Leadership Rules: 50 Timeless Lessons for Leaders

There are many leadership books in the  world, so many with feel good or superficial advice – Leadership Rules is not one of those. It offers sound and practical advice that can be implemented now – regardless of your leadership experience or position, both at work and in life. Below are some excerpts/paraphrasing for a discussion on leadership I lead. They illustrate the wisdom Jo Owen espouses in this easy to read book:

If you want to success, work out what you are really good at. Then make sure you find roles where you can play to your strengths. p4

The Leadership race:

  1. Starting out – New and aspiring leaders may not have much power or control, but at least they have clarity about what they do. To succeed, you have to show you have mastered your trade…
  2. Next – leadership becomes less about best technician and more about getting things done through other people; managing. Recognize the rules of the game have changed.
  3. Then – Managing people morphs into managing the organization and its politics: making alliances, doing deals, building trust, aligning agendas
  4. Finally – at the top, your authority and responsibility are more in balance and any ambiguity is entirely your own making. Leading from the top is easier than leading from the middle. Top leaders fail because they do not know how to handle their newfound freedom – they are either too timid or too bold. p7-8

You will be remembered as much for how you are as for what you do. p13

Wear a mask – What is the mask you want to present to the rest of the world? What you think and feel behind the mask is for you alone: let the world react to the mask. p23

Be ambitious and unreasonable (the art of leading is helping others stretch themselves, develop and live outside their comfort zone as well) – but help people get there:

  • Be unreasonable about the goal and stick to it
  • Be flexible about the means: don’t second guess your team
  • Support your team all the way: money and political support
  • Don’t be deflected by setbacks p31

A vision is a story in 3 parts:

  1. This is where we are
  2. This is where we are going
  3. This is how we are going to get there
  4. (Optional inspirational part) This is your very important role in helping us achieve the vision. p47-48

Dealing with conflict (it does not matter what your personal trick is for staying calm, as long as you have one and it works):

  • Focus on the outcome: do you want to win an argument or win an ally?
  • Remain positive: you will be remembered for how you behave
  • Listen and empathize: it is very hard for people to remain angry when they are being listened to
  • Only deal with the issue when the other side is calm and ready to listen
  • Avoid blame p59

Focus on the 1 or 2 things where you can make a difference to your firm and yourself. Two questions to help achieve focus:

  1. What am I doing that is relevant to bossesat leasttwo levels above me?
  2. What will I do this year that I will remember in 10 or 20 years time? p61-62

Get your way through cooperation rather than conflict. Conflict should be the last option. Use Sun Tsu’s advice for choosing battles for conflict (any choice for conflict should pass all 3 tests):

  • Only fight when there is a prize worth fighting for
  • Only fight when you know you will win
  • Only fight when there is no other way of achieving your goal p80

Leaders persuade each other by sitting down and talking the issues through face-to-face…So if you are trying to persuade a leader, do not focus on having the most credible presentation. Focus on having a credible conversation that is supported by executives the leader is known to trust. p92

To achieve leadership control, leaders need to do two things (Leading requires taking control actively rather than passively accepting your new role.):

  • Create their own vision.
  • Build a team that is willing and able to implement the vision. p117