A contrarian leader is an artful listener, not because it makes people feel good (which it does), but rather because artful listening is an excellent means of acquiring new ideas and gathering and assessing information.
The best leaders won't make a decision today that can reasonably be put off to tomorrow.
To once again paraphrase the philosopher Eric Hoffer: a leader should pay attention to experts but never take them too seriously, and never ever trust them completely.
Contrarian leaders read and reread the supertexts as frequently as possible and limit their daily intake of newspapers. In my own case, I devote about 30 minutes a day to reading -- 10 minutes in total for newspapers, trade publications and journals, and 20 minutes for books. Supertexts include The Prince, The Bible, Plato's Republic, Hamlet, Othello, Antigone and Divine Comedy
Never make a decision yourself that can reasonably delegated to a lieutenant. Never make a decision today that can be reasonably be put off to tomorrow.
Effective leadership at any level, from parenting to running a large corporation, requires that the leader lay down rules and evenhandedly punish those who break the rules. While it may seem counterintuitive to those of us raised in an era of warm and fuzzy feelings, evenhanded but brutal justice on the part of a leader can give rise to a sense of security and warmth amongst his followers.
Here's one of the most contrarian bits of advice you can imagine: Once you know which hill you're willing to die on, keep it to yourself. If you as a leader reveal to everyone the areas of moral behavior on which you are absolutely unwilling to compromise under any circumstances, your adversaries will almost surely use this knowledge to ensnare or undermine you.
You should spent about 10% of your time hiring, evaluating, praising, exhorting and firing the people who report to you. For the remaining 90% of your time, you should be doing everything you can to help your direct reports succeed. You should be the first assistant to the people who work for you.
Leaders don't really run organizations. Rather, leaders lead individuals followers, who collectively give motion and substance to the organization of which the leader is the head. Each follower is a unique human being who must be recognized and treated as such if the organization or movement you're leading is to flourish over the long haul.
Many people want to BE president, but very few people want to DO president. Up to 30% of a leader's time can be spent on really substantive matters and no more than 70% should be spent reacting to or presiding over trivial, routine or ephemeral matters. People who need a higher percentage of substance in their lives should stay away from top leadership positions.
Many observers feel that this institution has made greater gains academically in this ten-year period (1991-2001) than any other university in the country.