Leadership (Stanford Leading Innovation notes)

Bob Sutton: 4 keys to successful leadership considerations (Good boss, bad boss):

  1. Be in tune with your people
  2. Assertiveness
  3. Employ a ‘small wins’ strategy
  4. Have their backs

Even the best leaders seem to have a ‘weird’ self obsession, even when viewed in a constructive way. They want to understand what it means to work for them (i.e. they’re honing their empathy).

As a leader, ‘it’s not all about you – except when it is:

  1. Accept, you get more credit and more blame than anyone else. 10-20% of the input (for the team) but 50% of the ‘response’.
  2. Attention is directed up. The people you lead watch you rather than you watch them.

Watch out for the toxic tandem – the people who lead don’t know much about their staff, but the staff sure know about management (clueless managers).

Managers have surefire ‘tells’ that staff read.

Linda Hudson (CEO BAE Systems): …people are always watching, your example, your tone, confidence, how you carry yourself

Bob Sutton: A member of a baboon troop glances at the alpha male every 20-30 seconds.

Effects of giving people power:

  1. Focus on their own needs and concerns
  2. Focus little attention on the needs of others
  3. Act like the rules don’t apply to them

Who takes the last cookie, eats with their mouth open, leaves more crumbs? The leader

Bob SuttonSome bosses live in a fool’s paradise (HBR blog item)

Diego Rodriguez: You need a suite of countermeasures:

  • People to give you honest counsel (out the limelight)
  • Stay mortal, display humility
  • Maintain the reality and illusion that you’re in control
  • David Kelly – when in a difficult situation. Ask 3 questions of others, then make the decision. Get perspectives and synthesise and decide yourself.
  • Balance of backstage (thinking) and frontstagen performance.
  • Learn to look happy while walking through the office – put things in perspective (on stage) to help maintain a positive environment

Mauria Finley: A ‘supportive hardass’. Does both way reference checks to share her quirks.


The best bosses are rated roughly average by followers on terms like competitive, aggressive, passive, and submissivethey are moderately assertive.

Push hard but not too hard

Bob Sutton: The best management is sometimes no management at all.  The managers of the most innovative teams:

  1. Devote less attention to their people
  2. Allow them to act without asking for permission first
  3. Don’t enforce rules as consistently as managers of less innovative teams

“After you plant a seed in the ground, you don’t dig it up every week to see how it is doing.” — 3M’s William Coyne

Perry Klebahn: When do I let the team struggle or intervene? If people are cooperating, listening, etc. Leave it. Exception being – decision-making (e.g. pick 3 ideas) (Sutton: Constraint is your friend)

Mauria Finley: Set rules for when you will micromanage (e.g. ‘When the boss’s boss takes a big interest, I may swoop in’).

Help people understand the structural things that may not work so well and encourage them to help come up with improvements over time

Small Wins. The progress principle

Work out the stepping stones  to Big Hairy Audacious Goals (BHAGs)

The best bosses frame what they do  as a series of manageable and  doable steps, which leads to better  decisions, sustains motivation, and  stops people from freaking out.

e.g. Use post it notes – What can we do to meet goals? Easy? Hard? Do easy, then attack hard in (say) 2 weeks

Mauria Finley: Keep linking the top-down and bottom-up goals while repeatedly painting the aspirational vision of why we’re here.

People tend to be big picture, or small picture. Help be the auto-correct between those modes.

Get people to build their own successful garden

Got their backs? The best bosses protect their people from harm, intrusions, distractions, indignities, idiots, and idiocy of every stripe.

Henry Mintzberg: Someone once defined a manager, half in jest, as someone who sees the visitors, so that everyone else can get the work done.

Perry Klebahn: Seek consistency, and instil pride in your people for what they do