Beliefs Embraced by Great Leaders

Bob Sutton, Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University, writing in the HBR Blog in May 2010, 12 Things Good Bosses Believe,  and in his book Good Boss, Bad Boss, defines in what he describes as an “evidence based approach” the mindset of highly effective leaders.  He writes:  “I’ve come to conclude that all the technique and behavior coaching in the world won’t make a boss great if that boss doesn’t also have a certain mindset.”  Sutton identifies the “key beliefs that are held by the best bosses — and rejected, or more often simply never even thought about, by the worst bosses.

  1. I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.
  2. My success — and that of my people — depends largely on being the master of obvious and mundane things, not on magical, obscure, or breakthrough ideas or methods.
  3. Having ambitious and well-defined goals is important, but it is useless to think about them much. My job is to focus on the small wins that enable my people to make a little progress every day.
  4. One of the most important, and most difficult, parts of my job is to strike the delicate balance between being too assertive and not assertive enough.
  5. My job is to serve as a human shield, to protect my people from external intrusions, distractions, and idiocy of every stripe — and to avoid imposing my own idiocy on them as well.
  6. I strive to be confident enough to convince people that I am in charge, but humble enough to realize that I am often going to be wrong.
  7. I aim to fight as if I am right, and listen as if I am wrong — and to teach my people to do the same thing.
  8. One of the best tests of my leadership — and my organization — is “what happens after people make a mistake?”
  9. Innovation is crucial to every team and organization. So my job is to encourage my people to generate and test all kinds of new ideas. But it is also my job to help them kill off all the bad ideas we generate, and most of the good ideas, too.
  10. Bad is stronger than good. It is more important to eliminate the negative than to accentuate the positive.
  11. How I do things is as important as what I do.
  12. Because I wield power over others, I am at great risk of acting like an insensitive jerk — and not realizing it.

Sutton’s beliefs suggest the qualities which great leaders embrace are: self-knowledge, humility, compassion, focus, sensitivity, practicality, servant leadership, self-confidence, awareness of position, responsibility and accountability. Take time to reflect on each belief, finding in each one its deep richness.  Embrace those that maximize your effectiveness in your personal life and leading those whom you serve.  As you do this, remember the words of John Wooden, renowned basketball coach: “It’s what you Learn after you know it all that counts.”  Be more than you ever dreamed you could be.

Have a beautiful day and a magnificent week?!

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1 Response to Beliefs Embraced by Great Leaders

  1. Jack Beach says:

    These are truly thoughts to lead by. I think #1 “I have a flawed and incomplete understanding of what it feels like to work for me.” Is #1. We must always strive to get a picture of that an to improve our peoples’ experience.

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