The Leading Blog


Six Impulses that Sabotage Us

3 Seconds

THERE are some impulses that do not serve us well, and if we are not careful, they will sabotage what we want and derail us. Les Parrott offers six in 3 Seconds: The Power of Thinking Twice. He claims it only takes three seconds to reconsider your first impulse and transform your life.

1. The Impulse to Give Up Before Trying

When faced with a problem that’s seemingly beyond your control, you are sure to feel helpless ... if you give in to your first impulse. You’ll say, “There’s nothing I can do about it.”

2. The Impulse to Shun a Challenge

When faced with a challenge that seems beyond your abilities, you are sure to feel overwhelmed ... if you give in to your first impulse. You’ll say to yourself, “It’s too difficult to even try.” But if you listen to that message, you’ll never discover what is often true: that you’re far more capable of facing this challenge than you imagined.

3. The Impulse to Settle for the Status Quo

When you have the opportunity to do what you dream of, what your heart longs to do, you are sure to feel unfulfilled ... if you give in to your first impulse. You’ll say, “I’ll simply do what happens to come my way.”

4. The Impulse to Shirk Responsibility

When you are in a thorny predicament and looking for excuses or ways to lay blame, you are sure to feel defensive ... if you give in to your first impulse. You’ll be tempted to say, “It’s not my problem.”

5. The Impulse to Do the Mere Minimum

When given an assignment at work or at home, you are sure to do the minimum required ... if you give into your first impulse. In fact, most of us did that during our elementary and high school years. Sure, some kids lived for “extra credit,” but they were in the minority. It’s tempting to keep following the easier first impulse throughout college and career, too.

6. The Impulse to Avoid Taking Action

When you look at plans that seem too big to tackle, you are sure to think and talk about them without actually doing anything ... if you give in to your first impulse. You’ll say, “I’m not quite ready, but I will be someday.”

To counteract these impulses, we need to learn secondary impulses. It only takes three seconds to momentarily stop and consider the outcomes we really want. “It requires a suspension of our natural inclination to remember that we have a choice in what we will say, what we will do, and who we will be. ‘In the study of one’s personal language and self-talk,’ said Sidney Madwed, ‘it can be observed that what one thinks and talks about to himself tends to become the deciding influence in is life. For what the mind attends to, the mind considers.’”

It only takes three seconds to empower yourself and do whatever it takes. “I can’t do everything, but I can do something.”

It only takes three seconds to say, “I love a challenge,” and do whatever it takes. “I’m willing to step up and give it an honest try.”

It only takes three seconds to forgo the impulse to take whatever comes your way, fuel your passion with a personal vision of your future, and do whatever it takes. “I’ll do what I’m designed to do.”

It only takes three seconds to take ownership, be unwilling to pass the buck and do whatever it takes. “The buck stops here.”

It only takes three seconds to choose to exceed expectations and do more than is required. “I’ll go above and beyond the mere minimum.”

It only takes three seconds to decide to do it now. “I’m diving in … starting today.”

Les Parrott tackles each of these impulses and explains why and how to replace our first impulse with a second impulse that serves us well. The second impulse involves risk. “When you disown your helplessness, you risk responsibility. When you embrace a challenge, you risk losing face. When you fuel your passion, you risk the comfort of what’s known. When you own your piece of the pie, you risk taking the blame. When you walk the extra mile, you risk being exhausted. When you quit stewing and start doing, you risk failure.” But it’s better than the risk of regret and making progress.

Instead of settling for “whatever,” learn to do “whatever it takes.”

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Consider Simple Sabotage

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Leading Thoughts for December 7, 2023

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 Robert "Dusty" Staub on the courage to face our current reality:

“Why do so many intelligent people miss the obvious, focusing on what they wish to be true versus what is currently true and staring them in the face? The answer lies in how our minds distort reality to protect us from doubts or to protect our cherished assumptions and beliefs. For many of us, we simply do not wish to see something that indicates we might have to change our lives and our ways of doing things. Current reality can be inconvenient and downright unpleasant. It often challenges conventional wisdom. Courageously facing current reality means we may upset people who are unwilling to see it, and they will, in turn, pressure us to back down or subscribe to their viewpoint.”

Source: The 7 Acts of Courage : Bold Leadership for a Wholehearted Life


Henry Kissinger on the leader’s challenge:

“Whatever their personal characteristics or modes of action, leaders inevitably confront an unrelenting challenge: preventing the demands of the present from overwhelming the future. Ordinary leaders seek to manage the immediate; great ones attempt to raise their society to their visions.”

Source: Leadership: Six Studies in World Strategy

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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Society Needs a Leadership Paradigm Shift

Leadership Paradigm Shift

THE contemplation of character has engaged great minds reaching back to Confucius, Aristotle, and Plato. Building on the shoulders of such philosophical giants and the subsequent research over millennia, science has further defined, assessed, and developed the concept of character to apply findings to organizational leadership.

But what has become abundantly clear is that disregarding the science of leaders’ character has led to incredible dysfunction for organizations and society as a whole. In countless cases, leaders have missed opportunities to tap into the enormous potential associated with the development of character to create innovation and excellence.

What the Science of Leadership Character Reveals

In Fred Kiel’s groundbreaking book, Return on Character, he discussed the seven-year study of 84 CEOS, their executive staffs, and their employees, which found that CEOs with strength of character brought in nearly five times greater return on assets and enjoyed a 26 percent higher level of workforce engagement.

Further research at the Ivey Business School has revealed the following benefits of leaders moving from weak to strong character:

  • 14% increase in leader effectiveness
  • 10% increase in leader resilience
  • 8% increase in leader well-being
  • 6% increase in promotion potential
  • 18% increase in employee voice
  • 16% improvement in psychological safety
  • 8% increase in organizational commitment
  • 8% increase in work engagement
  • 4% increase in subjective well-being
  • 10% increase in job-related well-being
  • 10% improvement in job satisfaction

Taking into consideration two of these benefits — employee voice (18%) and psychological safety (16%) — alone gives all the evidence needed to show that you can’t turn a blind eye to the development of character. These metrics relate to judgment and decision-making in organizations, and it’s easy to see that if the leader doesn’t allow employees to feel psychologically safe, they won’t voice their concerns, nor will they engage in risk-taking needed for innovation for fear of reprisal.

Let’s take a look at the anatomy of character, how it establishes itself, and what leaders can do about it.

Our research reveals a consistent overweighting of the character dimensions of drive, accountability, and integrity and an associated under-weighting of temperance, transcendence, humility, and humanity. However, when the traits associated with integrity — being authentic, candid, transparent, principled, and consistent — are overweighted without being counterbalanced by the under-weighted dimensions — self-awareness, vulnerability, empathy, compassion, patience, and calm, a person can end up being a bully, abrasive, dogmatic, and toxic.

In terms of psychological safety, how safe do employees feel when their leaders are bullies, abrasive, dogmatic, and toxic? How likely are employees going to speak up under these conditions? The anatomy of character explains the persistence of toxicity in organizations — and these are matters of character, not matters of competence.

Now consider what enables high performance in organizations. The space for innovation and growth relies on dimensions of character that are often in short supply, like transcendence — being appreciative, inspired, purposive, optimistic, creative, and future-oriented.

The beauty associated with the science of character development is that investments made to develop character underpin all key metrics of the organization.

The Underlying Problem

Among thousands of leaders with whom we’ve worked, few would describe themselves as ineffective or toxic leaders until they see themselves through others’ eyes. We tend to judge ourselves on our intentions and others on their behavior, and the gap between them is significant. This is compounded by the fact that self-awareness — a behavior associated with humility — is exceptionally weak. Research reveals that although 85 percent of people believe they’re self-aware, only 10 percent actually are.

We’ve constructed an “anatomy of leader character” based on a set of 11 dimensions and associated behaviors. This is only the starting point, but that starting point provides an exceptionally solid research base to support the paradigm shift to elevate character alongside competence. A key part of the science shows that character and competence are like apples and oranges in terms of what they are, how they need to be developed, and how they can be applied. Too often in organizations, the notion of competency drifts into that of character, missing the fundamental tenet that character is a habit of being that permeates a person’s personal and professional life, and, importantly, that the dimensions of character are interconnected. The conditions that we thought of as a strength are actually operating like a vice.

Making the Necessary Course Correction

Although it won’t happen overnight, these key steps will promote the needed paradigm shift to develop positive dimensions of character:

1. Cultivate awareness: The paradigm shift starts with a clear understanding of what character is and how it operates. Extensive research and analysis concerning this can equip leaders with the necessary means to scale it in their own organizations. It is critical to understand that character is not just about morals and ethics but, in its fullest form, about human flourishing through better judgments and well-being. It’s this more complete formulation and habit of character that we look to import into leaders’ lives. This step is straightforward and quite doable.

2. Attend to your character development: Again, many resources are available to start this journey, including an app to develop character. The more you apply yourself toward character development, the better able you are to observe it in yourself and in others. It tends to snowball; it’s contagious. You begin to understand the ways in which your organization enables or inhibits the development of character and where the overweighting and underweighting are occurring.

3. Work on the organization: Organizations are hard-wired around competence. Simply put, wherever competence resides, character belongs. This is a more difficult part of the journey, and for leaders to take on an organizational paradigm shift, it needs to course correct throughout. For example, all facets of selection, promotion, and rewards must be undertaken through the lens of character.

This may sound daunting, but many organizations are embarking on the journey — from nonprofits, to professional sports teams, to healthcare organizations, to financial institutions, and more. The science surrounding character provides the critical compass for the path forward.

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Leading Forum
Mary Crossan is Professor of Strategic Leadership at the Ivey Business School, Western University. Her research on leader character, organizational learning, and strategic renewal is widely published. Bill Furlong is an executive in residence at the Ivey Business School, a co-founder with Mary Crossan of Leader Character Associates Inc., and founder and co-host with Mary Crossan of the “Question of Character” podcast. He is director of the CAA Group of Companies, an adjudicator with the Capital Markets Tribunal, and from 2015 to 2019 was a commissioner with the Ontario Securities Commission. Furlong held senior global leadership roles at TD Securities, retiring in 2012 as vice chair. Their new book, with co-author Gerald Seijts, is The Character Compass: Transforming Leadership for the 21st Century (Routledge, Oct. 30, 2023). Learn more at

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First Look: Leadership Books for December 2023

First Look Books

HERE'S A LOOK at some of the best leadership books to be released in December 2023 curated just for you. Be sure to check out the other great titles being offered this month.

9781265386672Brave Together: Lead by Design, Spark Creativity, and Shape the Future with the Power of Co-Creation by Chris Deaver and Ian Clawson

How did Apple overcome a culture of secrecy? How did Pixar out-innovate Disney? Why do companies kill creativity? Does Shark Tank teach us something about the way we pursue success that isn't true? We've been told that working harder and smarter is the only way to succeed in business and life. But it's not true. Hustle culture is causing burnout and pain in our lives, making us feel divided. What if instead we focused on working creatively with others? And asked How can we shape cultures people love? There is hope in co-creation. Brave Together is a deep exploration into how we can live and lead as co-creators, filled with unexpected stories, powerful principles, and a future-oriented framework.

9781637557396Mindstuck: Mastering the Art of Changing Minds by Michael McQueen

We’re told you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink. But what if this is not true? Having spent the past two decades helping Fortune 500 brands and leaders embrace the changes they’d rather fight or ignore, Michael McQueen understands what it takes to change even the most stubborn minds. But persuading others is getting harder and harder. In our ideology-driven and polarized age, certainty has taken the place of curiosity and open-mindedness has given way to obstinance. Drawing on the latest discoveries in disciplines ranging from neuroscience to behavioral economics, McQueen suggests that we are too often using nineteenth- and twentieth-century techniques to change twenty-first-century minds—and are wondering why it’s not working. What we need is an upgrade in our understanding of what it really takes to influence others.

9780306832642Moonshot: A NASA Astronaut’s Guide to Achieving the Impossible by Mike Massimino

Learn the NASA Astronaut mindset to solve problems, provide leadership in the face of adversity, and never give up when pursuing your wildest ambitions. Mike Massimino achieved his dream of exploring space. Now he distills stories and insights from NASA into an actionable guide to accomplish your biggest goals. Mike reveals how to make possible the seemingly impossible—on Earth. Written with characteristic wit and a big heart, Mike identifies ten hard-earned lessons of spaceflight and his other life experiences, including: One in a Million Is Not Zero, The Thirty-Second Rule, Be Amazed, Know When to Pivot. We all have our own personal “moon shots” we’d like to take in life, but as mission control will tell you, doing one big thing really means getting a thousand little things right along the way.

9780593712849Choose Your Enemies Wisely: Business Planning for the Audacious Few by Patrick Bet-David with Greg Dinkin

What’s the difference between your competitor and your enemy? You know who your competitors are. You keep tabs on them regularly, and can list them calmly, along with their strengths and weaknesses. But your enemies are a whole other matter. They’re the haters and the doubters who said you’d never make it, the ones who stomped on your dreams. When you think about your enemies, you get emotional. You feel like you won’t let anything—or anyone—stop you. In Choose Your Enemies Wisely, Patrick Bet-David shows how to harness that emotion to turbocharge your business, dominate this year, and grow for generations after. But first, you need to choose your enemies wisely.

9781399405478The Seven Games of Leadership: Navigating the Inner Journey of Leaders by Paolo Gallo

A fresh take on assessing your priorities – both professionally and personally – to ensure you are in the best position to make a positive difference to the people and places around you, and in the process to transform your own life. The disruptive moment in which we find ourselves living demands that we are our own agents of change. The Seven Games of Leadership is a guide for readers through seven key phases of personal and professional development, with the aim not of climbing a corporate ladder but of finding true and lasting satisfaction in what they do. It encourages the realization that revolutionary change is not about destroying the current status quo, but about co-designing and rebuilding different paths for individuals to thrive, and go on to have a positive impact on society at large.

More Titles

9781523006113 9781394169856 9781394208654 9781915087058

For bulk orders call 1-626-441-2024

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“... a mind needs books as a sword needs a whetstone, if it is to keep its edge.”
— George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones

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Whats New in Leadership Books Back to Work 2023

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Leading Thoughts for November 30, 2023

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:


Bob Chapman and Raj Sisodia on stewardship:

“People come into this world with gifts and talents, full of possibilities and unrealized potential. Our responsibility as leaders is to help them realize those possibilities by looking for the talents and goodness that exist in them and inspiring them to become what they are meant to be. Leaders are called to help people become what they were put on this earth to be as individuals and as part of a team or community.”

Source: Everybody Matters: The Extraordinary Power of Caring for Your People Like Family


Barbara Kellerman on the context of leadership:

“We need to think of leadership as a creative act for which leaders and followers both are educated, for which leaders and followers both are prepared over a lifetime of learning.”

Source: The End of Leadership

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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LeadershipNow 140: November 2023 Compilation

LeadershipNow Twitter

twitter Here is a selection of Posts from November 2023 that you will want to check out:

See more on twitter Twitter.

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Use the Difficulty The Performance Paradox

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5 Leadership Development Practices to Kick to the Curb

5 Leadership Development Practices

IN MY THIRTY YEARS as an executive coach, I have seen a lot of change — the complete digital transformation of the workplace, increased diversity of the labor market, the shifting role of employers. But one thing that has largely remained unchanged has been the approach to leadership development. Even though the world looks nothing like it did 30 years ago, organizations still cling to strategies and methodologies developed in the 20th century.

Here are five outdated practices that organizations need to kick to the curb immediately:

1. Limiting the definition of leadership

Many have asked me how to define a leader, but I have refused. There is no one way to be a leader. Effective leadership does not rely upon a standard set of characteristics like charisma or aggressiveness. Narrowly defining leadership restricts innovation by excluding countless points of view and modes of operating.

Yet, many learning and development strategies are built towards forcing leaders to fit themselves into a restrictive mold. When leaders are pressured into leadership styles that go against their natural way of operating, they are set up for failure. It’s like wearing a set of clothes that don’t fit. Leaders feel self-conscious and uncomfortable. They end up focusing on themselves instead of the people and organization they are leading.

Opening the definition of leadership empowers leaders to play to their strengths rather than confining them to operate within a set style. And it opens the door to greater diversity in the leadership ranks and pipeline.

2. Focusing solely on skill development

Early in my career, I worked as a corporate trainer. Sessions were standardized training with 30 or more participants working on building skills or horizontal development. After the sessions, there was time for questions, and often, I would be asked, “This is great, but how do I actually use this in my day-to-day?”

Vertical development answers that question by building a leader’s capabilities and capacities. Capabilities are sets of skills and the ability to apply these within the context of the moment. Capacity is a leader’s ability to contain, manage, or affect change in the evolving circumstances within their role.

Traditional training and skill development are needed, but without vertical development to contextualize the use of these skills, leaders will fail to transfer these skills into their daily routines. In short, without vertical development, training dollars are wasted.

3. Using standard 360 assessment tools

Most assessment tools — like most leadership development models — were created in the last century and no longer accurately reflect a leader’s developmental needs. The typical 360 assessment is too linear and only provides a snapshot of the leader at a single point in time. They provide limited value in our current fast-paced, complex, constantly changing, non-binary business environment.

Organizations need a way to measure and track a leader’s development over time rather than a one-and-done assessment. Assessments should rely on a feedback loop from leaders, managers, and coaches to evaluate and track progress. Insights could then be used to develop new goals, creating a continuous learning experience.

4. Relying on ranked or traditional performance evaluations

In the early 2000s, companies were beginning to abandon performance evaluations because they provided very little helpful information regarding talent decisions and development. Typically, evaluation scores are determined subjectively, which can often lead to disagreements between managers and direct reports on whether expectations are being met. Performance evaluations are also a massive drain on manpower and resources. Yet, having no alternative, performance evaluations have once again become popular because organizations feel they must “do something” to evaluate workers.

Our company has decided to leave performance evaluations in the past where they belong. We have opted for manager/employee alignment tools. Instead of relying on a once-a-year subjective evaluation, our leaders work regularly with direct reports to ensure that everyone on the team is aligned to the same priorities, goals, and objectives.

5. Manually managing leadership development programs

I recently hosted a webinar and polled the audience on how they managed their programs, and more than half of the respondents said they either used spreadsheets or manually tracked everything.

When programs are manually managed, the cost and labor associated with development programs become unsustainable. Worse, manual management opens the door to human errors like coach or mentor mismatches, mis-scheduling, and loss of data.

With today’s technology, there is absolutely no excuse to manage leadership development programs manually. A well-designed leadership development platform can eliminate the pitfalls associated with manual management, while also increasing engagement among leaders. Technology can eliminate the guesswork when matching coaches and coachees, scheduling, and tracking development. The right platform will provide a throughline between development and return on investment.

Is your organization guilty of clinging to these outdated practices? If so, it’s time to finally get your company’s leadership development into the 21st century. Failing to do so will guarantee a weak leadership bench that is unprepared to adapt and thrive within today’s ever-changing economic environment.

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Leading Forum
Lori Mazan is a distinguished 25-year executive coach who has provided tens of thousands of coaching sessions to today’s top leaders, from Fortune 100 CEOs to venture-backed startup executives. She’s the co-founder, president, and chief coaching officer of Sounding Board, Inc., and author of Leadership Revolution: The Future of Developing Dynamic Leaders.

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Leading Thoughts for November 23, 2023

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:


Anthony Iannarino on how to start practicing gratitude:

“One way to start a gratitude practice is to take an inventory of all things for which You should be grateful. Include every good thing you have now and good things you have had in the past, including the experiences you’ve had throughout your life. It is sometimes easier to make a list, as it challenges your mind to fill in the blanks. This list should include the people who have had a profound impact on your life. Or negativity bias has us constantly looking for what is wrong. An inventory of what you are grateful for can help you recognize what you have that is positive and worth being grateful for.”

Source: The Negativity Fast: Proven Techniques to Increase Positivity, Reduce Fear, and Boost Success


Brian Johnson on gratitude:

“As Tal Ben-Shahar tells us: “The word appreciate has tw0 meanings. The first meaning is to be thankful,’ the opposite of taking something for granted. The second meaning is ‘to increase in value’ (as money appreciates in the bank). Combined, these two meanings point to a truth that has been proved repeatedly in research on gratitude: when we appreciate the good in our lives, the good grows and we have more of it. The opposite, sadly, is also true: when we fail to appreciate the good—when we take the good in our lives for granted—the good depreciates.”

Source: Areté: Activate Your Heroic Potential

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Leading Thoughts Whats New in Leadership Books

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