10 Of The World’s Great Sages Share Their Most Important Leadership Advice

October 22, 2019

Over the past year, I’ve had the wonderful honor of interviewing thirty of the world’s most remarkable leadership authors, researchers, and professors – and have published these discussions on my “Lead From The Heart” podcast.

And for this post, I wanted to share what I personally believe are the ten most cutting-edge insights these noteworthy guests have shared so far.

As you read these, you’ll notice all ten ideas are direct quotes. They stand alone and can really be read in any order.  And while I’ve intentionally included podcast links in case any guest’s comments piques your interest, my goal here is to simply share the most profound leadership wisdom I took from all my conversations so far.

It’s my hope that you’ll find these gems of leadership thinking as striking and valuable as I do.

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  1. TOM PETERS: 

With the technological disruption that’s coming – and which could potentially eliminate millions of jobs – business has a moral obligation beyond anything it’s ever had before to support and develop and train the people who come to work for you.”

Legendary leadership author, Tom Peters says it’s really unclear how many human jobs artificial intelligence and other technologies will eliminate in the coming years, but where he finds no ambiguity is on who is most responsible for ensuring workers successfully adapt. Peters believes that no matter how large or small, businesses have a clear duty to help their workers prepare for what’s expected to be an unprecedented and imminent workplace upheaval.

“It’s a moral responsibility. And it’s really important to remember that business is what people do. The way I like to say it is that business is not part of the community; business is the community.” 

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2VnICWD

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2.     AMY EDMONDSON: 

One of the most common and unwise management practices in our workplaces today is the reliance (whether consciously or not) on fear and intimidation as a strategy for getting results. The neuro-psychology and other research on this is pretty clear; it doesn’t work.”

Harvard Business School professor Edmondson is the world’s expert on “Psychological Safety,” the quality that Google recently discovered characterizes all high-achieving teams.

And while her podcast interview is my most listened to episodes – specifically because of the discussion around psychological safety and her new book, “The Fearless Organization” – she offered a compelling explanation for why so many people continue to manage with fear.

At a very early age, most of us found that school was a fearful place. Not wanting to get in trouble with teachers or get our assignments wrong – our childhood behavior was driven by a lot by fear. And then, we’ve long had this meme around us that indicated ‘this is how bosses act.’  But today, many managers still haven’t yet connected to the truth – this isn’t the way any human being really performs well.”  

Podcast Link:   http://bit.ly/2E0ceU4

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3.   DR. JAMES DOTY: 

“When a human being feels as though they are being cared for and nurtured, their physiology works at its best.”

Stanford University Medical School professor – and world-class brain surgeon – Dr. James Doty asserts that our common workplace leadership practices are entirely misaligned to the preponderance of recent scientific discoveries which prove human beings perform best when they work for caring and supportive bosses. These kinds of leaders make employees feel safe and valued – and create environments where people know their voice matters and they won’t be judged.

“We hold up Silicon Valley companies as having the best workplace cultures, but as a physician I know their greatest expenditure of health care dollars is actually related to stress, anxiety and depression. Consequently, if I were in front a roomful of CEOs, I’d tell them what people really want in exchange for work is love.  Leaders who affect the hearts in people get the best results, and your companies will become far more successful once you embrace this.”

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2vW5aDG

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4. ASHLEY GOODALL:

 People thrive when they’re given productive and frequent attention.”

Author of the new best-seller, “Nine Lies About Work,” co-written with Marcus Buckingham, Goodall says the single most important management practice of all is regularly checking in with people.The frequency of interaction with people is the glue, and it requires leaders to make an unbreakable commitment to speaking with every direct report no less than once a week.”

Goodall says that managers needn’t have a firm agenda every time they meet with their people, and that conversations grow organically and naturally lean into the most important topics. The secret sauce of highly effective teams is that employees feel connected, valued, seen and heard by their boss. “And the predictability and ritual of these chats is what fulfills all four of these deeply human needs.”

And while most managers feel it’s their job to continually give employees performance feedback and direction, what people really want and need from you is simply your attention.

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2WJH3UC

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5.    LIZ WISEMAN

A ‘multiplier’ leader is someone who uses their own intelligence, capabilities, and talents in a way that amplifies the talents and intelligence of others. They’re leaders who we’re best around.”

As a senior leader at Oracle, Wiseman observed that all of her peers were intellectually smart people – but not all of them used their intelligence to better others. Her inevitable epiphany – which she later documented in her book, “Multipliers: How The Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” – was that the managers who used their intelligence to drain others – or even used it as a weapon – had the effect of diminishing people.

But multiplier leaders believe in the potential in people. They’re self-secure and other focused, and because of this, tend to draw out all of their employee’s capabilities and deliver results that consistently surpass expectations.” 

 Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2JlC1dE

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6.   TOMAS CHAMORRO-PREMUZIC: 

“There’s a pathological disconnect between the attributes that seduce us when hiring managers and those that are actually needed to be an effective leader.”

In his new book, “Why Do So Many Incompetent Men Become Leaders,” University College London and Columbia University professor, Tomas Chamorrow, says that when we select people for leadership roles, we too often get “seduced by people who are confident, charismatic and even narcissistic, when in fact what we should have are people who are competent and who have integrity and humility.”

Chamorrow taps into research which shows women leaders generally outperform men in all of the most important metrics today – but not because women have any God-given advantage. It’s because they more often employ a more feminine leadership style that’s proven to drive greater performance. They leverage traits men can and must adopt.

We can see the effects of hyper-masculine leadership; what we need today are managers who are more self-effacing, empathetic and altruistic – other-focused people who are good coaches and mentors.”

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2WEjFaJ

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7.    JIM HARTER:

Work and life are now blended more than they’ve ever been before because of technology and other advancements – and there are trade-offs that people now expect from that. I think this is forcing leaders to re-think their cultures, and to move from a culture of ‘boss’ to a culture of ‘coach.’”

As Gallup’s long-time Chief Research Scientist, and the co-author of the new book, “It’s The Manager,” Harter says past generations “kind of accepted that work was just a job. But new generations really expect something different. They’re more aware of what work can and should be which creates greater expectations upon leaders and organizations.  Science has taught us a lot about what work should be; the problem is management practices haven’t kept up with that.”

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2vYRszQ

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8.    KIM POWELL: 

“It’s not the big decisions that differentiate high-performing CEOs, it’s the volume and speed of their decisions. It’s about the speed rather than the precision on the hundreds of decisions they need to make.”

In her best-selling book, The CEO Next Door,” Powell says that only highly decisive people ever make it to the C-Suite. “And in our research, we saw this play out in two ways. One is about priorities and the other is about people decisions. These tend to be the places where many managers struggle to make high velocity choices. And if you’re not decisive like this, it’s like a virus that affects everyone around you.”

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/30pTCq2

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9.   DANIEL COYLE:

“We’ve always thought that trust had to come before vulnerability and we’ve got it backwards. It’s by being vulnerable that we create trust. Vulnerability sparks trust and triggers trust.”

The Culture Code author, Daniel Coyle spent four years researching the cultures at eight of the world’s most successful organizations — including the U.S. Navy’s Seal Team Six, global design firm IDEO and the five-time NBA champions San Antonio Spurs. And one of his key discoveries was that leaders who were willing to reveal personal weakness inspired far greater trust.

What social science has shown is that vulnerability, when it’s shared, creates closeness. People perform with more cohesion and cooperation. And as Navy Seal Dave Cooper said, ‘the most important words a leader can say are, ‘I screwed up.’”

Podcast Link:  http://bit.ly/2Hja5VJ

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10. FRANCESCA GINO:

“When I look at the data I collected, what you see – no matter what industry or job you’re looking at – are employees reporting that they feel pressured to follow very well-established norms and common practices. They’re frustrated by being unable to speak their minds, bring their ideas forward, or really change the status quo due to the fearfulness of their leaders.”

Harvard Business School professor Francesca Gino, author of “Rebel Talent: Why It Pays to Break the Rules at Work and in Life,” believes too many managers are conformists, and need to adapt a “rebel nature” by displaying far more curiosity and courage.

“If you were to ask most corporate leaders what kind of employees they really want in their organizations, you will get the same answers from everybody.  They want creative workers, innovative people who think out-of-the-box – who speak truth to power and who are always looking for better ways to get things done.  But this is what they say. When you look at their actions, they’re actually quite different.” 

Podcast Link: http://bit.ly/2VkfJus

Final Thoughts:

Someone once said that “big ideas are great, but we must put our big ideas into action if we’re to change the world.” Tied to this, it’s my hope that you’ll take all ten of these leadership insights and use them to not just change our workplaces — but to make them profoundly more human, nurturing and effective.

By Mark C. Crowley

Mark C. Crowley is the author of Lead From The Heart: Transformational Leadership For The 21st Century which is now being taught in 9 American Universities. He is a global speaker, leadership consultant and thought leader on the topics of workplace culture and employee engagement.