7 Obscure Mantras for Excellent Leadership

Simple truths to make you a better boss

5 min readJun 13, 2021


Credit: baranq on Shutterstock

You don’t do the right thing because others are looking, but because you are.

As a kid, I asked my dad why I couldn’t just eat spaghetti with my hands if no one was around. He told me that I don’t do that because I have self-respect.

His answer shifted my mindset from just following the rules of life to something bigger — something deeper. Following a moral code when no one was looking began to shape who I was.

His answer planted little seeds of character in my young mind that helped me lead later in life.

As someone who’s studied and applied leadership skills in business, military, and volunteer settings, I’m always on the lookout for simple truths to help me — the most truthful, simple, pieces of transformational wisdom like those words from my dad that I can put in my pocket for later use.

Here are a few of them.

#1. “Be It First”

What you say is fickle compared to what you are. Your words should reinforce what you are, but what you are shouldn’t have to be reinforced with words.

Setting the example makes every leadership list because it is the epitome of it. It is the core competency needed to lead.

Integrity is the degree to which your words align with your actions and your actions align with your beliefs. When all three are in a straight line you’ve become a leader.

If you ever get stuck as a leader remember to be what you want your people to be. Just do that and most of the battle is won.

#2. “Engage Your Brain Before You Engage Your Weapon”

This was in a letter from General James “Mad Dog” Mattis handed to each of us Marines in Kuwait a few days before the Iraq War started. Among many other wise and motivating words in that letter, this one stuck with me and has helped me lead ever since.

Your “weapon” as a leader could be your words or actions or strategies. Being decisive is a must for leadership but only after it is filtered through good judgment. Think before you do. Your brain, your judgment, and…