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We’ve pulled together a collection of reading materials you need on your path to becoming a truly great leader. Learn and get inspired.


Get practical insights that you can apply today, based on our 20+ years of experience consulting with top leaders, along with the best thought leadership from others. It’s all here for the taking.


Make protecting time-off a shared responsibility

Be they economic, technological or psychological, the roots of our 24/7 work martyrdom run deep. For some the ambitions are financially fuelled, for others it’s pressure from higher ups or clients. And every one of us can admit to being frequently tethered to our always-on devices. Yet mounting evidence proves working long hours, without regularly disengaging and recharging, is not only unsustainable, it’s a direct threat to our health and that of our companies. One much-cited Stanford study even showed that we get no more work done in 70 hours than we would have in 55. Those 14 extra hours a week we wear as a badge of honor are, essentially, useless. Despite all the warnings to pump the brakes on our 50+ hour work weeks, we may fear that anything less could jeopardize our careers, our businesses or our relationships. We fear looking like less than a team player, failing in our pursuits, and letting our team down. We need to make protecting our time, lives and energy a team sport. In the Harvard Business Review article “Making Time Off Predictable and Required,” Leslie A. Perlow and Jessica L. Porter show that teams who work together to create more


Ditch the sports metaphors

Sports coach metaphors, with their drills and locker room speeches, fail to translate to organizational coaching, which is more about long-term growth. The authoritarian approach, for all its assertive bravado, can snuff out honest dialogues and crush creativity. Samuel Bacharach, author and head of Cornell’s Institute for Workplace Studies, puts it this way: “Proactive leaders understand that coaching creates a learning environment where individual and collective challenges are the first priorities.” In sports: Iconic coaches, like Tom Coughlin, are usually depicted as champion motivators, powering their team forward with relentless repetition and strength training. In organizations: Coaches stand beside their people, listening and encouraging each step of the way. By developing only the strengths that will win you the game, you risk missing the bigger picture. Victories are won with more than just know-how. “You want your protégés to possess the necessary skills to accomplish their goals, but you also want them to be cognizant of the dynamics of the organization,” says Bacharach. In sports: The relationship between coaches and their players is usually constrained to a single season. In organizations: Coaching talent has a more amorphous time frame. No shot clocks. It’s a process where people are encouraged to “personally discover


Coach for forward momentum

Great leaders see and believe in the unlocked potential in others — and coach to bring about positive change. Coaching starts with assuming change is possible, that skill is not static and behavior can evolve, says Susan David, co-founder of the Institute of Coaching. With that in mind, the role of the coach is to help a team member self-assess a situation and work together on what to do next and how to build on what is already working. Here’s our take on Katherine Graham-Leviss’s great coaching basics. We take to heart her caution to not relegate coaching to a one-off annual review. Build a relationship of mutual trust. Coaching won’t work without it. Period. (PS, if you want to work on this more, consider checking out Using empathy to build better bonds as your next Practice.) Be clear about the purpose of the coaching. Use a neutral, “non-evaluative, non-accusatory” tone when explaining where you see opportunity for improvement. Get agreement. Once the team member acknowledges out loud the need for change, you’re on your way. To deepen the commitment, ask them to describe consequences of not changing. Explore alternatives. Brainstorm possible solutions, letting the team member go first. Get a


Listen up

Done mindfully, listening is an act of empathy. Think about that person who always makes you feel “heard.” Do they listen so intently you swear sometimes they can read your thoughts? You may not be far off. In our always-on lives, being a good listener is a borderline lost art. Creativity expert Scott McDowell helps us hone our skills in his piece on Webby-award winning culture blog 99U, titled “What Good is Listening Anyway?” Below are ideas that he offers for our practice. 1. Be fully attentive. Clear away the distractions. Put the phone down, shut the door, be still. Look them in the eye and make them feel like you have the time and attention for this conversation. These simple, respectful gestures inspire trust and make communicating far more effective. 2. Follow the 80/20 rule. Monitor your airtime. If you’re talking more than 80% of the time, that should be a red flag to listen more. (We at Leadfully strive for more of a 50/50 rule). 3. Seek clarification. The more you know as a leader, the better. So make sure your information gathering is about quality as well as quantity. Try questions like, “What else can you tell

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Don’t just take our word on the skills necessary for 21st century leadership. Some leaders we admire share their perspectives.

on Optimism

Dave Panos

Chairman, Rightside

Esther Choy on authentic communication
On Authentic Communication

Esther Choy

President and Chief Story Facilitator, Leadership Story Lab

    Matt Marcotte on being a creative leader - Leadfully
    On Creativity

    Matt Marcotte

    Founder, M2 Collaborative

    Jawad Aslam on leading with humanity
    On Humanity

    Jawad Aslam

    Owner, Ansaar Management Company

    View More

    Blog Posts

    Get the latest news, quick tips, and more.

    The multi-generational workplace
    Blog Post
    March 14, 2017
    The multi-generational workplace: One Gen Xer’s personal journey

    Lesson 1 Collar, cuffs, sleeves, front, back. In that order. My first paid job was pressing my father’s dress shirts. He wore one every day with a sport jacket to his aerospace engineering job in Los Angeles. It was the late ’70s. The workforce was heavily represented by the boomer generation. There was a properness to work culture back then. Work etiquette, if you will. Less collaboration, more “follow the leader.” Leaders were senior. They made decisions. Their people executed accordingly and generally didn’t question the decisions that were made. My mother returned to the workplace around that same time, in the security business for a government contractor. She wore the female equivalent of my dad’s business attire: the skirt suit and pantyhose. Lesson 2 Clear nail polish can stop a run in your L’eggs stockings. I had a brief stint in retail in the late ’80s, trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I made it all the way to associate manager of the women’s sportswear department at Robinsons-May. Retail was the one industry that women largely dominated at the time, often incentivized by a discount on clothing. It gave me my first

    imagine positive solutions
    Blog Post
    February 21, 2017
    Steal this: A way to come up with positive solutions

    Let’s say it’s 4 p.m. on a Friday, and a client emails you: “We’d like to see another concept for the home page.” Oh, no, you think. There goes my weekend. From there, you start to spin: It’s going to take me all weekend to come up with the comps they need. And what’s the point? If they didn’t like the other ideas I shared, they probably won’t like this one, either. Whoa. It’s time to take stock of what you know for sure versus what you’re assuming. You almost definitely have many more options available to you than you realize. Steal this worksheet to summon your creativity It’s human nature to make assumptions, particularly in a fast-paced culture that rewards quick thinking and decisive action. But it’s important that we train ourselves to pause and be mindful of the story we’re telling ourselves in a given situation. It’s in these pauses that we learn to summon optimism. With practice, it becomes our instinct, no matter how stressful the circumstances, to imagine the possibilities rather than assume the worst. In the scenario above, there are actually multiple ways you might respond: You could gather the team and work all weekend.

    letters from leaders: recognizing your team
    Blog Post
    February 7, 2017
    Letters from leaders to leaders: Thank you for seeing me

    Leaders are shaped by other leaders, especially former bosses. On one end of the spectrum, they might be case studies for what happens when leadership falls short. On the other end, they’re proof positive of how great leadership impacts people’s lives for the better, even beyond the workplace. What do we see in the leaders of our past that stays with us? What would we say to them now? This week, Leadfully explores this through a letter of gratitude from Amanda Hirsch to Cindy Johanson. Cindy (@cinjo) is the executive director of the George Lucas Educational Foundation. Amanda worked for her at PBS, where Cindy was the Senior Vice President of Interactive and Education. Dear Cindy, I was such a baby when I started working for you. I lacked both hobbies and children, so being a workaholic was exceedingly easy. You saw something in me — actually, no, scratch that: you saw me. I’ve had other bosses who haven’t understood me, but you did. You rooted for me, too, and you had my back. That’s the main thing I learned from you about leadership: You need to have your team’s back. Our whole department was like one big family. We

    leaders in a world that will not stand still
    Blog Post
    January 24, 2017
    Leading in a world that will not stand still

    This week’s post offers a broader perspective on Leadfully’s purpose — what we believe and why it matters — through the eyes of our parent company, SYPartners. There you stand. Seemingly on stable ground. And then the world shifts. You are untethered. It takes effort, but you stabilize yourself and your team. And then the world shifts around you, yet again. This is leadership. •   •   • As leaders, how do we need to be? As we come to the mindful realization that we control very little, and command even less, the definition of what it means to lead changes. Much of what we’ve been trained to do as leaders is no longer enough — linear thinking, defining decision rights, hierarchical management practices, optimization strategies, process, change management. All necessary, none sufficient. So what is the missing ingredient? Over the past two decades at SYPartners, we’ve been learning from, and inventing with, some of the world’s most successful companies and organizations — as they confront waves of change and therefore start to view the abilities of constantly adapting, constantly becoming a better version of oneself, perpetually transforming as the real work of leadership. Starbucks. Apple. AARP. IBM. Girl Effect. Hyatt. The Future

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