Posts Tagged ‘adaptable’

Thoughts on Leadership: Christopher Columbus’s Leadership Qualities


My 10-day tour of Europe concluded in Barcelona Spain where I was taking time to visit with my daughter Alex before returning to the states – an eleven hour voyage that got me thinking about a fellow countryman who 500 years prior, took a similar, although longer journey from Spain to North America that in so many ways changed the course of history – Christopher Columbus.

Italian explorer and navigator Christopher Columbus left Spain on August 3, 1492, in search of a seagoing route from Europe to Asia with the vision of creating a trade route for spices, silk and more. But as history shows, navigational errors took him further north than he anticipated discovering instead the islands of North America.

He wasn’t the first to make this discovery but his voyages led to the widespread awareness (and eventual colonization) of “the New World.”

Discoveries and errors aside, what made Columbus special was his leadership skills and his attention to the six qualities every leader must have to ascend to greatness.

They are:

Execution. Columbus believed the earth was smaller in circumference than most did. This belief led him to the logical assertion that he would reach his destination in a shorter period of time than what others believed. While he was wrong, he built his plan based on his belief and never wavered despite the ridicule and disbelief that surrounded him. Leaders don’t think along the lines of good ideas versus bad ideas. They cling to one belief and focus their energy on execution.

Allies. No one can accomplish greatness on their own. And without followers and supporters, a leader cannot lead. Columbus’s greatest accomplishment was selling his plan to Ferdinand and Isabella as well building a team of partners as well as a crew willing to follow him into the unknown.

Resolute. Columbus found the Bahamas rather the trade route he sought. This was not his desired outcome. Rather than give up, he continued sailing again and again. Four voyages in all that each took him to a new place and a new discovery.

Adaptable. They say the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Leaders dodge that stereotype. Rather than view his discoveries as a failure, he adapted his vision by recognizing the value of his new discoveries and applying the same clear vision, belief and persistence.

Planning. Columbus didn’t just charm Queen Isabella by sitting around the palace one day and spinning idea yarn. He planned. Researched. Perfected. Iterated. And perfected again. He sold her on a grand vision from beginning to end.

Big ideas. In 1492, spices could be acquired from Asia through an overland route. Before Columbus’s voyage, the only sea route was across the tip of Africa. Columbus thought bigger. He believed he could shorten the trip and make it more cost effective by sailing west. He untied himself from conventional wisdom. He thought bigger.

The leadership skills Columbus exuded 500 years ago apply today. More than ever especially since Columbus has very few if any competitors.

At Intero, these are the things that we apply to our every day along with the questions we ask ourselves that lead us to applying our ideas and visions.

Remarkable leaders are continually learning and practicing the leadership lessons and qualities of Columbus. Apply these skills to your approach to success and you will then become the extraordinary leader you aspire to be.