learn from them. He also emphasizes that attitude is fundamental to great leadership. These are powerful leadership principles. Tragically, we do not always see them in action. Fortunately, you and I have opportunity to demonstrate them today and every day.