51 Rules for Leadership Excellence

Achieve the rank of a genuine leader when you live and lead by the leadership rules on this no-fail list.

If you're familiar with the “head slap” made famous by NCIS character Leroy Jethro Gibbs, you know that this non-injurious action is usually meant as a reminder when a team member violates one of the Gibbs rules. Gibbs's rules originated from his first wife, Shannon Gibbs when she told him at their first meeting that “Everyone needs a code they can live by.”

I have my own rules as well. I call them the Tabaka No-Fail Rules for Leadership Excellence. The Rules are born out of my personal and professional growth experiences and that of my clients. So much of the angst (and failure) that leaders experience is due to poor choices and a lack of clarity around values and vision. Much of their loss and regret could be prevented if business owners would carve out the time to identify their values, vision, and company culture.

So here, my friends, are my Rules. Live and lead by them, and the successful, influential trailblazer in you will take you far in life and business.

  1. Take responsibility; never, ever place blame elsewhere.
  2. If you want to control your future, let go of the control.
  3. Learn to be a strong communicator. No, this does not mean sending a lot of text messages.
  4. Listen, don't judge.
  5. Don't make excuses; when it comes to being a respectable leader, there are none.
  6. Never forget that your team, not your product, not your bank account, is your number-one asset.
  7. Give your team the tools and freedom to be extraordinary. There is no better investment.
  8. If you promise to do something, do it–and do it well.
  9. Let your ego know that it's really smart to surround yourself with people who know more than you do.
  10. To work with a coach or mentor is a sign of a successful mindset, not a weakness.
  11. Consciously build an intentional culture and powerful company culture. Otherwise, it will build itself…and you will not like the results!
  12. If you consistently work through the night, you're doing something wrong.
  13. Employee meetings are not a disruption, waste of time, or inconvenience. If you feel that way, it only means you don’t know how to run them.
  14. Never enter into a 50-50 partnership.
  15. Do not launch a product without doing market research that goes well beyond family and friends.
  16. Before you even think about stepping into a leadership role, define and understand your values. Otherwise, you have no road map to lead yourself or others to success.
  17. You are only as successful as you believe you are. Mindset is everything.
  18. Don't think your idea is excellent because you believe in it and have worked hard for it. It's only great if your customers believe in it too.
  19. Honesty is a code to live by; choose your words carefully.
  20. If you think it's time to quit, it probably is.
  21. Make friends with your numbers, even if you don't like them very much.
  22. Don't jump into a partnership because you're excited. Partner because you have a great idea, the combined skills to make it happen, and a viable plan in place. Then see a business lawyer.
  23. Always stay in check on social media. Yes, even on your personal accounts.
  24. Don't take advice from people who haven't been there, done it, and succeeded.
  25. Only borrow money from friends and family who are willing to lose every penny of it and not hold it against you.
  26. Build your personal brand even if you think you don't matter to your customers–because you do.
  27. Don't wear your overwhelming schedule as a badge of honor. Be proud when you can get everything done and have plenty of time to enjoy life.
  28. It's only a failure if you beat yourself up for it instead of learning from it.
  29. You have to believe in yourself before anyone else will.
  30. It's alright to have self-doubt. It's not alright to let it consume you.
  31. Experiencing fear is natural and normal. Allowing it to keep you from your dreams is just sad.
  32. Don't make the mistake of believing you can be a full-time parent and achieve your business success on the timeline of a single person.
  33. Stop saying there's never enough time; there is if you stop doing the things that a real entrepreneur doesn't do.
  34. Know your strengths, and don't dwell on your weaknesses. Just hire someone to fill in the gaps.
  35. If you believe you can't afford to do something to the betterment of your business, then you can't—and never will.
  36. When stress is getting the best of you, focus on helping someone else.
  37. The customer may always be right, but they are not your ideal customer if they cost you more than they pay you.
  38. There is nothing in the world worth missing your kid's birthday for.
  39. Only make friends with your employees if you can put on the boss hat and not feel guilty or uncomfortable in it.
  40. If you can't trust your employees, it's for one of two reasons: You are too controlling or don't know how to hire right.
  41. Ask interview questions that will tell you if your candidate is a good culture fit. Most skills can be taught. Personality, not so much.
  42. Take care of you first and you'll have the energy and clear-headedness to take good care of your company.
  43. Meditation isn't just for hippies anymore.
  44. Never forget the healing power of laughter.
  45. If you hold on to poor performers, you are the one who needs improvement.
  46. Don't exhaust yourself grabbing at nickels and dimes. Know where the real profit comes from.
  47. Always give back.
  48. If you're in it just for the money, you'll never know true success.
  49. Without a vision, you can't get there. But remember, your vision matures as you do.
  50. Angel investors aren't really angels.
  51. Don't shut off your emotions. They aren't in the way; they are there to help pave the way.