At the Synergy Global Forum this weekend in New York City, Steve Forbes, the editor-in-chief of Forbes Magazine, spoke on “The Stunning Parallels Between Great Leaders of the Ancient World and Today’s Top Business Leaders.” Leadership is a much talked about topic but very rarely does it carry the nuance and simplicity with which Forbes delivered.
He began his speech by noting that great leadership is made up of several characteristics including: trust, strategy, delegation, innovation, crisis management, teams, and failure. Yes, failure. “We don’t arrive fully formed,” he said. But, over time, we continue to grow and learn and develop. The more we fail, the more opportunities we have to learn from those failures and to do it better. Drawing parallels from the lives of today’s business executives and leaders in the ancient world, he opened up a number of illustrations that allowed the attendees to understand parallels.
“Human nature does not change,” Forbes said, “times and circumstances change, but human nature does not.” He went on to say that “Organizations left to themselves always loose sight of their original purpose, become inward looking, and self-serving.” Excellent thoughts from a man who has pretty much done it all in various arenas.
While there was much to learn including the principles of great leadership, Forbes answered a number of questions from attendees at the end of his speech. One question stood out to me. It is probably the question most people have when they encounter anyone who has been successful.
“What business advice would you give to your 20-year-old self?”
Here is what he had to say:
- Don’t start off with the idea that you have to get rich. Find out what you have a knack for and then move forward with it.
- Continue to get education and don’t get too narrow.
- Have more than one skill even if you are not at the top of your class.
- Stay loose and accept failure.
- When you graduate, don’t take that job. Go to China and teach English for a year and a half and you will come back and be better for the workplace.