Time’s Person of the Century, a Nobel Prize in Physics 1921 (for his discovery of the law of photoelectric) and the man behind the most famous equation (E=mc²) . Albert Einstein, was born in Ulm, Germany on March 14, 1829. Later the family moved to Munich and eventually to Italy. He went to Federal Polytechnic School in Zurich, Switzerland and received training to teach Physics and Mathematics. Unable to secure a teaching job, he worked as a technical assistant in the Swiss Patent Office. He did spend his spare time for his thought experiments which led to his remarkable discoveries and publications. He was given honorary doctorate degrees in science, medicine and philosophy by many American and European universities.
Alongside his remarkable achievements, Einstein had great leadership qualities that leaders of today can learn from. I have outlined few of his famous quotes and the leadership lessons from the life he lived.
SIX LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM ALBERT EINSTEIN
“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”
Einstein constantly experimented (mostly are thought experiments) until he could find an accurate resolution or evidence to prove his theories. Experimentation requires series of hypothesis-testing and observations. He didn’t sit on one failed experiment but constantly sought for what else could be around that he could use to test his hypotheses.
Do we quickly change our actions when they don’t work? As leaders, we could spend most of our time observing on where the action happens, constantly assessing output and look for ways to resolve or improve broken steps in the processes.
2. “Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”
Albert Einstein received a letter from the government of Israel requesting him to become their next president. He politely refused stating that while it was an honor he felt that he lacked the experience to lead a country.
I have encountered many applicants for leadership roles who shared with me their motivation why they want to get promoted into the leadership role. I often hear that they want to have a better life for themselves and their families. The intention is pure but I am worried that one day they will realize that the money they’re receiving will never be able to compensate to the amount of pressure they get. It would be good to know more about the new role you are applying for and see whether it is something that you are really passionate about. Do you like people to begin with?
3. “Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.”
We always look at everything around us at face value. When we are confronted with issues, we rely on our perception than finding what the facts are.
Einstein received a compass from his father as a gift. He would stare long and hard at the pointer that is in motion and started to ask what made it move. He began to research and learned more about it. We see compass as an object that tells us direction but Einstein sees compass like how he sees the universe.
All symptoms have root causes we just need a microscope to unearth them. All issues have unseen failure points that needed be investigated further. Each one in your team has a story to tell and has strengths to give. Don’t leave the room with your perception and assumption of who they are. Learn to know them. Be interested in their stories and you will learn a great deal about their motivation.
4. “The world is a dangerous place to live, not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who don’t do anything about it.”
Albert wrote to the US President to stop him from allowing the making of an atomic bomb. He felt responsible as it was his famous equation (E=mc2) that they used to create one. He was disappointed that he did not receive a response and got very worried and eventually was depressed.
It is convenient to just turn a blind eye on biases and prejudices. It is tough to go through arguments just to lobby an idea but this is the real job of a leader, to fight long and hard for peace and truth to prevail. If you are wrong, be humble and apologize. Be accountable.
5. “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”
Albert Einstein wrote 300 scientific papers in his lifetime and had given many speeches in many venues. Amidst the complexity of his ideas, he could articulate his theories in the simplest way which makes him more relatable to everyone. As leaders, we communicate. Amateur leaders would often use highfalutin words to impress their people but people leave the room confused. We also beat around the bush when we explain and buy time while figuring out how to explain something we are confused ourselves. The simplest and the most direct to the point, the better. It is important that we meet the goal of why we needed to communicate something. We lead our people to the right direction with our succinct and accurate information.
6. “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”
As leaders, being logical is critical to our role, specifically in providing sound decisions, but logic is precise and finite while imagination is limitless. Imagination breeds creativity and creativity yields novel ideas and innovation. Einstein was always seen seated zoning out with his cigars. He said that he puffed hundreds of cigars to come up with his theory of relativity.
It is imperative that we take time to take a step back and reassess how we’ve been as leaders and where we are heading in our leadership journey. Try hard to imagine yourself, without any technological limitations or rules, do the difficult things easy. Think of some crazy ideas! Noticing the action you just came up with, do you think it is doable? Do you think you can do something about it to make it happen? You may have just discovered a novel solution for a pressing concern!
Thanks to Einstein and his words. It helps us get grounded on the most fundamental things we need to know about leadership.