Lawrence of Arabia’s top tips for effective leadership

Hollywood’s version of Lawrence of Arabia was captured on film by actor Peter O’Toole, increasing his fame and lurching him into immortal stardom. In real life, T. E. Lawrence was an outstanding military hero who courageously helped the British and Arabs defeat the Ottomans in World War I. His respect for his allies’ culture, and understanding of their beliefs, was a valuable asset to the young, inexperienced officer, who shone as a natural leader.

In 1917, the British military commissioned Lawrence to write a pamphlet about his insights on working alongside Bedouin forces. The “27 Articles” he produced have stood the test of time as universal guidelines for effective leadership. They were recently republished for their 100th anniversary!

Although written for a specific period of military history, has summarised and adapted the following eight key points to show their relevance to today’s leaders.

  1. Do not aggressively implement your plans as soon as you are put in charge. “Go easy for the first few weeks. A bad start is difficult to atone for,” Lawrence wrote.
  2. Learn about your team members as individuals. Learn their personal interests and aspirations.
  3. Lead your people to favourable decisions rather than demanding them. It is better to increase another’s prestige at the expense of your own.
  4. Maintain a constant dialogue instead of confining check-ins to infrequent, structured meetings. “Formal visits to give advice are not so good as the constant dropping of ideas in casual talk,” Lawrence wrote.
  5. Have a healthy relationship with your team members without growing too close to them. You can harm your integrity if friendships compromise difficult but necessary decisions.
  6. Keep your profile as low as you can. “Your ideal position is when you are present and not noticed,” Lawrence wrote. Again, do not let ego distract you from your role of inspiring action.
  7. Maintain control of your emotions, even when chastising team members. Lawrence noted that criticism topped with a smile is better “than the most violent speech,” and “the less you lose your temper the greater your advantage” when influencing others.
  8. Do as little of your team’s work as possible. It is better to have your subordinates do an assignment “tolerably than that you do it perfectly.” This keeps you focused on big picture decision-making and gives ownership to each person over their work.

BusinessInsider notes that “Lawrence achieved what his superiors could not because he realised that effective leadership does not come from heavy-handedness, and that the best way to influence others is to earn their respect rather than demand it.”

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You can read the original article here.