Great Leadership Does Not Guarantee Success

This year I’ve studied leaders who dealt with major changes. I’m searching for common factors among these leaders. I’ve read lengthy biographies, of Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Chief Joseph, Crazy Horse, Winston Churchill, and John Kennedy.

While there are several intriguing aspects that they have in common, success, at least in terms of achieving the desired outcome, is not one of them. Chief Joseph, one of the leaders of the Nez Perces Indians, and Crazy Horse, one of the leaders of the Lakota Indians, both “lost” in their noble efforts of 1877 to preserve their freedom. The odds were simply too overwhelming. They led others to the very best of their ability, but the size and strength of the U.S. military was simply too vast for them to overcome.

The fine line between success and failure was true for all of these great leaders. If Nazi Germany had not turned its attention toward attacking Russia and if Japan had not attacked the U.S., Winston Churchill might also have lost. If the Confederate Army had won the battle at Gettysburg, they might have successfully attacked Washington, D.C. If Nikita Krushchev had attacked the U.S. with nuclear missiles, John Kennedy would not have been able to avert a thermonuclear war. However, this does not diminish the effectiveness or the nobility of the great leaders who lost.

In your work, do the very best you can to influence how other people think so they make decisions that improve results in a sustainable way. Work to be as effective as a leader as you can be. However, know that while you can control your efforts as a leader, you can never guarantee success in the future.

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