Good Leaders Know When to Tilt

Good leaders don’t worship before the idol of one goal or one stakeholder. They have learned the art of balancing and tilting among competing and conflicting interests and among short- and long-term considerations. It’s easier for leaders to maximize results for one goal or one stakeholder group. But good leadership isn’t easy.   Goals Virtually … Read more

How Do You Want to Be Remembered?

While many people profess not to care what others think, we’re social creatures and want to fit in. Right? But winning acceptance should never take precedence over accepting yourself. Given that, one of the best ways to identify who you want to be is by asking yourself, “How do I want to be remembered?” Mark … Read more

Don’t Retire, Reawaken and Refire

“The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away.” -author unknown I have a new take to share on retirement. Search online about retirement and much advice will pop up. You’ll find advice about celebration, financial planning, hobbies, exercise, courses, bucket lists, disenchantment, and more. In … Read more

Why Maximizing Shareholder Value is Wrong

A big debate has been raging about the purpose of business for decades. Two opposing theories dominate the discussion: shareholder primacy theory and stakeholder theory. How does Robert Greenleaf’s servant leadership framework fit with these models?   Shareholder Primacy Theory In 1970, Milton Friedman (a noted conservative economist at the University of Chicago) wrote an … Read more

Back to Normal? Not So Fast

In fortunate parts of the world, there’s a palpable sense of relief and celebration as life begins to get back to normal after a brutal pandemic year. In some quarters, there’s jubilation—and rightly so after so many shocks to so many for so long. And of course the pandemic rages on, with so many people … Read more

Tips for New Graduates on Life, Work, and Making Big Decisions

With graduation season upon us, new graduates have much to celebrate after navigating a brutal year. Now they face a big transition from school to work (or further school, or gap year, or other pursuits). Here are my tips for new graduates to help them craft their life and work–and make big decisions that will … Read more

The Comparison Trap

We all fall into traps in life. One of the most common is the comparison trap: constantly comparing ourselves to others and judging our worth by how we stack up—mostly on things that are superficial and unimportant: Where do I live? What do I drive? How much do I make? Where do I fall in … Read more

The Urgency of Sustainable Leadership—and the Promise of Social Entrepreneurship

On this Earth Day, we honor our planet and recognize the importance of climate action and environmental stewardship. We acknowledge our interdependence—and the gravity of the stakes if we fail to meet the moment. What is the role of business in this epic challenge of sustainable leadership? Of leaders and entrepreneurs? Of all of us?   … Read more

Are You Drifting through Life?

“Let us consider the way in which we spend our lives.” -Henry David Thoreau How did I get here? Is this what I wanted for my life? Is this what I chose? Or am I drifting through life? Life can be messy. Many of us go long stretches of our lives on autopilot. We sleepwalk through … Read more

Guard Your Heart

A year into the pandemic, we’re reminded of how important it is to guard your heart. Here we mean our metaphysical heart, our sacred center. Parker Palmer said it beautifully: “I’m using the word ‘heart’ as they did in ancient times, when it didn’t merely mean the emotions, as it tends to mean today. It meant that … Read more

Are You Playing the Long Game?

These days it’s easy to fall into the trap of playing the short game. Our culture is geared toward it. With our devices, we’re developing the attention span of a gnat. We swipe and scroll. We get fidgety with a few seconds of down-time. The power of the long game is astonishing, but the short game is alluring. Now more than ever we need to reorient our life and work to the long game.

What Is Your Quest?

What is your quest? Where are you going? And why? What quest are you on in your life and work? In days long gone, there were many quests. For Power. Glory. Riches. Discoveries. Love. Beauty. Truth. Peace and quiet. These days, our quests have changed, but we still have them. Quests for success. Recognition. Wealth. … Read more

The Most Important Questions for Leaders

Leading others well can be a great challenge. It requires courage, judgment, wisdom, emotional intelligence, integrity, and much more. Leadership excellence comes with experience, but it begins with intentionality and commitment. Here are the most important (four) questions to help ground your leadership in a powerful foundation, whether you are a new leader learning the ropes … Read more

CHRO–Become Your Organization’s Chief Culture Officer

Today’s Human Resources (HR) leader has a wonderful opportunity to make an important strategic contribution: Become your organization’s Chief Culture Officer. If your CEO already acts as the Chief Culture Officer, great. Then you can be his or her Chief Culture Execution Officer. But most CHROs aren’t that fortunate, and you may need some ammunition … Read more

10 Keys to Self-Leadership

We face a barrage of challenges these days: astonishing technological change, intense competition, a barrage of demands on our attention, tension between work and home, and more. There is one meta-skill that shapes how we respond to all these challenges: self-leadership. Without it, we cannot sustain ourselves for long. Leading self may be obvious, but … Read more

A Leadership Lightning Bolt

Early in my leadership quest to “find a better way to lead,” I had the wonderful pleasure to work for Jan and Olga Erteszak, Polish immigrants who had fled the Nazis in Europe and then founded a ladies’ lingerie company in Los Angeles. The Olga Company was the creative leader in this industry, designing and … Read more

Why Do You Want to Lead?

I was flying from Cleveland to Chicago to meet my wife, June, and two young sons. They were flying from Los Angeles to meet me for a brief Christmas holiday. I had been “too busy” to fly back to help her cope with our toddler and the baby. (It is really so embarrassing to relate … Read more

A Life in Leadership: The Legacy of Warren Bennis

Recently, the world lost a giant in the field of leadership and a remarkable human being, Warren Bennis, who passed away at age 89. I was fortunate to get to know Warren years ago through a mutual friend, Christopher Gergen. Together, the three of us strolled by the beach in Santa Monica, visiting in his … Read more

Leadership Lessons from The Lord of the Rings

Leaders Venture into the Unknown “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins Leaders Step Up “I will take the Ring,” Frodo said, “though I do not know the way.” … Read more

10 Steps to a High-Performance Culture

Leadership Speakers and Authors, Bob and Greg Vanourek, use this picture to illustrate the importance of team work in leadership.

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game.” –Lou Gerstner, former Chairman and CEO, IBM, and author, Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? (2002)   How can leaders build a high-performance culture? Culture is powerful. Culture has a huge influence on what people do … Read more

The Missing Links in Goal-Setting (How to Rock Your Goals)

Much has been written about the power of setting goals. Unfortunately, almost all of the advice about effective goal-setting falls short on a few key factors. More on that soon. First, some clarifications. Goals are what you hope to achieve. According to a popular mnemonic, goals should be “SMART”: specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. … Read more

Botching Mission and Vision

Words matter in leadership. Bob was once talking to a group of employees about his ideas for setting up dedicated teams to focus on problems. One employee responded, “We are all dedicated here.” Oops. Bob meant teams focused on single problems. The employee thought he was questioning their commitment. Semantics. Words matter in leadership. Think … Read more

Synthesis: A Critical Leadership Skill

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” -Leonardo Da Vinci Leaders today are swamped with information 24/7. The complexity can be overwhelming. Yet leaders are supposed to rally colleagues with insightful analyses of problems and plans for how to succeed. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. spoke about the importance of getting to the “simplicity on the other side … Read more

Ethical Pitfalls—You Will Be Tested

No matter where you work or live, when it comes to ethics one thing is clear: you will be tested. Ethical pitfalls are all around us. Often you stumble upon them suddenly. Your ethics are tested most when you are under duress (with stress, pressure, or fear). Here is a partial list of what you’re … Read more

What to Do If You Work For a Jerk

So your boss is a jerk.  What to do? Of course, how to approach it depends on the severity of the situation, but here are some tips: 1. Go Lean. You may have to make a change, so you need money in the bank. That’s not tapping into your 401k or IRA. You need six … Read more

Big Questions for New Graduates

graduates face future

New Graduates, Congratulations on your big achievement. The exams are now over, the assignments all in. As you celebrate and revel in the memories of achievements, experiences, and friendships, we advise that you also pause to reflect on some important questions. Many of you have made a big decision about what comes next—often in the … Read more

Bucket Filler or Bucket Dipper?

Jack & Ben with Triple Crown

“Sprinkle joy.” -Ralph Waldo Emerson Jack, Bob’s seven year-old grandson and Gregg’s nephew, came home from school recently talking about buckets. In this metaphor, we all carry invisible buckets holding our feelings and sense of worth. When our buckets are full, we feel good. When empty, we feel sad. A bucket filler fills the buckets … Read more