It’s a fascinating time to study leaders.

Remember, you can learn from poor examples as well as great ones. I keep a dedicated file in my memory bank labeled, “Don’t Do That—Do This.”

Recently, I’m running short on memory for storage.

For me, the counter-balance to the overload of news from and about bloviating, gesticulating windbags, morally bankrupt corporate leaders and empire building despots comes in the form of studying  the approaches of their opposites. I look for quiet, effective leaders and marvel at their ability to promote success.

Quiet Leaders, Succeeding by Example:

  • A team builder who recognizes and draws upon the power of cognitive, age, gender and other differences to drive innovation in her firm.
  • A mid-level leader focused on creating a working environment free of fear and filled with opportunities, in spite of the fear-inducing noise from the firm’s top leaders.
  • One of my favorites is planning a transition to a retirement career and is working hard to create a team that is stronger without her. It’s the ultimate in planned obsolescence!
  • The senior manager who said “No” to a compensation approach that would have invited questionable behaviors to the party.
  • Another is in the unfortunate position of having to unwind the last decade worth of work due to a corporate takeover. The lessons in grace and humility from this person’s approach will fill a book.
  • There’s the project manager who got the memo that by serving and not commanding, she gives life and energy to her teams.
  • I love the sales manager who does most of his work, not by sitting at a desk and managing by spreadsheet, but rather, by traveling and sitting next to his representatives in the field, observing and coaching.
  • These aren’t the noisy leaders, they’re the ones quietly going about their business and leaving a wake of great performances behind them.

At Least 10 Behaviors Effective Leaders Have in Common:


  1. Understand the power of showing respect for others.
  2. Recognize their role in fostering the right working environment.
  3. Eschew the all-too-common tendency to lead by promoting fear.
  4. Prioritize the needs of their team members ahead of their needs.
  5. Recognize that technology supports but doesn’t replace the need for high touch.
  6. Strive for transparency and clarity, not spin.
  7. Admit mistakes and leverage them as teaching tools.
  8. Are accountable.
  9. Are comfortable not being the smartest people in the room, preferring to surround themselves with these smartest people.
  10. Assert ferociously on principles but never attack character.

The Bottom-Line for Now:

Pay attention to and learn from the individuals who exemplify these behaviors. These effective leaders move mountains and people and organizations by quietly displaying the right behaviors every day. Watch, listen and learn.

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