Leading Blog


The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership

Eight Paradoxes

LIFE is full of paradoxes. Sometimes we move forward by backing off, performing while being reflective, being an extrovert and an introvert, leading and following, confident and humble. Paradoxes are not to be solved but managed. It is a continuum to move along. It requires a heightened level of awareness. Leaders bring clarity to these paradoxes.

In The Eight Paradoxes of Great Leadership by Tim Elmore, he covers eight such paradoxes of uncommon leaders. In such volatile times, embracing these paradoxes is critical for effective leadership.

Leadership is seldom easy, but today it affords us the challenge of collaborating with a more educated, more entitled, more savvy population that has greater expectations of satisfaction and rewards than in past generations. Uncommon leaders stand out because they are able to juggle seemingly contradictory traits to lead such people.

Emore introduces many great concepts and (sometimes very moving) stories to illuminate these paradoxes. He gets into the nitty-gritty of what these paradoxes look like or how they are practiced in everyday situations.

I’ll just give you a flavor of each, so you get the idea of where Elmore is headed with these paradoxes and how you might begin to recognize them in your own leadership.

Paradox #1: Uncommon Leaders Balance Both Confidence and Humility

Leading today requires combining these two attributes—confidence and humility. Reality changes so quickly, leaders cannot become arrogant, but remain in a learning posture. At the same time, team members long for their leaders to inspire them with confidence.

Confidence plus humility furnishes the energy of certainty and the flexibility of teachability to create synergy in partnerships.

Confidence believes you can do the job. Cockiness believes it will be easy.

Paradox #2: Uncommon Leaders Leverage Both Their Vision and Their Blind Spots

Vision gives leaders (and teams) a direction, but blind spots are often the very motivator that enables them to approach an idea in an unconventional way—and believe they can pull it off. Most new ventures require a leader to possess a clear target they want to hit. At the same time, their inability to see all the obstacles or challenges ahead of time helps them to maintain their energy as they try to hit their target. In short, leaders usually have to see something and fail to see something to reach their goal.

When Elmore talks about blind spots, he’s talking about rookie smarts. He’s not talking about the blind spots of character that lead us to the wrong choices. Regarding these kinds of blind spots, he notes, “Our blind spots are often found conspicuously close to ur strengths.”

Paradox #3: Uncommon Leaders Embrace Both Visibility and Invisibility

In the beginning of any mission, most people need a visible leader, demonstrating what to do and clarifying the goal. Over time, however, these people need the leader to step aside to let them realize their potential.

These people lead—and then get out of the way. In short, they embrace the paradox of being both visible and invisible at the right moments.

Paradox #4: Uncommon Leaders Are Both Stubborn and Open-Minded

Leaders will never reach a goal without being strong-willed. Without a stubborn will, obstacles will stop them. At the same time, they’d be naïve to think they have all the answers at the beginning of a venture. They must be open to voices of counsel; to flex and to adapt to changing realities.

Duke basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski said it best, “The most incredibly interesting thing about being a leader is what adjustments you make and how to make them while keeping your core principles alive and well.”

If we’re going to be open-minded leaders, we must possess both emotional security and a strong will. We must be emotionally secure enough to digest contrary ideas and strong-willed enough to mote merely swallow every novel idea just because it’s new.

Paradox #5: Uncommon Leaders Are Both Deeply Personal and Inherently Collective

People need big-picture vision from their leader, someone who grasps the gravity of what’s happened, and the steps required to respond to it. At the same time, people need a leader who empathizes with their personal journey; someone who understands how the struggle feels to individuals, and who articulates the vision with a personal touch.

Elmore adds, “Wise leaders seemed to understand their people and offered three gifts:” context to problems, applications (practical action steps), and belief (hope for a better future).

Paradox #6: Uncommon Leaders Are Both Teachers and Learners

In our day of unceasing change, leaders are forced to be teachers, and organizations are forced to adapt. To do this, however, these leaders must first and foremost be lifelong learners, always adapting and never resting on what they know. Leaders are both receptacles of information and libraries of information.

The prerequisite for remaining a learner while you are a teacher is emotional security. If you’re an insecure leader, you’ll soon begin defending your past ideas; you’ll feel threatened or even displaced if someone has a better solution than yours.

Paradox #7: Uncommon Leaders Model Both High Standards and Gracious Forgiveness

The paradox of this uncommon leader is their propensity to forgive people. It’s not that they lower their standards. It’s simply that they’re able to absolve a team member who acknowledges they failed to meet the standard and chooses to improve. Forgiveness isn’t approving what happened. It’s choosing to rise above it. Forgiveness does not remove the past, but it does expand the future.

When team members know their leader holds high standards, yet is willing to forgive mistakes, it frees them to push themselves, take appropriate risks, and initiate when they might normally hold back and play it safe.

Paradox #8: Uncommon Leaders Are Both Timely and Timeless

Uncommon leaders in the twenty-first century must balance this very difficult paradox. First, they must embrace and advance timeless principles that make for lasting success, values that have stood the test of time and worked in all generations and in every context. At the same time, these leaders must leverage culturally relevant methods and futuristic resources.

Their core identity is ageless, but their mode of operation is cutting edge and sets the pace for others. They’re passionate to pursue future opportunities, but in their appetite for progress, they never leave behind core virtues, values, and disciples.

Elmore says that leadership approaches have changed over the last seventy years. And so they have. He says we are now in the time of the Poet-Gardener. The Poet-Gardener possesses these ten characteristics:

  1. They are highly relational
  2. They interpret culture well
  3. They are emotionally secure
  4. They share ownership freely
  5. They empower others
  6. They’re comfortable with uncertainty
  7. They listen and foster self-discovery
  8. They embrace the role of a mentor
  9. They’re less formal in structure
  10. They’re driven by service more than ego

They are very aware leaders and read situations before they lead them. As a result, they practice paradoxical leadership as a norm.

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Inner World of the Leader Dealing With Paradoxes

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Leading Thoughts for January 13, 2022

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Consultant Larry Miller on the need for leaders to respond creatively to challenges:

“Both cultures and companies continue to progress so long as leaders recognize the challenges and respond creatively. Each successful response leads not to a condition of ease, but to a higher level of challenge, requiring yet another new and creative response. Creative response is the essential function of leaders. The moment leaders relax and rely on yesterday’s successful response in the presence of today’s challenge, the decline begins. It is natural for leaders in every stage to rely on responses they find most comfortable and to fail when they do not adopt innovative responses. Both the history of civilizations and of corporations demonstrate this relationship between the behavior of leaders and the cycle of growth and decline.”

Source: Barbarians to Bureaucrats: Corporate Life Cycle Strategies: Corporate Life Cycle Strategies


Graham Duncan on the victim mentality:

“One great portfolio manager I know told the story of being driven somewhere by an analyst on a rainy night when a truck swerved and almost ran them off the road. “Why is stuff like this always happening to me?” the analyst instinctively responded. But to the portfolio manager, that response reflected a terrible mindset, whether on the road or in the market: a sense that the world is acting on you as opposed to your acting on the world. It is a mindset that is hard to change. But from what I’ve seen, great investors don’t have it. Instead, they’ve come to understand which factors in the market they can control and which factors they cannot.”

Source: The Playing Field blog post

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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19 Keys to Becoming Successful

19 Keys

SUCCESS in life is always the result of a series of (mostly) correct choices. Investor Bryan Cressey has distilled choices he has made and the lessons he has learned from them into the book, Be a Winner: Life’s Handbook for Joy and Success. He covers everything from life lessons, entrepreneurship, connecting with others, to investing and traps to avoid.

He notes this important understanding he came to realize as he started out in life: “Sometimes in life, you must be satisfied, and happy, with your accomplishments all alone—without praise from others—and learn to be motivated by your personal praise for yourself.”

An important series of questions he asked himself at age thirty-eight, and we should all ask ourselves at any age, is, “What primary attribute would define me? How did I want to be? What would be noticeably different about me?”

Below are nineteen keys or choices that he has learned throughout his life journey, with a selection of his comments on each.

  1. Plan Backward

    Why does planning backward work? We can only climb that hill one step at a time. But for big dreams, we usually cannot see a clear path to the top—we may try one step, encounter difficulty or frustration, and give up—because we don’t see the way forward! Planning backward gives us the steps.

  2. Aim High

    You will probably be positively surprised by what you can accomplish.

  3. Learn from Your Mistakes

    My greatest education has not come from school but from my mistakes. Life and success are trial and error. Life is more fun and much easier, when you admit mistakes and learn from them.

  4. Be Humble

    We have a human instinct to think we’re smart, which can backfire if we don’t transcend it. Humility allows learning and learning drives success in all you do.

  5. Be Creative

    Devise some creative ways to help your firm break some new ground in your first couple of years. Don’t accept the way things are done as the optimal way; mentally question everything significant.

  6. Carefully Figure Out What Your Goals and Values Are

    Before deciding the next job you want, carefully figure out what your goals and values are, i.e., what you live to do. If it’s what you love and enjoy, you will succeed.

  7. Associate with Great People

    Choose to work with an outstanding mentor who will teach you how to succeed in your chosen endeavor.

  8. Pick the Right Industry to Participate In

    This key to success is the least recognized. Pick the right industry, or profession, to participate in. The secret is to get in an area with enough growth, profitability, possibilities to create great opportunities for you.

  9. Choose Your Direction, and Timing, Thoughtfully

    Years ago, many of my friends headed into the then-popular business or real estate development and banking. These businesses are highly cyclical. Entering at the peak of the cycle, those friends had an eventful twelve months: graduation, first job, recession, termination.

  10. Impose Your Judgement on the World

    Don’t let others tell you what you should do with your life. Decide for yourself. This will enable you to create your world more as you want it to be—not as others hand it to you.

  11. Have Fun in Your Work

    The world is not a priori serious. Some people make it that way. Some people think they must act seriously to be thought learned and capable.

  12. Act with Integrity Always

    Good things will come to you when people trust you. Keeping the bar higher force you to learn to be better, and you will. If it’s in the gray zone, don’t go there. To maintain a great reputation, you need to avoid even the appearance of possible impropriety. Perception becomes reality.

  13. Don’t Be in a Hurry to Succeed

    I’ve seen many individuals that are so compelled to succeed fast that they fail. How? Because they jump from thing to thing, believing each one will propel them to the top—they never do anything long enough to become truly good at it. Don’t be in a hurry; take time to become great at what you enjoy.

    And don’t be in such a hurry to evaluate your own wins and losses. The unexpected will sometimes happen.

  14. Money Does Not Buy Happiness

    I’ve been without money and had lots of it, and I guarantee you it doesn’t correlate much with happiness. Figure out what you want to do with your life that you’ll find satisfying, gratifying, and do it.

  15. Specialize in Something

    Even a narrow specialty is a big market in our world’s economy. Winners are those who become the best at something.

  16. Impress Every Person, Every Time You Meet

    It will enhance your reputation, and you’ll quickly gain more responsibility.

  17. Figure Out How Your Firm’s Success Is Measured

    And contribute more to that success than is expected of you.

  18. Never Fall into A Rut

    Examine constantly whether you are doing what you want. What we regularly do becomes a routine, and a routine can become a rut we may remain in unless we exercise a little paranoia and assertively assess whether we are letting parts of our life travel in a rut. We must proactively change and grow rather than passively letting life happen to us.

  19. Prioritize

    Success goes not to the person who works the longest hours but to the person who gets their most important things done.

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Integrity Key to Success Fearless Success

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Smart Leadership: Four Simple Choices to Scale Your Impact

Smart Leadership

THERE’S power in choices. Yet we often don’t think about them. We operate on autopilot. Of course, not all choices are equal. Some matter more than others. Some are trivial or routine, but then there are those that change course for you, your team, or your organization. In Smart Leadership, author Mark Miller calls these Smart Choices—those that have high impact and require the most from us and most influence our futures.

Assuming you have the character and skills to lead, there is one more crucial ingredient required for you to reach your full potential: Your choices. Your choices determine your impact.

Smart Choices make Smart Leaders. Many factors come into play when making Smart Choices, so it is helpful to have a default way of considering them. To this end, Miller has outlined four Smart Choices to apply when faced with high-impact decisions.

Smart Choices

Notice each choice, successfully made, leads to another choice—a virtuous cycle. The individual choices have inherent value, but the real power is released, and your impact multiplied, when you make all four choices.

For each of these choices, Miller gives an overview and then goes deeper with specific practices in a couple of follow-up chapters for each question.

Smart Choice #1: Confront Reality
To Stay Grounded in Truth and Lead from a Position of Strength

Without the truth, you have no place to begin. You could end up anywhere. Seeking the truth is not a one-time event but a continuous process. Reality is always changing, and we must know where we are in relation to it.

Your current reality is not your destination—it is only the starting point. Never be fearful of your current reality—embrace it, learn from it, and get ready to take action. What is true today does not have to define your tomorrow. It is only where you must begin.

To begin to define your current reality, Miller suggest that you first define the universe. “Make a list of all of the areas in your life where it would be really good for you to have a crystal clear picture of your current reality.” Then start with the person in the mirror—“a hard look at your performance and the way you lead.”

Smart Choice #2: Grow Capacity
To Meet the Demands of the Moment and the Challenges of the Future

Growing your capacity is how you bridge the gap between the reality of where you are and what you need to do to get there. Expanding your capacity is the path to your maximum potential.

You must make time to lead. “Margin is not natural.” You need to create it.

Margin—the time and space needed to reflect, assess, think, create, and plan. Do you have time and space for these critical activities? Without them, you will forever be reacting, like a ship without an anchor or a rudder.

Capacity includes not just skills but your mental, physical, and emotional energy. Miller challenges us to “pick one of the energy boosting strategies (hydration, sleep, relationships, recreation, etc.) and make a commitment to yourself to incorporate the practice into your daily routine for thirty days.”

Smart Choice #3: Fuel Curiosity
To Maintain Relevance and Vitality in a Changing World

Curiosity fuels learning and your relevance. Miller suggests to rediscover your creativity, ask more and better questions, spend time with diverse and talented people (strangers), experiment, and read.

Asking questions is your best tool. “Questions to a leader are like a pickaxe to a frontier miner. They can serve as your primary tool to unearth the nuggets of truth and insight you seek.”

“Curiosity is rarely welcomed, particularly in a season of success. ‘If it’s not broken, don’t fix it,’ is a popular refrain from the many short-sighted, ‘successful’ leaders.” We have to avoid the success trap.

Smart Choice #4: Create Change
Create Change Today to Ensure a Better Tomorrow

Change puts all of these choices together. Change takes your vision and makes it a reality. Miller writes about the ability to “see the unseen.” “If you are a leader, you need a vision. You should always have a preferred picture of what you are trying to create.” Keeping a vision alive means backing up from the daily challenges of your job.

Leaders mired in distractions and encumbrances of any sort cannot effectively and efficiently Create Change. How could they? They are just trying to survive.

Leaders understand to their core that they are ultimately accountable for their ability to channel the resources, activities, hearts, and minds of people to create a better tomorrow.

Acknowledging that change is hard, Miller reminds us of the tools of change we have at our disposal. Tools include passion (“it is the kindling to start the fires of change”), accountability, goals and measurement, values (they drive behavior), planning (must have credible plans), communication (we under-communicate the vision perhaps by a factor of ten), and recognition.

As leaders, we have the opportunity to choose. Looking at our choices through the lens of these four questions will help us to choose wisely.

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Staying Coachable

Staying Coachable

FAR too many people accept their current reality as what will be. “Each day,” says Sean Glaze, “we are faced with two options. Either we choose the path of complacency, or we chose the path of commitment” to improvement and growth.”

We often begin to look for external solutions for the frustration we feel. But we take that frustration with us wherever we go. The solution is to deal with what is going on inside of us. But instead of growing, we are rearranging. We want circumstances to change rather than change ourselves. When the dust settles, more often than not, all of the rearranging will result in the same frustration in a new context.

This makes Sean Glaze’s book Staying Coachable so relevant and important for our times. It’s an engaging story about a father and a son—Wallace and Max—who decide to hike The Narrows in Zion National Park. Both are frustrated—Wallace over changes at work he is resisting, and Max over the new coach and basketball tryouts. On the hike, they meet Gayle, a wise woman who listens and agrees to help them with their frustrations if they are committed to change and growth. Gayle shares the lessons her husband learned as a coach before he died and she experienced in her own career.

My husband used to say, “frustration is a magnificent and powerful tool. Like a hammer, you can use it to build something impressive—or wreck something you worked hard to build.”

Turns out most people want to get better, but they want to do it their own way. That usually means doing what they already know, which is just repeating the same stuff that got them stuck.

Staying coachable is a commitment to growth. “Being uncoachable is really about being stuck in a comfort zone that a person refuses to acknowledge or leave.”

Glaze says there are four main ceilings that limit our growth: the ceiling of contentment, ignoring reality, personal pride, and knowing without doing.

After they part ways, she agrees to share four questions they will have to grapple with over the ensuing months if they are committed to getting unstuck and improving.

Four weeks later, the first question comes, and it is about hunger: What specifically do you want? Where do you want to be by when? Who are you trying to impress?

You have to want something enough to disrupt the inertia of the status quo.

Success is about selection and commitment. Complacent people refuse to choose.

We are often cured of our most dangerous faults when we witness the consequences in others.

Question two deals with honesty: Where are you now? What “numbers” accurately measure your desired performance? What obstacles exist to achieving the success you seek? This is hard because “many people find it difficult to acknowledge where and what they are without prejudice.”

If you want directions anywhere, you must pinpoint the place you are starting from.

You need to know the skills and strengths you possess that you will need to make use of. You need to know the gap between where you are and where you want to be.

Where are you in relation to your team? Are you willing to fill a role that is uncomfortable to ensure the team can succeed?

What is best for the team, not convenient for you.

Does the team need you to take on a different role?

Question three deals with our willingness to accept help—humility: How do you respond to mistakes or criticism? Who are a few valuable mentors that you can learn from? This question is meant to “inspire you to reflect on how you have handled feedback or the people who shared advice with you in the past. You can’t pour growth into a cup already full of assumptions and ego.”

Criticism is not a dead-end; it is a detour to somewhere better.

You need other voices because 90% of your daily thoughts are the same ones from the day before—and the same thoughts lead to the same actions and same results.

Humility understands that growth doesn’t merely mean changing ourselves. It means allowing others to change us, to hold us accountable, and help us shed unhealthy behaviors we’ve learned, so we are introduced to a better version of ourselves that we otherwise would not have discovered.

The final question comes down to habits: What will you do differently? What are you doing occasionally that you will now do consistently? What are the current distractions that you will stop doing?

Your habits are external evidence of your internal commitments.

Simplicity in understanding does not always translate to simplicity in execution.

The hard thing they must do to succeed, the challenge they must master, is more often doing small, simple things with extraordinary consistency.

Whatever you want to be better at, identify what you can do differently that will create different results for you and your team. And remember—successful people do not negotiate with themselves.

How will you acknowledge your progress? Disciplined effort declines without encouragement.

Staying Coachable is a book for everyone. And there is not a better time than the present to read and apply the lessons found throughout this book. Stay coachable!

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Leading Thoughts for January 6, 2022

Leading Thoughts

IDEAS shared have the power to expand perspectives, change thinking, and move lives. Here are two ideas for the curious mind to engage with:


Rasmus Hougaard and Jacqueline Carter on learning to be compassionate leaders:

“The people who pose the biggest challenge often provide the greatest opportunity for our own development and growth. In this way, people provide the critical fuel for us to become compassionate leaders. Nearly every situation is an opportunity to learn. And the more we learn, the better ewe become. When we experience challenges from the people we work with, we have a chance: w can either resist them or we can see the situation as an opportunity to practice our leadership and our compassion.”

Source: Compassionate Leadership: How to Do Hard Things in a Human Way


Professor John Kotter on the need for more leadership from more people:

“Although not everyone who seriously studies great figures would agree, we think it is very clear that if there was no Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr., or Thomas Watson, the world would have evolved differently in some important ways. So the point is not that such people as inconsequential media figureheads, or had they not existed someone else would have played the same role, and just as brilliantly. Quite the contrary. The point is that we cannot depend upon mass producing heroic figures to solve humanity’s problems. There must be another way.

And there is. The solution is for many, many more people, regardless of where they sit in an organization or community, to step up and lead.”

Source: Change How Organizations Achieve Hard-to-Imagine Results in Uncertain and Volatile Times

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success

Twelve and a Half

IT’S NOT surprising that the “growth potential of most businesses is limited by the emotional intelligence of their leaders,” writes Gary Vaynerchuk in Twelve and a Half: Leveraging the Emotional Ingredients Necessary for Business Success. (And it’s 99% free of the language you have come to expect from Vaynerchuk.)

The soft skills always have mattered, but they are hard because we have to work on ourselves. (It is incidentally why no one is a born leader.) Because they are hard, we avoid developing them as we should if we can get by with it. And through various periods of history, we could. Today, we can’t—and shouldn’t.

Vaynerchuk states that “modern society’s definition of a ‘smart business decision’ is disproportionately predicated on analytics. Business leaders tend to find safety in the ‘black-and-white.’ They find safety in the academics, math, hard data, and what looks good on spreadsheets.” He believes that it is the soft skills is the strength that “will help you survive and flourish.”

He identifies twelve ingredients of emotional intelligence free from the ranting you often hear on this subject that comes across as a way to make the ranter look with it. (There is a thirteenth ingredient—candor—that he gives half because it is something he struggles with—balancing kindness with candor.) He emphasized that all twelve are important and, while equally valuable, they “must be deployed in different proportions in different situations. As you navigate every second of your life, you need to add different ingredients at different times.” Here are the twelve with selected Vaynerisms:

1. Gratitude

Gratitude is a perspective on life. We panic when we compare ourselves to others. “People look upward at those who rank higher, but they don’t look downward at the billions ranked lower.” We have more to be grateful for than we think.

“Be thoughtful and honest with yourself about your missteps, but don’t start dwelling on them,” or it will become the jail you live in. There’s no value in that, says Vaynerchuk.

In the face of disappointment, gratitude is my chess move to limit dwelling on it.

If you draw energy from gratitude, you’ll find that it lasts much longer than energy drawn from insecurity, anger, or disappointment.

2. Self-Awareness

It’s one thing to be self-aware. It’s another thing to look in the mirror and say, “Hey, you’re not good at X.”

Insecurity often leads to avoidance. People tend to be the most avoidant with their own flaws.

Confidence makes self-awareness easier. I’m willing to take a hard look in the mirror and acknowledge all the problems I have in my life. I’m willing to separate who I am from who I wish I could be, a challenge for those who are insecure.

3. Accountability

I think of accountability as the brakes. It stops the momentum of pain that comes from blaming others.

I have to accept that in some way I made a decision that put me in that situation.

Much of the day-to-day angst people face comes from a feeling of helplessness. Accountability can potentially reverse that.

4. Optimism

Choosing optimism over pessimism is, at the end of the day, wildly practical. It doesn’t mean being naïve or blind to the downsides in business or in life. In fact, I’m more aware than most about what could go wrong. I just believe I’m capable of navigating any challenge.

Optimism makes playing the game more enjoyable than winning it.

5. Empathy

Empathy is my ear to the ground. It naturally pairs with curiosity.

When you’re empathetic, you recognize why people behave the way they do.

Empathy is like a cheat code in business and life. I actually think it makes the other eleven and a half ingredients easier to use. You can handle any situation if you can feel the feelings of others involved.

6. Kindness

[Kindness] is about being kind to those who have put me in a difficult position.

Being kind when you’re under pressure is tough. It’s easy to blast off and curse people out when you’re feeling stressed. It takes internal strength to be the bigger man or woman, but it’s an important trait that can differentiate you from others.

You can be kind, be candid, and hold your ground all at the same time.

7. Tenacity

Tenacity should never equal burnout.

Being tenacious is about telling yourself, “I enjoy my process so much that I am able to push through what others normally view as obstacles along the way.”

Conviction and tenacity work hand in hand. When you have conviction in what you’re doing, it’s easier to be tenacious.

8. Curiosity

Curiosity mixed with empathy can lead to intuition. Then, after experiencing or “tasting” that intuition, you can develop conviction.

To maximize the value of curiosity, you need a strong work ethic. You need a strong desire to continue learning, no matter how much you’ve accomplished.

9. Patience

When you have a good relationship with time, the pressure is lifted, and you can do so much more.

A staggering number of people from eighteen to thirty feel anxiety about their careers because they don’t have a good relationship with patience.

Patience can give you permission to dream bigger.

10. Conviction

Conviction is the north star that keeps you on track, helping you be tenacious throughout your journey, despite the inevitable difficulties. Without conviction, you’ll miss big opportunities and lose because of other people’s opinions, which is most devastating of all.

11. Humility

Humility is a requirement if you want to cultivate a lasting positive reputation and leave an admirable legacy. Leaders can’t sustain success without it.

Humility creates a comforting feeling of safety that helps you move quicker in business.

Humility keeps you from overthinking the aspects of content creation that slow most people down. Does my picture look nice enough? What will people think of these colors?

12. Ambition

People tend to have an unhealthy relationship with ambition partly because they use it as a cover-up for their insecurities. Some people set goals to build successful businesses or secure prestigious titles in organizations so they can prove something to their parents, their significant others, or their high school friends who doubted them. Their ambitions are great, but their motivation is based more on insecurity than curiosity or self-awareness.

Part Two of the book gives a number of real-life scenarios after which Vaynerchuk gives his perspective on which ingredients would have worked best in that context. It is helpful in understanding how these twelve ingredients work together for a good outcome.

His responses include:

By starting with empathy and curiosity, you can get clearer feedback. Then accountability and conviction can help you decide what to do next.

If you look at every decision you make through the lens of optimism and layer it with kindness to yourself, there’s almost never a wrong decision. If you look at it through pessimism, there are problems with every decision.

When people are hurting on the inside, they lash out by blaming others. They desperately look for a coping mechanism, which usually comes in the form of pointing fingers.

The reality is, when you complain about something, you’re giving it mental leverage over you.

Anger and insecurity can create short-term boosts, but they’ll rarely sustain you. In some cases, they can lead you to a dark place mentally over time.

When you’re in a partnership, empathy and humility come first, not conviction.

Part Three concludes the book with exercises to help you develop and grow in each of these twelve areas.

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The Edge: How 10 CEOs Learned to Lead—and the Lessons for Us All

The Edge

GIVEN that we live in a radically changing world, what got you here won’t get you there. In Michael Useem’s words, “The best capacities of an earlier time remain informative but also incomplete for the challenges we face ahead.” Therefore, “what’s required is a mixture of traditional capacities, fresh capabilities, and a learning bridge for combining the two.”

In The Edge: How 10 CEOs Learned to Lead—and the Lessons for Us All, Michael Useem asks what gave ten CEOs the edge. The edge is that “place or point or period where your past skills are serving you, but you need to bring new skills online as well.” He explains:

It can feel like a cliff edge because your comfort zone, the solid ground you navigated to get you where you are, is behind you. What lies beyond the edge is the opposite, an unfamiliar landscape barely coming into focus. Your task is now to acquire the skills you need in this new territory before your career or your enterprise falters as a result of your personal limitations.

Useem has identified ten principles or capacities that will be called for to supplement traditional leadership capacities.

  1. Accelerate your flywheel for growth
  2. Mobilize and engage holistically
  3. Take a learning sabbatical
  4. Partner to lead change
  5. Think like a chief executive
  6. Bring in better leadership
  7. Reconfigure for evolving markets
  8. Reinvent the company culture
  9. Connect and unite all the players
  10. Learn to lead across a lifetime

He chose ten CEOs that became what they needed to be when the situation called for it and incorporated at least one of these ten new capacities. “In finding their own ways forward, sometimes over years, our exemplars taken together provide us with an instructive roadmap for designing our own ways forward. We learn:

From Vanguard’s Bill McNabb, we can see the value of identifying and then accelerating a self-reinforcing flywheel for growth.

From Progressive Corporation’s Tricia Griffith, we can see the benefit of more lateral and more inclusive leadership.

From WSFS’s Mark Turner, we saw the value of taking a step away from daily demands to appreciate the way technologies may be changing how we lead and our own timing for stepping down.

Mark Turner: “Everybody has to be a leader of leaders. You show yourself a leader when you do not have to get involved in everything.”

From Estée Lauder’s William Lauder and Fabrizio Freda, we learned to partner for change to open new channels for marketing products before traditional avenues close off.

From ITT’s Denise Ramos, we saw the value of rounding out your leadership skills holistically to serve as a general manager, then picking a successor with a new and different skill set that’s better suited to the challenges that lie ahead.

From Nokia Growth Partners’ Bo Ilsoe, we were reminded that a company may be struggling for traction not because its strategy is misdirected, but because it has the wrong individual at the top, and that for finding the right leader a meticulous and disciplined appraisal is essential for ensuring effective execution of the firm’s strategy.

From seeing his markets imploding, splitting, or consolidating, Ed Breen faced one crisis after another, but he confronted each with a fresh eye, triaging his firm in one case, dividing and recombining the frim in another, and confronting a virus in a third.

From Johnson & Johnson’s Alex Gorsky, we learned that culture can serve as an invaluable vector for aligning the behavior of those beyond your direct instruction—though only if modernized from time to time as the world changes.

From the Philadelphia Eagles’ Jeffrey Laurie, we were reminded that single-bullet solutions are appealing but misleading as he learned to connect the players, unite his inner circle, and embrace calculated risk-taking.

From the Continental Army’s George Washington, we came to better appreciate that leadership can be learned across a lifetime—and that it can take a lifetime to master.

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