24 Leadership Principles From The Greatest Business, Military, Political, and Sports Leaders

Ryan Holiday
13 min readSep 13

People think that leadership is something that just happens. One is anointed a leader. One is promoted to leadership. One is born into leadership. And of course, this is not the case.

“Leadership,” Eisenhower said, “is the art of getting someone else to do something that you want done because he wants to do it.” Which means that, like any art, leadership is something that has to be studied. No one comes out of the womb a leader. And yet we’re all leaders in one way or another — of families, of companies, of a team, of an audience, of a group of friends, of ourselves. So there’s no one who wouldn’t benefit from learning some essential leadership principles from some of history’s greatest leaders. These 24 by no means make a complete list–that’s why we built The Daily Stoic Leadership Challenge (registration is currently open for this year’s LIVE 9-week course) but if you implement even a couple of them, I’m comfortable guaranteeing you’ll be a better leader for it. But perhaps the first and most important lesson we learn from the leaders I talk about below is that leadership is a skill that one could refine over multiple lifetimes — so the sooner you start the better.

  1. A Leader Is A Reader. Harry Truman famously said that not all readers are leaders but all leaders are readers — they have to be. And they certainly aren’t reading to impress people or for the mental gymnastics. It’s to get better! It’s to find things they can use. Not at the dinner table or on Twitter, but in their real lives. A leader must learn from the experiences of others. A leader must be challenged. A leader must prepare themselves for the things they’ll only be able to experience once, by learning from the experiences of others. To paraphrase the soldier-philosopher General James Mattis, it is unconscionable to fill up body bags while you get your education solely by experience, one mistake at a time. A leader must be a reader. It’s not just the best way, it’s the only way.
  2. A Leader Puts Everything In The Calm and Mild Light. In Thomas Rick’s wonderful book Waging a Good War, he looks at what made Bob Moses one of the best (yet lesser known) of the civil rights leaders. Moses was quiet and calm. He did not seek out the spotlight. He did not make…
Ryan Holiday

Bestselling author of ‘Conspiracy,’ ‘Ego is the Enemy’ & ‘The Obstacle Is The Way’ http://amzn.to/24qKRWR