1. Maintain a close relationship with your family
Family is an invaluable part of any life, but it can be particularly important to a leader.
As you begin to acquire status, money or any of the other trappings of leadership, you become vulnerable to making lousy decisions because you believe the hype about yourself. Worse, you might find yourself surrounded by "yes" people — always there to remind you of how important and wonderful you are, further distorting your view and increasing your risk of catastrophically bad decisions.
A team of startup co-founders raise millions of dollars from venture capitalists. A newly-installed CEO of a successful company gets positive media coverage and is treated like a rock star. Still a teenager, LL Cool J becomes one of the biggest names in music.
Without solid grounding influences, every one of these new leaders would be at risk of undermining all their hard work and success by believing they were the most important thing out there, and that every decision they made must, therefore, be the right one.
But when it comes time to take an honest assessment of where you are in your business or another endeavor, or to make a difficult choice about it, you know who won't simply tell you what you want to hear? Your family.
As you begin your journey toward leadership, stay close to your family, seek out their wisdom and lean on them to keep you grounded. As a CEO myself now, I can tell you that you will enjoy more success, longevity and clear-headedness when you stop seeking out the "You're great!" comments and instead look for a "Take out the garbage!"
2. Never stop pursuing an education
When he repeatedly told my siblings and me how important education was to successful leadership, my father was not just talking about formal education — although he certainly meant that as well.
To him, building the habit of lifelong learning was even more important than a college degree. And not just in our chosen field. Dad wanted us to develop a curiosity about everything — business, economics, history, food, advertising, mathematics, you name it.
When you become a leader, you will find you need to learn about a lot of disciplines outside the core of your enterprise.
As he got Amazon off the ground, Jeff Bezos no doubt needed to familiarize himself with many subjects other than the Internet, coding and books. He likely needed to learn about human resources as he grew his staff. He probably needed to gain an understanding of commercial real estate as he expanded his facilities. And he might even have needed to learn a little about psychology as he tried to figure out how to attract the best people to his team.
If you think of education as a chore, my father taught us, you will find it extremely difficult each time you need to learn a new subject. That will almost certainly hamper your ability to succeed as a leader, because in that position you will be confronted regularly with complex, unfamiliar subjects.