5 Ways Dale Carnegie Can Make You a Successful Leader

I’ve always been inspired by the teachings of Dale Carnegie. For more than 60 years, Dale’s book, “How to Win Friends & Influence People” has been devoutly read by thousands of people looking to understand the art of navigating relationships. Released in 1936, the book has sold more than 15 million copies and been evolved numerous times to be relevant in the modern age. If the book wasn’t profound enough, there is the “Dale Carnegie Training” facility that offers hands-on leadership training using the foundational principles of Dale’s teachings. The institute, founded in 1912, emphasizes practical principles and processes designed to offer people knowledge, skills and practices they need to create value in their business.

Almost everyone I’ve worked with has either read or heard of Dale and there is a great deal of insight on leadership that can be gleaned from Dale Carnegie’s lessons. I’ve distilled some of the most powerful teachings from Dale into 5 ways Dale Carnegie can make you a more successful brand leader:

1. Be the king of conversation and the lord of listening.

Few steps on the road to success are as easy and simple as listening, yet it’s surprising how many leaders actually forget to do such a fundamental thing.

“If you aspire to be a good conversationalist, be an attentive listener. To be interesting, be interested.” (Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People)

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Carnegie regularly observed being a king of conversation and a lord of listening is a fundamental and overlooked element to building meaningful relationships.

In this article, Founder of Virgin Group, Richard Branson, recounts how “Listen more” is the most important advice he has ever received. He recalls his father saying “listen more than you talk. Nobody learned anything by hearing themselves speak”, adding “you never know what you might learn from simply listening to the people around you“. Listening, of course, offers a window into the other parties wants, needs and values. Establishing ways to appease the interests of the other party, is crucial to success.

“The only way on earth to influence other people is to talk about what they want and show them how to get it”. (Carnegie, How To Enjoy Your Life And Your Job)

2. Believe in your vision

Very few memorable successes have been a result of doing the same thing that everybody else is doing. It’s the change-makers and rule-breakers that are creating the memorable innovations, and lasting experiences that breed success and make an imprint on society.

“Take a chance! All life is a chance. The [person] who goes farthest is generally the one who is willing to do and dare.” (Carnegie in Slaton Terry, The Authentic You)

One thing that makes successful leaders stand out amongst their peers is their willingness to see something differently and do something out of the ordinary.

“Two men looked out from prison bars, one saw mud, the other saw the stars” (Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living)

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Carnegie regularly contrasted differences in perception to show how people view every aspect of life individually.

While discussion centered around the acceptance of different view, he considered action as a critical element to success. Where the ordinary person will see nothing and be inspired to do very little, the successful leader is one who can visualize and drive change.

For example, Brian Chesky, founder and CEO of Airbnb, saw a world where simply staying somewhere could be enhanced, offering more personal, and unique experiences around the world. In an article he posted on Medium, Chesky shared and discussed early rounds of investment for the start-up, which suffered 5 out of 7 rejections – the outstanding 2 investors did not even bother to respond.

But he persevered, staying true to his vision. Airbnb is now making huge waves in the travel and accommodation industry and was recently valued at over $25 billion.

Be different and stay true to your vision. It’s those with the ambition, vision and dedication to defy convention and challenge perception that are cultivating immeasurable success.

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3. Seek opportunity in failure

“Develop success from failures. Discouragement and failure are two of the surest stepping stones to success.” (Carnegie in Jobe, Discovering the Passion Thieves of Success and unleashing the real you)

For all leaders, failure and rejection are almost certain. Learning and developing resilience is what separates the wheat from the chaff, the ‘want to be’ from the ‘going to be’.

This attitude toward failure as an opportunity to learn, rather than simply the final consequence of your actions, was a recurring theme throughout Carnegie’s works and holds true for many of today’s top leaders.

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In this interview from 2010, the Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz speaks of his return in 2008, recollecting how he felt he had failed the coffee chain by leaving 8 years prior. Shultz took steps to take ownership of the company’s dire situation, “We had to admit to ourselves and to the people of this company that we owned the mistakes that were made. Once we did, it was a powerful turning point. It’s like when you have a secret and get it out: The burden is off your shoulders”.

Amidst it’s failure, Schultz’ saw an opportunity to return Starbucks to their core values, taking 10,000 managers to New Orleans to try and remind them of what the brand stood for. Since then, Starbucks share prices have risen from 3.92 in 2008, to a staggering 60.07 in 2015. Be persistent, determined and learn from the mistakes that you will inevitably make.

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all” (Carnegie in Bowden, Telling It Like It Is)

4. Love what you do and do what you love

“People rarely succeed at anything unless they have fun doing it.” (Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People)

In some of his more philosophical moments, it was common for Carnegie to highlight the futility of life, and in today’s fickle marketplace, making sure you are doing what makes you happy has never been more crucial, not only for success as a brand, but to live a fulfilled life.

A recent article in Business News Daily discussed 12 reasons you should do what you love for a living, indicating that “high-earners are happy — at least in part — because they have jobs they love”, being happy in what you do is crucial to your success.

“Success is getting what you want, happiness is wanting what you get.” (Carnegie in Bowden, Telling It Like It Is)

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Serial entrepreneur Russell Simmons is a big believer in this notion. In this video he attributes his success to his love for everything he attempts, “I have to love what I do, I have to believe in what I do”. As the old saying goes, “You only get out, what you put in”. If you don’t love to do something, you’re not likely to put much time or effort into making it succeed.

5. Seek to learn and expand your soul

“[over time] we lose the freshness and spontaneity of true conversation. […] These are areas in which everyone interested in self-improvement will seek to improve.” (Carnegie, The Quick And Easy Way To Effective Speaking)

It’s no secret that Carnegie was a proponent of self-improvement, it was the foundation for his entire career as an author and lecturer.

Whether it’s new skills, more efficient processes or learning from mistakes, the majority of successful leaders will be able to give you a whole load of stories about ‘what they learned’ in a variety of situations.

Elon Musk has spent his entire career seeking knowledge, and innovating in everything from online payments, to space travel. When asked about how to approach learning, Musk said “I think most people can learn a lot more than they think they can. They sell themselves short without trying. One bit of advice: it is important to view knowledge as sort of a semantic tree — make sure you understand the fundamental principles, ie the trunk and big branches, before you get into the leaves/details or there is nothing for them to hang on to.”

Learning is the foundation of success, and the foundation of your story as a leader. Those who are most successful seek opportunities to learn, constantly striving to find new methods to achieve more, and be more efficient about it.

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“Inaction breeds doubt and fear. Action breeds confidence and courage. If you want to conquer fear, do not sit at home and think about it. Go out and get busy.” (Carnegie in Bowden, Telling It Like It Is)

On of the most important things that Carnegie holds as key to success, is action. Don’t sit around waiting for the ‘right time’, worrying what might come tomorrow, take your first step on the road to being a successful leader today.

“Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday.” (Carnegie, How to Stop Worrying and Start Living)

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