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Decisions, Decisions: What Separates Leaders From the Rest The real leaders are those who take action.

By Ray Hennessey Edited by Dan Bova

This story appears in the March 2015 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Any time I have a tough decision to make, I wonder what James Burke would do.

Burke isn't a household name, certainly not in the modern pantheon of entrepreneurial leaders like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk. But that's not surprising. Burke spent nearly 40 years with the same company—Johnson & Johnson (13 of them as chairman and CEO)—then went into public service as chairman of the Partnership for a Drug-Free America. Neither role is "hip" to the modern entrepreneur.

But you should know Burke—like, have-a-picture-of-him-on-your-office-wall know him. If you're serious about leadership, serious about being a leader that your employees, customers and stakeholders can be proud of, you should understand, as he did, that it all comes down to how you approach decisions. Leadership is about bringing order to chaos, fighting ambiguity and staying true to your company's—and your own—principles.

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