How to Be a Leader – 9 Principles from Dale Carnegie

Today, I welcome thought-leader Nathan Magnuson as guest blogger...

Nathan writes:
This is it, your first day in a formal leadership role.  You’ve worked hard as an individual contributor at one or possibly several organizations.  Now management has finally seen fit to promote you into a position as one of their own: a supervisor.  You don’t care if your new team is only one person or ten, you’re just excited that now – finally – you will be in charge!
Unfortunately the euphoria is short-lived.  Almost immediately, you are not only overwhelmed with the responsibilities of a team, but you quickly find that your team members are not as experienced or adroit as you.  Some aren’t even as committed.  You find yourself having to repeat yourself, send their work back for corrections, and staying late to fill the gap.  If something doesn’t change soon, you might just run yourself into the ground.  How did something that looked so easy all of a sudden become so hard?
Now what?
Does this sound familiar?  Fortunately, Dale Carnegie worked long and hard to provide answers for those of us in this exact situation.  Among the many principles he shared in his two classic books How to Win Friends and Influence People and How to Stop Worrying and Start Living, Carnegie included nine ways to simply be a leader.  Here they are:
1.    Begin with praise and honest appreciation. This doesn’t mean simply buttering someone up so you can tear them down.  When you begin with praise, the other person is open to hearing what you have to say and you earn relational capital.

2.    Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.  Confrontation only puts people on the defensive. Use your best effort to avoid making someone’s shortcomings the sole purpose of your interaction with them.

3.    Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.  Mark Batterson once said that people often relate more to our failures than our successes.  Admitting our own mistakes makes us seem more human.

4.    Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.  When you ask a question, you put the “ball” in the other person’s court.  Instead of simply following your directive, you empower them to take leadership initiative.

5.    Let the other person save face.  I once wired $77 million to the wrong bank.  There’s no way to sugarcoat that, no matter how hard you try!  Thankfully, my supervisor put the emphasis on the complexity of the situation instead of on my oversight and even took some of the responsibility on himself.

6.    Praise the slightest improvement and praise every improvement. Be “hearty in your approbation and lavish in your praise.”  Most people get this entirely backwards.  They are “hardly” in their praise and lavish in their criticism.  Make much ado about small wins.  Everyone likes to be celebrated.

7.    Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.  You simply can’t do this without believing the best about the other person.  Tell the other person what you truly believe they can become, and they will work hard not to let you down.

8.    Use encouragement.  Make the fault seem easy to correct.  This doesn’t mean to downplay inappropriate behavior, only to use encouragement to gain momentum that can carry over into areas that need improvement.

9.    Make the other person happy about doing the thing you suggest.  The only way to get anyone to do anything is for them to want to.  Zig Ziglar says that happiness is one of the eight things everyone wants.  If you make the other person happy, you’ll truly experience a win-win.
Nathan Magnuson is a leadership consultant, coach, and thought leader. Visit him often at or follow him on Twitter.


  1. Thanks for posting this, Eric. This is one of the most enjoyable posts I've written in quite awhile!


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