A Model for Effective Leadership

There must be more words generated on the topic of leadership than any other topic in business. Next to dieting (and maybe that other subject), it is the world’s largest self-help topic.

It’s also mostly practiced poorly. (Much like that sentence is constructed.)

If the drug producers produced a pill for effective leadership, its popularity would be a close second to the little blue pill.

It would be nice to dispense with the need for pills, endless blog posts and new shelves of books each year that say ostensibly the same thing. We need the e=mc2 for effective leadership. We need the unified theory of leadership and performance. We need something that connects behaviors with outcomes and that simplifies it to the level where everyone can readily grasp what it means to lead effectively.

Or, maybe we need the real acid test for character. The nightly news is filled with leaders from name brand firms that failed this test. It’s actually an easy test, but for too many, it’s tempting to cheat.

Note to everyone: character is critical when it comes to hiring. (And firing.)

Leading in Dangerous Situations:

I believe the closest we get to understanding what pure effective leadership looks like comes from studying those who lead in dangerous situations. Sadly, our century is filled with examples.

From firefighters running back into burning or collapsing buildings to warriors operating in the heat of a firefight with terrorists, there is a purity to these examples that we in business must be inspired to pursue and emulate.

The principles and behaviors of those leading in these difficult circumstances reflect:

  • Unyielding focus on mission
  • Unrelenting effort
  • Extreme competence in their roles
  • Trust earned by giving respect
  • Credibility earned one encounter at a time
  • Selflessness in pursuit of protecting others

Is it possible that a winning organization and team can be built around these same principles and behaviors?

I think so.

To our first responders and warriors, thank you for modeling the formula.

To the rest of us, is it really that hard to understand how to get this leadership thing right?

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Leadership Books by Art Petty




By |2017-05-15T16:54:18+00:00September 10th, 2016|Leadership|6 Comments

About the Author:

Art Petty is a coach, speaker and workshop presenter focusing on helping professionals and organizations learn to survive and thrive in an era of change. When he is not speaking, Art serves senior executives, business owners and high potential professionals as a coach and strategy advisor. Additionally, Art’s books are widely used in leadership development programs. To learn more or discuss a challenge, contact Art.


  1. Christine Urbanowski September 11, 2016 at 9:16 am - Reply

    Art, I have read many of your posts and always enjoyed them, but this one really summed up leadership for me. I just saw the movie Sully and thought of him and the many folks from harbor boat crews to emergency staff , police and fellow passengers who rose to the occasion during the Hudson River landing to ensure ALL lives were saved. As you mentioned, the folks who serve and protect, responding to crisis, are our best examples of true leaders. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Art Petty September 11, 2016 at 9:20 am - Reply

      Thanks Christine! The examples are there for all of us. It does not take more books or courses (and I write and teach!); all it takes is deliberate effort around the right behaviors. And thanks for the movie update! It is on my “must see” list. -Art

  2. Ed Cox September 11, 2016 at 2:03 pm - Reply

    Art, Your six principles and behaviors are perfectly exemplified in the movie “Sully” depicting the actions of Chesley Sullenberger as he piloted the A320 after a fatal bird strike into a “safe” forced water landing in the Hudson River in 2009.

    Unyielding focus on mission: flying the plane without power, calmly, competently, with no distractions.
    Unrelenting effort: Concentration while communicating with his first officer and the tower;
    Extreme competence in their roles: forty years of training and experience;
    Trust earned by giving respect: respecting his first officer’s ability to do his duty;
    Credibility earned one encounter at a time: Every take off and landing taught him the instincts he needed on that day;
    Selflessness in pursuit of protecting others: he had 155 souls on board and he did not rest until he knew all 155 were safe.

    • Art Petty September 11, 2016 at 3:17 pm - Reply

      Thanks Ed! That’s two votes here in the comments section for “Sully.” Can’t wait to see it! -Art

  3. […] Art Petty points out a “pure” leadership model, practiced by those who lead in dangerous situations: first responders and warriors. […]

  4. […] Petty shares A Model for Effective Leadership. We spend a lot of time and energy writing and reading about effective leadership, yet in many […]

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