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Learning Leadership Book Excerpts (Kouzes and Posner) by Ed Robinson

June 23, 2020



“The shortage of (exemplary) leaders is a result of three primary factors: demographic shifts, insufficient training and experiences, and the prevailing mindsets that discourage people from learning to lead.”

“Exemplary leaders strive to mightily deliver the best leadership in the world because they firmly believe their people deserve it.”

“More than 50 percent of young people want to become leaders in their organizations, although they don’t necessarily view organizations in a traditional way.  We know that they also seek challenging assignments and are willing to work hard but that their greatest fear is that there’s a lack of professional growth opportunity in too many of their organizations.”

Journaling has been shown to be one of the most effective learning tools and significantly helps you embed the learning you derive from each chapter.”


Part 1 – Learning Leadership Fundamentals


Chapter 1 – Leaders are Born and So Are You

“The question you should be asking yourself is not “Will I make a difference?” In becoming a better leader, the more demanding and significant question you should be asking is “How will I make the difference I want?”

“Asking. “Are leaders born or made?” is not a very productive question…The more useful question is “Can you, and those you work with, become better leaders than you are today?” The answer to that question is a resounding yes.”

Heidi Grant Halvorson – “…there’s a vast difference between being good and getting better.”

Leadership is not a talent that you have or don’t.  In fact, it is not a talent but an observable, learnable set of skills and abilities.  Leadership is distributed in the population like any other set of skills.”

“To become a better leader than you are right now, the first fundamental thing you have to do is believe you can be a better leader and that you can improve your leadership skills and abilities.”

“…you don’t have to be at the top to lead; you can lead from any direction.  Leadership is much more about what you do than it is about where you are sitting.”

“To become an exemplary leader, the second fundamental is that you have to aspire to excel.  You have to aim for something greater, dream of something better, and strive for something nobler than what exists right now.”

“We’ve consistently found that adversity and uncertainty characterize every personal best leadership experience.”

“…the third fundamental of becoming an exemplary leader is challenging yourself.  When confronting things they haven’t done before, people will often have to develop new skills and overcome existing weaknesses and limitations.  They make mistakes and may even feel incompetent.  If people built only on strengths, they would likely not challenge themselves or their organization.”

“Although there is certainly a great benefit to being confident in your abilities to handle challenging situations, the best leaders know they can’t do it alone.  They know they need the support, engagement, and commitment of others.”

  1. Anders Ericsson – “What actually differentiates the expert performers from the good performers is their dedication to doing something every day to improve…the fifth fundamental of becoming an exemplary leader is to practice deliberately.”

“Practice is the antecedent of learning.  The fundamental principle is that you have to put considerable effort into learning to lead to make leadership look effortless.”

“…Say aloud or silently to yourself, “I can become a better leader than I am today.” Tell that to yourself daily.  Make it a daily affirmation.” 

“…start a leadership journal that you regularly use as you travel along your leadership development journey.”


Chapter 2 – Leadership Makes A Difference

“Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance; everything else requires leadership.”

“A Gallup survey shows that 50 percent of people at some point in their careers have a left a job to get away from a manager.”

“…the best leaders bring out more than three times the amount of talent, energy, and motivation from their people compared with their counterparts at the other end of the spectrum.”

“Leadership has an impact on people’s commitment, their desire to stay or leave, their willingness to put forth more discretionary effort, and their inclination to take personal initiative and responsibility.”

“When it comes to leadership it is not about a leader’s personality; it is all about how that individual behaves as a leader.”

“The more you invest in making something special happen for others, the more attachment you feel to what you are doing and the organization you are involved with.”

“You have to know who you are – that’s essential – and you need to know what exemplary leaders do and how they think to become the best leader you can be.”

“The key empirical takeaway from our research is that effective leaders demonstrate exemplary leader behaviors more frequently than their less effective colleagues do.  Although people can differ in how they demonstrate each behavior, leaders must express them more frequently to increase the engagement and performance of their constituents.”


Chapter 3 – You Are Already Leading – Just Not Frequently Enough

5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership:

  1. Model the Way
    1. Clarify values by finding your voice and affirming shared values
    2. Set the example by aligning actions with shared values
  2. Inspire A Shared Vision
    1. Envision the future by imagining exciting and ennobling possibilities
    2. Enlist others in a common vision by appealing to shared aspirations
  3. Challenge the Process
    1. Search for opportunities by seizing the initiative and by looking for innovative ways to improve
    2. Experiment and take risks by constantly generating small wins and learning from experience
  4. Enable Others to Act
    1. Foster collaboration by building trust and facilitating relationships
    2. Strengthen others by increasing self-determination and developing competence
  5. Encourage the Heart
    1. Recognize contributions by showing appreciation for individual excellence
    2. Celebrate the values and victories by creating a spirit of community


Part 2 – Fundamental One: Believe You Can

The best leaders are the best learners.  They have a growth mindset.  They believe they are capable of learning and developing throughout their lives.”


Chapter 4 – You Have to Believe in Yourself

“Learning to lead is about discovering what you value, what inspires you, what challenges you, what gives you energy, and what encourages you.  When you discover these things about yourself, you’ll also know more about what it takes to lead those qualities out of others.”

When you look in your own mirror do you see a leader? Do you see someone who on the inside has the potential to become a leader – or be an even better one than you are today – or do you see someone not capable of leading or making any of these improvements?  What do you believe about yourself?”

“…before you can learn to lead, you have to believe you can.”

The very first voice of doubt is often the one inside you, and unless you believe in yourself and can deal with that self-doubt, it is unlikely that you’ll speak out, stand up, or step forward.”

“You have to trust yourself. You have to have confidence in yourself. You have to be convinced deep down that you have as much capacity to lead as anyone else you know.”

Robert Wood Johnson Study:

“Managers who believed that decision making was a skill that could be acquired set challenging goals for themselves – even in the face of difficult performance standards – used good problem-solving strategies, and fostered organizational productivity.  Their counterparts who didn’t believe they had the necessary decision-making ability, lost confidence in themselves as they encountered difficulties.  Over multiple trials they lowered their aspirations for the organization, their problem solving deteriorated, and organizational productivity declined.”

“…managers who lost confidence in their own judgments dealt with this by finding fault with others.”

“…you shouldn’t give in to your limitations or accept them as permanent.  When you doubt yourself, confront this feeling, and then do something to acquire the skills needed to handle a similar encounter in the future.  That’s the essence of learning…Your default belief needs to be that you can learn to lead.”

“No one can put leadership into you.  You have to bring it out of yourself.”


Chapter 5 – Learning Is the Master Skill

“Those who do what they already know how to do may have lots of experience, but after a while, they don’t get any better because they aren’t learning anything new.”

“We found that you could learn leadership in a variety of ways. Second, certain learning styles contribute to more effectiveness in some leadership practices than others do, but there is no one best style for learning everything there is to know about leadership. The style was not what led to achievement…It doesn’t matter how you learn. What matters most is that you do more of whatever learning tactic works best for you.”

To become the best at anything you need to learn continuously.”

“Less is not more when it comes to learning. More is more.”

Carol Dweck – “Individuals who have a growth mindset believe people can learn to be better leaders – that they are made not born…Those with a fixed mindset think that leaders are born and that no amount of training or experience is going to make them any better than they naturally are.”

“…researchers have found that when working on business problems those individuals with a fixed mindset gave up more quickly and performed more poorly than those with growth mindsets.  The same is true for kids in school, athletes on the playing field, teachers in the classroom, and partners in relationships.”

“If you believe that you can learn, it is significantly more likely that you will.  If you believe you can’t learn, it’s likely that you won’t.”


Chapter 6 – Leadership Emerges from Within

“Mastery of the art of leadership comes from mastery of the self…leadership development is self-development.”

“Authentic leadership flows from the inside out.”

“Inside out leadership is about discovering who you are, what compels you to do what you do, and what gives you credibility to lead others.  Inside out leadership is about becoming the author of your own story and the maker of your own history.  Inside out leadership is also the only way to respond to what your constituents most want from you.  And what is that?  What they what to know is who you genuinely are.”

People say they want to ask a new leader:

  • What do you stand for and believe in?
  • What is your style?
  • How do you make decisions?
  • What makes you think you can do this?
  • What makes you happy (or sad, frustrated, angry, etc.)?
  • What qualifies you for this job?
  • What have you done in the past?
  • What do you like to do with your free time?
  • To what extent, do you think people are trustworthy?

“Fundamentally, people want to know about you.  They want to know what inspires you, what drives you, what informs your decisions, what gives you strength, and what makes you who you are.”

“No one can put leadership into you.  It is already there.  You have to go find it inside of you and bring it out.”

The Three Periods of Self-Development

  1. Looking out
  2. Looking In
  3. Finding your true voice

“When first learning to lead, you paint what you see on the outside of yourself – the exterior landscape.  You read biographies and autobiographies about famous leaders.  You observe what well-respected or famous leaders do, and ask the advice of mentors…you do all of this to learn the fundamentals and to acquire the tools and techniques others have learned from their experience.”

“When you look inside…you ask does this fit right for you? In those moments, you begin to stare into the darkness of your inner territory and wonder what lies inside.  You say to yourself, “I’m not someone else.  I’m a unique human being.  But who exactly am I? What is my true voice.”

“…unless it’s your words, and your style, then it’s not really you; it’s just an act: you pretending to be you.”

“You cannot lead out of someone else’s experience.  You can only lead out of your own.”

“…to lead others, you have to learn about yourself.  After all, if you are to speak out, you have to know what to speak out about, and if you are to stand up for your beliefs, you have to know the beliefs you stand for. To do what you say, you have to know what you want to say.  Authentic leadership cannot come from outside in.  It comes from the inside out.”


Part 3 – Fundamental Two: Aspire to Excel

 “Top-performing leaders don’t focus on making money, getting a promotion, or being famous.  They want to lead because they care deeply about the mission and people they are serving.”

“Leadership is not just about you and about realizing only your values and vision.  It’s more about helping others realize theirs.”


Chapter 7– You Have to Know What’s Important to You

“The leaders people admire, whether public figures or personal acquaintances are those who have strong beliefs about matters of principle, an unwavering commitment to a clear set of values, and passion about their causes.”

“It’s easier to stay on the path you’ve chosen when you are clear about the signposts that will keep you oriented, or those that will be tangents and even likely dead ends.”

“When direct reports strongly felt that their leaders were clear about their values and leadership philosophy, they, in turn, responded significantly more favorably to questions about their own sense of team spirit, pride in the organization, commitment to the organization’s success, and willingness to work extra hard to meet organizational objectives.”

“…those who lead primarily from values-based motivations, which are inherently internal, outperform those who lead with additional instrumental outcomes and rewards.”

“Success seems to follow those who engage in something because the endeavor has intrinsic value in itself and not because of the extrinsic rewards that will come from doing it.”


Chapter 8 – Who You Are Isn’t Who You Will Be

“…the ability to imagine exciting future possibilities is also a defining competence of leaders.”

“If you’re not thinking about what’s happening after the completion of your longest-term project, then you’re only thinking as long term as everyone else.”

“Being reactive only gets you back to the status quo; being proactive is what gets you ahead.”

“Another crucial question to ask is “What’s better?” What’s better than what you (personally or organizationally) are now doing or anticipate doing in the future?”

Two Challenges to Being Forward Looking:

  1. Younger employees, as well as those with limited work experience, don’t place as much importance on the quality of forward-looking as do their older and more experienced colleagues.
  2. People report that they’re not good at or comfortable with envisioning the future or enlisting others as they are with other leadership practices

“As counterintuitive as it might seem, the best place to start creating the future is being more mindful in the present…To increase your ability to conceive of new and creative solutions to today’s problems, you have to stop, look, and listen.”

“You have to stop “doing” for some amount of time each day.  Create some white space on your calendar.”

“The best leaders are and have been those who are the keenest observers of the human condition.”

“And no matter how well things may be going, leaders believe that they could be even better. Most often they fix things before they break.”

“The pioneers in any endeavor have no maps to study, no guidebooks to read, and no pictures to view. They can only imagine possibilities.”


Chapter 9 – It’s Not Just About You

“There can’t be any leaders if there aren’t any followers.  If you are marching forward toward a future destination and you turn around and notice that no one is there, then you are just out for a stroll.  Leadership is fundamentally a relationship between those who would aspire to lead and those who choose to follow, and if no one is following you, then there is no relationship there.”

“…to become the best leader you can be, you have to know deep down what others want and need.  You have to understand their hopes, their dreams, their needs, and their interests.  You have to know your constituents, and you have to relate to them in ways they will find engaging.”

“…what you can be sure of is that everyone wants a tomorrow that is better than today.  They don’t necessarily all want the same thing, but they all want it to be an improvement.”

“Although it’s not true of every millennial, most rank work-life balance ahead of status and money.  Their boomer parents on the other hand, rated work ahead of family.”

“People want a meaningful purpose, not simply do some work for cash.  If you want to lead others, you have to put principles and purpose ahead of everything.”

“Meaningful work is vital to engagement…Employees who derive meaning and significance from their work were more than three times as likely to stay with their organizations.  These employees also reported 1.7 times higher job satisfaction and they were 1.4 times more engaged at work.”

“Research also shows that viewing your work as a calling as compared to seeing it as a job or career leads to the highest levels of satisfaction with both your work and your life.”

Questions You Should Ask About the People Who Are Your Key Relationships


Part 4 – Fundamental Three: Challenge Yourself

“You have to be curious, taking the initiative to try new things and experimenting with novel ideas and new ways of doing things.  And when you do so, you are inevitably going to make mistakes and fail.  The key is drawing lessons from the experience and repeating the cycle of learning.”


Chapter 10 – Challenge Is Your Leadership Training Ground

Kaily Adair – “…challenge is the crucible for greatness.”

“To become a better leader you need to step out of your comfort zone.  You have to challenge the conventional ways of doing things and search for opportunities to innovate…Growth is always at the edges, just outside the boundaries of where you are right now.”

“According to Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, the best moments in our lives are not passive, receptive, relaxing times…the best moments usually occur when a person’s body or mind is stretched to its limits in a voluntary effort to accomplish something difficult and worthwhile.”

“If you are going to learn to lead, then you need to be restless when it comes to the status quo, adopt the leadership attitude of looking for opportunities to challenge your skills and abilities, and be willing to experiment.”

Randy Pausch – “The brick walls are there for a reason.  They are not there to keep us out.  The brick walls are there to give us a chance to show how badly we want something.”

Warren Bennis – “Leaders learn by leading, and they learn best by leading in the face of obstacles.”

“The only way you can learn is when you are doing things you’ve never done before. If you do only what you already know how to do, then you will never develop new skills and competencies, nor develop the confidence that comes with increased competence.”

“When doing something new, performance almost always goes down before it goes up – and if it doesn’t go down, then you are only doing something you already know how to do.”

“The real issue is how fast can you learn. How quickly can you learn from your mistakes and failures before you get it right?”

Failures and disappointments are inevitable in learning and life.  How you handle them will ultimately determine your effectiveness and success.  You have to be honest with yourself and others.  You have to own up to your mistakes and reflect on your experiences so that you gain the learning necessary to be better the next time around.”

“Stretching yourself and facing new challenges isn’t something to check off your list.  It’s something to keep doing continuously to improve and grow.”


Chapter 11 – Get Curious and Go Kick The Ball Around

 “Open-ended questions get people talking whereas close-ended ones shut down conversations and unnecessarily narrow them.”

Questions send people on journeys in their minds.  Knowing what to ask and how to ask it are critical skills for leaders and learners.”

“When you are curious about things that are outside of your regular affairs, and when you start asking questions, what you learn often becomes the catalyst for change and opens up new possibilities.”

“Try something new, fail, learn.  This phrase should be one of your leadership mantras.”


Chapter 12 – Get Gritty and Stay Hardy

“Knowing what you want and wanting it intensely are two essential elements in the formula for success in learning, leadership, and life.  There’s yet another vital component, and that’s persistence.”

Angela Duckworth – “Grit is sticking with your future, day in, day out, not just for the week, not just for the month, but also for years, and working really hard to make that future a reality.”

“…just because you have talent for something isn’t a guarantee you’ll become great at it.  To do that, you need to get gritty.”

“Psychologists, intrigued by people who experience a high degree of stress and yet can cope with it positively, discovered that such individuals have a distinctive attitude toward stress, which they call “psychological hardiness.” Hardiness is a pattern of attitudes and skills that enable people to respond adaptively under high-stress conditions.

Three fundamental beliefs to becoming hardy: commitment, control, and challenge.

  • To turn adversity into advantage, first, you need to commit yourself to what’s happening;
  • You also need to take control of your life. You need to make an effort to influence what’s going on;
  • You need to view the challenges as an opportunity to learn from both negative and positive experiences. You can’t play it safe.

“Together grit and hardiness make you resilient.  They enable you to recover quickly from difficult circumstances.” 

“People often describe resilience as bouncing back after being knocked down by the stuff life throws at you, but from a learning perspective, it’s more about bouncing forward.”

Martin Seligman – “We discovered that people who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local, and changeable.  People who are resilient, even in times of great stress and adversity, remain committed to moving forward by believing that what has happened isn’t going to be permanent and that they can do something about the outcome.”

“…there is a very real human tendency to focus on the negative, instead picture the lessons you learned and how much forward progress you made.  Negativity can quickly become pervasive and contagious.  It can stifle performance.”

Barbara Frederickson – “When people experience positive emotions their minds stretch, their worldview expands, and they are open to new possibilities.”

“Research also shows that people who are positive and optimistic experience significant health benefits; they live longer; have better coping skills for dealing with hardships and stress, and have lower rates of depression and cardiovascular disease.”


Chapter 13 – Courage Gives You the Strength to Grow

The ability to face adversity without being overcome by fear is courage.  Like grit, it involves the capacity to persist under extremely challenging circumstances but includes the additional element of fear.  Not everything that requires grit requires courage, but everything that requires courage also requires grit.  Courage is not about being fearless so much as it is about being able to control your fear.”

“When you remind yourself why you are doing something challenging – when you can find meaning in the hard work and energy required to make change – your brain will see the situation more as a motivator than a source of stress.”

Maria Eitel – “Courage, is not about a single moment but is a sequence of moments where you have to keep drawing from a reservoir of courage that is surrounded by a pool of fear.  You have to keep tapping it and tapping it day by day, moment by moment, and not let fear overtake you.”

“Ultimately what takes courage and what does not, is a very personal decision. It’s not for you to decide for someone else whether something is courageous.”

Margie Warrell – “people’s brains are wired to overestimate risk, exaggerate the consequences, and underestimate their ability to handle it.  Fear can drive you to play it safe, avoid change, and settle for less than you know is not only possible but also necessary.”

“Positive learning experiences share common elements with personal-best leadership experiences.  And they share these same elements with moments of courage.  Two of those common elements are fear and uncertainty…There’s something else that personal-best leadership experiences and positive learning experiences share.  They both involve something meaningful to the learner.”

“When you encounter uncertainty or adversity, it can arouse fear.  In those moments, you do a quick internal check and ask yourself, “Do I care deeply about this?  Is it important to me? If you can say “yes and here’s why,” you’re going to be much more likely to take initiative to overcome your fear and push through.”


Part 5 – Engage Support

The top performers in every endeavor, including leaders, all seek out support, advice, and the counsel of others…In learning to become an exemplary leader, you need to get connected.  You need those connections to be strong and close.  You need them to be personal, not just transactional.”


Chapter 14 – I Couldn’t Have Done It Without You

“The best performers in all fields know that they make extraordinary things happen alone…Leadership requires collaboration, and so does learning.”

‘Social support is a necessary condition for growth and development, particularly when that learning is challenging.”

“According to Gallup, the single most important thing you can do to ensure your future success is to find someone who has an interest in your development.”

“When seeking advice from others, the point is not to get someone else to do your work.  The point is to get help to learn.”

“Researchers have found that people minimize the probability of someone helping them out when asked…people underestimated by as much as 50 percent the likelihood that someone else would agree to a direct request for help…Most people are happy to help.”

“…don’t worry about other people thinking less of you if you seek advice. In fact, just the opposite is true…As long as the task is difficult, you make the request personally, and you ask for advice from someone who is competent in that area, your request for advice strengthens the perception that you know what you are doing.”

Your capacity to be empathetic goes a long way in your ability to garner assistance and support from other people…Understanding and sharing the feelings of others enables you to interpret people’s viewpoints effectively.”

“Highly empathetic people challenge their own preconceptions and prejudices by searching for what they share with others rather than what divides them and by gaining firsthand experiences with how other people live and work.”


Chapter 15 – Get Connected

How did you learn to lead?   The first category is trial and error.  There is no substitute for learning by doing, especially doing things that challenge you…The second most frequently mentioned way in which individuals learn is from people. Not only do you need other people’s support…but you also need to discover the lessons experienced teachers can teach you.”

“Humans are social animals and hardwired to connect.  Survival and growth depends on it.”

“People will do extraordinary things for one another, and you need both to build and tap into this urge to form social networks.  The more connections and relationships you have, the more access you’ll have to richer and more diverse sources of information and knowledge…”

“Your ability to cultivate intimacy with others increasingly becomes a significant factor in your personal and professional development.”

“The quality of your relationships significantly influences the quality of your learning.”

“The people with whom you connect should be people who care about you and are interested in your betterment.”

“People become the leaders they observe.  If you want to become an exemplary leader, you have to watch and study exemplary leaders…Modeling is the first step in developing competencies.”

“For people younger than 30 years of age, the top three categories of leader role models are family member, teacher or coach, and community or religious leader.  For individuals older than 30, the top three categories are family member, business leader (usually an early career supervisor), and then teacher or coach.”

“…your role models don’t need to be exemplary at every leadership behavior; that would be a tall order to fill.  Focus on one or two skills you want to learn, and look for an individual who’s good at those.”


Chapter 16 – Without Feedback You Cannot Grow

“…time and time again people respond to surveys indicating that they are above average regardless of the skill and competence examined…studies show a fairly low correlation between people’s self-evaluations and objective assessments of their work-related skills.”

“Favorable self-perceptions may be good for self-esteem, but they aren’t very useful when it comes to improving skills and abilities.”

Valid and useful feedback is essential to learning.  Learning cannot happen without knowing how you are doing and without identifying what you need to change to improve.”

“The problem is that people don’t want feedback, don’t ask for feedback, and don’t get much of it unless it forced on them.”

A major reason people, and especially those in leadership positions, aren’t proactive in asking for feedback is they are afraid of feeling exposed – exposed as not being perfect, as not knowing everything, as not being as good at leadership as they should be, and as not being up to the task.”

“…the feedback process strikes at the tension between two fundamental human needs – the need to learn and grow and the need to be accepted just the way you are.”

Jack Zenger and Joseph Folkman – “while people believe constructive criticism is essential to their career development, people frequently don’t feel comfortable offering it.  They also report that those individuals who are most uncomfortable giving negative feedback are also significantly less interested, in turn, in receiving it from others.”

“With a growth mindset, feedback becomes information that is an integral part of learning.”

“Of course, not all feedback you receive will be negative.  You also want to know what you are doing well so that you can build on your strengths.”

“…you need to send an affirming message to those from whom you’d like feedback.  You have to let them know that you see it as essential to your growth and development, that you value their input, and that you appreciate their willingness to share their observations and perceptions with you.”

“…most likely you’re going to seek feedback from people you trust.  The same goes for others.  They are much more likely to be open and honest with you if they trust you.  It’s a reciprocal process.”

“Building trust means not making commitments you can’t keep.  It requires not overpromising regardless of how much you wish you could do something.”

“Building trust requires a willingness to believe in the goodwill and intentions of others.  It also means that on those occasions when someone lets you down and disappoints you, you exercise the grace to let him or her know that everyone is human and makes mistakes.”

‘If you want genuine feedback about how you’re doing you’re going to have to be the first to ask for it.”

“To stay honest with yourself you need loving critics – people who care about you and want you to do well; and because they care about your well-being, they are willing to give the sort of feedback you need to become the best leader you can be.”


Part 6 – Practice Deliberately

“Being an exemplary leader requires a lifelong, daily commitment to learning…You have to commit to the habit of learning something new every day and the habit of assessing your progress every day.”


Chapter 17 – Leadership Takes Practice, and Practice Takes Time

“Researchers studying some of the most talented people in history have found that not a single individual produced incredible work without putting in many years of practice.”

“Not all practice makes perfect.  You need a particular kind of practice – deliberate practice – to develop expertise.”

“Deep learning just doesn’t happen without intentionality and intensity.”

What does it mean to practice deliberately?

  1. You need to engage in activities specifically designed to improve your performance.
  2. Practice is not a one-time event…It has to be done over and over again until it’s automatic.
  3. Although there may come a time when you’ve accomplished enough to assess your own performance, you need a coach, mentor, or some other third party to help analyze how you did.
  4. Practice takes time.

“What keeps the top performers going during often grueling practice sessions is not the enjoyment that they are having but the knowledge that they are improving and getting closer to their dream of superior performance.”

George Leonard – “We all aspire to mastery, but the path is always long and sometimes rocky, and it promises no quick and easy payoffs.”

“Mastery is about how you use your time to maximize your potential and learn your craft.  That’s why you have to turn your workplace into a practice field, developing practice routines you can engage in during the regular hours you work.”

“You begin by setting a purposeful stretch goal.”

“You should not be on autopilot during practice.  You need to concentrate. Stay focused; use the technique you are experimenting with substantively. Although it might feel a little awkward, the point is to stick with the routine until it becomes second nature.”

“If you want to be the best leader you can be, you will have to attend to your weaknesses. You can’t delegate or assign to others those leadership behaviors you aren’t comfortable doing.  If you do, you’ll only get as good as your weakest skill.”

“When you begin learning to be a better leader, you don’t need to start with the most difficult, scariest, or most challenging behavior or skill.  Get started by making progress on something you think you can improve if you put your mind to it and are willing to practice deliberately.”

“The mantra of the twenty-first-century learner is this: “No Matter how good I am, I can always get better.”


Chapter 18 – Context Matters 

“When the environment in which people live and work provides the essential conditions and support for growth and development, people thrive.  When the conditions are poor, and the support is lacking, people struggle and seldom reach their full potential.”

Ellen Langer – “If you want to gain control over your life, the first step is to ask who controls the context.  Then find ways to generate the kind of context that will help you do the things you want to do.  By being aware of the context, and making more mindful choices about it, you can become the master of your fate.”

“When applied to the workplace, context is often talked about as the organizational culture

Three Levels of Organizational Culture:

  1. Artifacts (things you see): structures, processes, and observed behavior
  2. Espoused Beliefs and values: ideals, aspirations, and ideologies organizational leaders champion
  3. Underlying, Taken for Granted Beliefs and Values that are not expressed overtly in speech or text

“The most frequently occurring word that characterized a culture of leadership was trust.”

“Organizations with a culture of leadership are fanatical about making learning a priority and providing a variety of systematic opportunities for learning… offer many formal and informal opportunities for developing their people, such as classroom-based learning programs, online learning options, external seminars, as well as mentoring and coaching.”

“In cultures that develop exemplary leaders, there’s not only tolerance for risk but also support and encouragement to experiment.”

“Organizations that encourage innovation also provide time for working on projects outside of formal responsibilities which can increase people’s capabilities.”

“…models of exemplary leadership are needed.  You have to be able to see exemplary leadership in action to learn to produce it yourself.”

“In addition to reflecting on your own personal best leadership experience, think about all the best leaders you have known.  Seek them out and ask them to share their learning journeys…”


Chapter 19 – Learning leadership Must Be a Daily Habit  

Jim Whittaker – “It’s about making the most of every moment, about stretching your boundaries, about being willing to learn constantly, and putting yourself in situations where learning is possible – sometimes even critical to your survival.  Being out on the edge, with everything at risk, is where you learn and grow the most.”

“The first step up that mountain to becoming the best leader you can be is taking charge of your leadership development.”

“The most meaningful and important way you can take charge of your learning and becoming your best self is to make learning to become a better leader a daily habit.”

Greatness is not the exclusive domain of the talented.  Greatness is the result of visionaries who persevere, focus, believe, and prepare.  It is a habit, not a birthright.”

Lewis Howes – “Here’s the thing about positive habits: it isn’t that important which habits you practice, as long as they are beneficial and they work for you.  What matters is that you commit to them. And that you do them every day.”

Charles Duhigg – “Habit formation happens in a three-step loop.  First, there is the cue, a trigger that tells your brain to go into automatic mode and which habit to use.  Then there’s the routine, which can be physical, mental, or emotional.  Finally, there is a reward, which helps your brain figure out if this particular reward is worth remembering for the future.”

Duhigg – “You can’t extinguish a bad habit, you can only change it.”

Gretchen Rubin – “Habits are the invisible architecture of our own daily life.  We repeat 40 percent of our behavior almost daily, so our habits shape our existence and our future.  If we change our habits, we change our lives.”

“Researchers have found that what makes people feel motivated at work is that they make daily progress, even a little progress, on meaningful work.”

Marshall Goldsmith and Mark Reiter – “…asking active questions each day is a magic move.  It’s a very simple, yet powerful, way to review how you’ve done each day on keeping your commitments to do something to be a better leader…the act of self-questioning – so simple, so misunderstood, so infrequently pursued – changes everything… start the question with “Did I do my best to…followed by whatever action you intend to take…”

“Although change is the work of leaders, when implementing change leaders can lose sight of the fact that the only person’s behavior anyone can control is his or her own.”

5 Active Learning Leadership Questions:

  1. Did I do my best to remain positive about my abilities today?
  2. Did I do my best to focus on exciting future possibilities today?
  3. Did I do my best to challenge and stretch myself today?
  4. Did I do my best to learn from other people today?
  5. Did I do my best to practice a new leadership skill today?


Part 7 – Commit to Becoming the Best

“…Small acts accumulate and provide momentum. You have to freely choose the actions you take, go public with your choices, and then make sure not to reverse course.”

“…Making extraordinary things happen requires extraordinary effort.  There’s a tremendous payoff if you are willing to pay the price.  Be prepared to make sacrifices and even suffer at times if you aspire to exemplary…To become the best leader, you must be positive and hopeful about your future.”


Chapter 20 – It’s Not How You Start; It’s How You Finish

“You have to aspire to excel.  You need a set of values and a vision that are greater than you are, and you need to think long-term.  You have to challenge yourself to go beyond your current level of performance and experiment with new and different ways of doing things…You have to engage in support to learn and grow…Finally, you have to practice deliberately.”

Teresa Amabile and Steven Kramer – “If a person is motivated and happy at the end of the workday, it’s a good bet that he or she made some progress.  If a person drags out of the office disengaged and joyless, a setback is most likely to blame…”

“The work has to matter to you so that progress feels meaningful.  Making headway on stuff that you don’t care about doesn’t increase your motivation, engagement, or sense of fulfillment.”

“Success comes from taking regular small steps forward, and disappointment is more likely to occur when you attempt giant leaps.”

3 Things You Need to do to Sustain Commitment:

    1. Make Free and Informed Choices – people believe if they do the choosing, their chances of winning are greater than if someone else does the choosing.
    2. Make Your Choices Visible to Others – by announcing your choices to others and by making subsequent actions visible you offer tangible, undeniable evidence of your commitment to the cause.
    3. Make Your Choices Hard to Revoke – choices that are hard to change increase your investment in the decision and the follow-through.  Choices that are easy to reverse are taken lightly; ones that are difficult to undo are treated very seriously.”


“Leaders find ways to own, not just rent, decisions.”

“The research clearly shows that people expect their leaders to be inspiring, upbeat, and energetic.”

Charles (Rick) Snyder – “Hope is the sum of mental willpower and waypower that you have for your goals.”

3 Essential Ingredients of Hope:

  1. You have to have a goal – something you want to attain and obtain
  2. You have to have the willpower – the reservoir of determination
  3. You have to have the waypower – mental plans or roadmaps that guide hopeful thought to get you to your goals whatever the obstacles that you might face.

‘People with high hopes are not Pollyannas. They are not blind to the realities of the present.  If something isn’t working or if current methods aren’t effective, they don’t ignore it, cross their fingers or just redouble their efforts.  They assess the situation and find new ways to reach their goals.”

Charles (Rick) Snyder – ‘Hope is a learned way of thinking about oneself in relation to goals.  You can learn to be full of hope, just as you can learn to lead.”