25 Rules for Leaders

Linda Tischler. FAST COMPANY.  April 30, 2002


Leadership. Innovation. Work. Brand. Technology.

Fast Company’s flagship event centered around those themes for three days of real learning and just-in-time inspiration last week in San Diego. The roster of RealTime speakers included an Irish grocer, a socially responsible potter, and a pediatric physician, among others — distinct characters who all shared one common message: This is your time to lead!

In calling Fast Company readers to lead change at work and at home, RealTime speakers shared their ideas about the state of business, the power of people, and the future of innovation. Here are 25 of the smartest insights that we took away from the event.

1. Audit Your Company Cultures “Companies don’t have one culture. They have as many as they have supervisors or managers. You want to build a strong culture? Hold every manager accountable for the culture that he or she builds.” –Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

2. Informed People Don’t Fear Change “People are not afraid of change. They fear the unknown.” –Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

3. Beware “Aspirational Accounting” “Enron has changed things significantly. You used to be able to buy a company, account for it in bizarre ways, and make money on the sale. That world is over.” –Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

4. Empower Your People — Turn Them Loose “Freedom is the greatest when the ground rules are clear. Chalk out the playing field and say, Within those lines, make any decisions you need.” –Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

5. Prevent Erosion of Human Assets “We are systematically depreciating our human capital. For most people, the first year with the company is the best. It’s downhill from there.” –Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

6. Be Generous With What You Know “Knowledge sharing is the basis of everything. Share knowledge with reckless abandon.” –Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo

7. Expand Your Roster “Think of your team as not just the people you pay, but as the people who pay you as well.” –Feargal Quinn, executive chairman of Superquinn

8. Don’t Judge a Man by the Size of His Wallet “The only thing wrong with poor people is that they don’t have any money. That’s a curable condition.” –Bill Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center

9. Harness Your Skills for Good “Technology has enormous potential to facilitate public-health problem solving. Marcus Welby needs you guys.” –Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and cofounder of the Children’s Health Fund and president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

10. Groom Your People for Success “Weakness fixing might prevent failure, but strength building leads to excellence. Focus on strength, and manage around weaknesses.” –Marcus Buckingham, coauthor of First, Break All the Rules and Now, Discover Your Strengths

11. Promote Brand Awareness Throughout Your Enterprise “Everybody throughout the enterprise should know what the brand can and cannot do. There’s an imperative for education.” –Jim Goodwin, vice president of marketing at the Absolut Spirits Co.

12. Embrace Imperfection — Fast! “Beware of perfect people. They will never propel your enterprise to greatness. They’re too cautious. You’ve got to be fast to be good.” –Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

13. Don’t Let the Venture Capitalists Get You Down “Revolutionary change is where real value is created. Don’t assume the capital markets know what the hell they’re doing. The VC market is currently in more disarray than most companies.” –Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

14. Allow Yourself to Dream “Dreams are maps. The ability to think about the future is what drives us all to attain.” –Dr. Irwin Redlener, president and cofounder of the Children’s Health Fund and president of the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore

15. Increase Your Net Worth “Networking is sharing your contacts with others to create value without the expectation of compensation. Your network is your net worth.” –Tim Sanders, chief solutions officer at Yahoo

16. Use Every Teachable Moment “Every time you give somebody compensation, it’s a great time to give feedback.” –Dick Brown, chairman and CEO of EDS

17. Shine Some Hope “If you want to work with people who have no hope, you have to look like the solution and not the problem.” –Bill Strickland, president and CEO of the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild and the Bidwell Training Center

18. Set a New Standard of Performance “We need to get beyond the single bottom line and measure a company’s performance by a triple bottom line. Financial profits alone aren’t enough. The results also need to be good for people and for the environment.” –Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

19. Laugh at Yourself “Just when you think the sun shines out of your butt, all you have is an illuminated landing area.” –Nolan Bushnell, founder, chairman, and CEO of uWink Inc.

20. Get Up, Stand Up “YCDBSOYA: You can’t do business sitting on your armchair.” –Feargal Quinn, executive chairman of Superquinn

21. Stop Whining — Start Seeking “In these times, it’s important to find the opportunities in the disruptions rather than just to lament the change.” –Rob Glaser, chairman and CEO of RealNetworks Inc.

22. Leaders: Move It or Lose It “Managers consistently delude themselves about how much good they’re doing. The oath for managers should be the same as physicians: First do no harm. ” –Robert Sutton, professor of management science and engineering at Stanford University

23. Be Honest “The same thing you want from management is what customers want from you: honest communication. Be honest with your customers; tell them everything you know.” –Bonnie Reitz, vice president of sales and distribution at Continental Airlines

24. Don’t Stretch This Rule “When you start thinking about growing your brand, be sure not to ignore the Spandex rule: Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.” –Scott Bedbury, CEO of Brandstream

25. What’s Your Bottom Line? “People over 65 were asked, ‘If you could live your life over, what would you do differently?’ They said three things: ‘I’d take time to stop and ask the big questions. I’d be more courageous and take more risks in work and love. I’d try to live with purpose — to make a difference.’ You don’t have to be an elder to ask, What’s my own bottom line?”


6 Signs You’re Not Fit to Lead

 Brian Evje  |Inc  |Nov 28, 2012

Leadership isn’t forever. Here are six signs it’s time to step down.



Many leaders remain in power unless a clear mistake derails their tenure. Yet, many leaders also struggle with remaining fully committed to the challenges of leadership. They owe it to themselves, and to their organizations, to honestly determine when their particular role as leader has run its course and to take action.

Here are six patterns that signal it is time to move on.

You can’t or won’t fire your friends.

This is most prevalent in start-ups, family-owned businesses, or closely held companies. A group of co-founders may select one member to become CEO, and over time that person may not be able to replace colleagues who are ill-suited to their growing roles. In a family-run business, hiring and promotions are used as tools to maintain family harmony, or to appease a relative who has invested capital.

An extreme case is News Corporation, founded and ruled by Rupert Murdoch. He dares shareholders to sell if they object to his preference for running the company as if he were presiding over a raucous dining-room table filled with his children and assorted flatterers.

You don’t need to run a global media empire to fall into this trap. If you can’t do what is best for the shared purpose by making realistic, objective, and discerning decisions about hiring, promoting, reassigning, and even firing those closest to you, you are not fit to lead.

Even if you are unaware of this blind spot, others in the company will see your behavior for what it is: favoritism, fickleness, or careless leadership.

You disengage from responsibilities or the peripheries of your organization.

Every leader prefers certain responsibilities over others, and sometimes it can be easy for a leader to turn a blind eye to the unpleasant tasks in favor of more appealing activities. But consider the cost of not leading the whole organization.

Have you stopped looking into the peripheral corners of your role? Are you deflecting difficult discussions or confrontations with a direct report, team, partner, or customer?

Leadership requires embracing whole situations, not selective components. The organization may need you to confront the exact person or thing you are avoiding. If you can’t do it, the organization needs someone who will.

You believe you are indispensable.

A leader who is “indispensable” is presiding over an organization incapable of looking after itself. An indispensable leader has enabled the highest form of organization dependency and dysfunction. That is not something to brag about. If you believe you are irreplaceable, you should examine exactly what kind of work you have been engaged in and consider replacing yourself.

Your inner circle stops telling you the truth…because you stop asking.

Leading inside a bubble is a common and dangerous dynamic. The human tendency is to automatically believe in our own positions, abilities, and decisions, and to rely too heavily on our own point of view. Leaders need to press others to provide contrary perspectives. This only happens when a leader insists upon it and provides a safe environment to voice dissenting opinions.

As a leader, if you don’t challenge others to challenge you, the odds are that they won’t. If you stop asking others to tell you the truth, they will simply tell you what you want to hear.

You do not take responsibility for negative actions of the company.

Rupert Murdoch, again, proves useful. At the height of the London phone-hacking scandal involving one of his newspapers, Murdoch was asked by a government committee whether he was ultimately accountable for those in his employ. He said no; those who engaged in the dubious conduct bore sole responsibility, and it had little to do with him.

While empirically true (after all, we are each responsible for our actions), Murdoch missed the invaluable point. A leader must take the final blame in bad times, because he is looked to as the guiding force during good times. Not even Murdoch can have it both ways. If you are unable to take all of the responsibility, it is time for someone who will.

You fail themiddle-of-the-night test.

In the middle of the night when you wake up to go to the bathroom, take a quick look in the mirror. At that moment, no one cares about your job title, your wealth, or your accomplishments.

In the darkness and quiet, you will glimpse your leadership in the reflection because you will see yourself in vulnerable solitude. What does the reflection say?

That you are earnestly striving to learn, grow, and be worthy of leadership? Or that your heart is not in the journey and that it is time to move on?

Life is too short to ignore either answer. So act.