By Michael Holland     

While reading a biography on Albert Einstein by Walter Isaacson, I became very intrigued with how great a man Einstein was even given some of his flaws.   Here are 6 ways you can learn to lead like Einstein.

  1. Dress the Part – Einstein’s iconic ruffled hair and disheveled appearance fit perfectly with his role as a theoretical physicist and genius.  There’s a certain leadership uniform and appearance which can work well for you in your current role but might not work for other roles.  Great leaders learn to dress and look in ways which support their role rather than distract from their role.
  2. Sound Bites – E=MC2, we all tie this to Einstein even if most of us don’t know or don’t remember what this formula states.  All leaders must develop sound bites and catch phrases which authentically express their values and prime directives.
  3. Know When You’re Wrong – Einstein had little regard for the field of mathematics during his schooling and even into the start of his career.  Only when he was attempting to move his breakthrough from a specific theory of relativity to a general theory of relativity, did he come to realize the importance and creativity of the field of mathematics.  And he readily admitted the same.  Great leaders take responsibility for their mistakes; lousy leaders blame others.
  4. Thought Experiments – Einstein preferred visualizing experiments as he developed his theories.  At 16, he began the thought experiment of how he could chase a beam of light which began his pursuit of establishing the theory of relativity.  Great leaders learn early on to develop a technique to see it before they do it.  To visualize employee conversations, team discussions and challenging situations in advance in order to anticipate their behaviors and actions.
  5. Ignore the Rational – Einstein ignored conventional intelligence and the understood laws of nature to break open his mind allowing the development of new theories.  Even as his ideas were shattering the underpinnings of Physics, he was relentless in pursuing his prime directives.  Great leaders ignore those organizational constructs that limit their ability to achieve greatness through their teams.  Great leaders persevere through politics, bureaucracy, entitled bosses, entrenched naysayers, and misguided CEOs creating successful, engaged teams beyond imagination.
  6. Blast of Thought – In a short period of time in 1905, Einstein was propelled through a burst of intellectual genius developing several breakthroughs.  A unique time when his passions, schooling, intellect, life experiences came together in a perfect storm of opportunity.  Great leaders seize upon those rare opportunities to exponentially increase their leadership expertise and habits through stretch assignments, lateral career changes and pursing a vision few can see.

Einstein, like all of us, had his flaws.  But he had the capability to lean forward at all turns to continue seeking to solve problems.  Leaders too often focus on why they need to hold back, to hesitate rather than leaning in to the perceived limits within their environment forcing open new opportunities, behaviors and leadership techniques.

Coaching Thoughts – For You and Your Peers

  • Have you picked up a leadership behavior or approach that was borrowed from someone in your life or someone you admire?  Write a short paragraph about the person and share with a peer.
  • Thought experiments, or seeing it before you do it exercises, can be seen as a waste of time or an investment in the future.  What is your opinion?
  • What is one of your sound bites or catch phrases?  Why is it important to you?