How to Create a Shared Purpose, Values, and Vision

Article Summary:  Many people these days are cynical about an organization’s purpose, values, and vision because they’re platitudes. But great leaders collaboratively elicit them from the team and then weave them into the fabric of the organization.  +++ Whether you’re the CEO, a department manager, or a small business owner, we encourage you to create … Read more

What to Do If You Work for a Toxic Boss?

What to Do If You Work for a Toxic Boss?

Article Summary: Many people work for a toxic boss. It can be incredibly frustrating. What to do about it? Here are five steps you can take. +++ So you’ve got a toxic boss and you don’t feel like you’re in a position to change things in your organization. What to do? There are five steps … Read more

Is Your Organization Aligned?

Article Summary:  Most organizations aren’t aligned, reducing performance and causing frustration and dysfunction. Complete our Alignment Scorecard to gauge your organization’s alignment. +++ Most organizations aren’t aligned. As a result, workers are frustrated and the organization underperforms, sometimes badly.   Signs of Misalignment When organizations aren’t aligned: People lack a clear and inspiring sense of … Read more

Six Words to Fix Your Accountability Problems

accountability and success

Article Summary: Many organizations struggle with accountability. We discovered six words you can use to fix your accountability problems. +++ Are you frustrated by accountability problems? Are people passing the buck, denying responsibility? Do meetings go on and on without coming to timely and definitive conclusions? We’ve been there and know how demoralizing it can … Read more

Good Leaders Are Good Storytellers

Article Summary Many leaders struggle with effective communication. Here we address why storytelling is so powerful and how leaders can get better at it. +++ Bob recalls a defining moment in the turnaround of a large public company where he was the new CEO. During the senior staff meetings held every Saturday morning while the … Read more

How to Align Your Organization for Peak Performance

Article Summary Most organizations aren’t aligned. This reduces performance dramatically and often causes frustration and dysfunction. Here we show leaders how to align their organization or team. We include an Alignment Scorecard to assess your current levels of alignment. +++ In our experience, most organizations aren’t aligned. If they’re not aligned, they’re underperforming. And perhaps … Read more

How to Come Back Even Stronger from a Crisis

Article Summary Many leaders face a crisis that threatens their organization yet find themselves and their team woefully unprepared to handle it well. In this article, five-time CEO Bob Vanourek outlines ten practices for leading a crisis so that you can emerge even stronger than before. by Bob Vanourek “The signature of the truly great … Read more

The Power of Small Groups—And How to Run Them

new growth with group hands

There is immense power in small groups. But not just any small group. We mean small groups that meet periodically to support each other at the deepest levels in a safe place of confidentiality, trust, and respect. We’re not talking about social clubs, book clubs, Bible studies, 12-step meetings, mastermind groups, circles of trust, clearness … Read more

The Best Legacy a Leader Can Leave

  What’s the best legacy a leader can leave?   A Track Record of Results? Is the best legacy a leader can leave a track record of significant results achieved? Laudable results for a business leader might include record sales, higher profits, significant brand appreciation, or markets developed. For nonprofit leaders, it might be deeper … Read more

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

Good Leadership Practices–An A-to-Z Guide

Through many years of research and experience, we discovered many practices employed by good leaders. Some practices were well known. Others were surprises. We’ve now compiled an alphabetical guide of these practices: A-to-Z Guide to Good Leadership Practices. The full guide contains more than 200 entries, and it’s chock full of actionable tips for leading … Read more

An Overarching Aim for Your Leadership

Today, more than ever, we need leaders and organizations to commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring. Commit to the overarching aim of being excellent, ethical, and enduring.   Triple Crown Leadership When we wrote our book, Triple Crown Leadership: Building Excellent, Ethical, and Enduring Organizations, we committed ourselves as a … Read more

Why Leaders Should Create a Culture of Stewardship

bird flying out of cage

One of the most powerful ideas we discovered in our research for our book, Triple Crown Leadership—including interviewing leaders in 61 organizations in 11 countries—is one we call “stewards” (and building a culture of stewardship). It’s one of the most unusual and counterintuitive leadership practices we’ve ever discovered. A “steward” is a person who is … Read more

Are You Strong Enough to Be a ‘Voice of One’?

You’re sitting in a meeting with your colleagues. They all agree on a course of action you sense is wrong. It’s not illegal, but it certainly doesn’t feel right. Do you speak up?   You Will Be Tested No matter what field you work in, you will be tested with ethical challenges or dilemmas. You’ll … Read more

Taking Casualties–No Jerks Allowed

body chalk outline

What do you do when one of your star performers, the best salesperson, or the brilliant technical expert is a jerk? Even worse, more than a jerk, your star performer is a dirtbag who lies, abuses others verbally, or worse? Or cheats to land a bonus? What do you do? We’ve seen this too many … Read more

Why Leaders Must Protect Mavericks

Tom Cruise’s 2022 reprise of his 1986 hit movie, Top Gun, has been a box office smash. Top Gun: Maverick has Cruise again playing Pete “Maverick” Mitchell, a cocky, rule-breaking Navy test pilot. The elite naval aviation academy recruits Mitchell (Cruise) to train a group of younger top guns for a harrowing and almost-impossible aeronautical … Read more

Steel and Velvet Leadership

steel and velvet

In our book, Triple Crown Leadership, based on extensive research and interviews with leaders in 61 outstanding organizations in 11 countries, we identified five advanced leadership practices for building an organization or team that’s excellent, ethical, and enduring. One of these practices has most intrigued the leaders we work with. Here we elaborate on how … 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 Are We Talking about Ethics?

There I was, giving a guest lecture on leadership at a European business school, when I got an intriguing question from a student in the back of the room: “Excuse me, why are we talking about ethics? This is a course about leadership.” I came to realize what a gift this question was. His question … Read more

What Are Your Leadership Derailers?

Here’s the thing: we all want to be better leaders. But too often we focus on what to do as leaders while neglecting what not to do. That’s where leadership derailers come in—the things that take us off track and inhibit our leadership effectiveness. If we want to be good leaders, we must be aware of … Read more

Ethical Leadership: Our Gamechanger

(This presentation was given on April 27, 2022, by Bob Vanourek at the University of Denver’s Elevate Ethics 2022 Event, hosted by the Daniels College of Business and the Institute for Enterprise Ethics.) “Elevate Ethics.” What a wonderful title. I want to speak tonight about ethical leadership, my passion. How can we be more ethical … Read more

Lead by Leading

  (Guest article by Bill Thompson.) Leadership occupies the vast space between that which is clearly right and clearly wrong. The result often is indecision and inaction at the highest levels of organizations. This failure of leadership can be catastrophic, and often is. While most are familiar with the high failure rate of businesses during … Read more

How to Become a Better Servant Leader

Decades ago, Robert Greenleaf articulated one of the most important leadership frameworks in history: “servant leadership.” Greenleaf described the essence of this counterintuitive approach here: “The servant leader is servant first. It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead. That person is sharply different from … Read more

Boards and Servant Leadership

Writing a half-century ago, Robert Greenleaf already saw a new and more active role for board members.* In his groundbreaking book, Servant Leadership, Greenleaf had a chapter on “Trustees as Servants.” He wrote: “This chapter is an argument in support of trustees choosing to be servants.” Greenleaf felt organizations (and their boards) were underperforming: “… … 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

Unleashing Leaders in Your Organization

In his classic essay, “The Servant as Leader,” Robert Greenleaf (creator of the servant leadership framework), wrote the following: “Anyone can lead…. There is a problem of getting used to the idea of no single chief, but the passage of time will allay that.” -Robert Greenleaf  This short statement has profound implications.   Empowerment Historically, … Read more

The Paradoxes of Servant Leadership

Leadership is rife with paradoxes, seemingly self-contradictory statements that may nonetheless be true. We see this in the servant leadership framework as well as other approaches.   The Servant-as-Leader Paradox In his biography of Robert Greenleaf (originator of servant leadership), author Don Frick said: “Servant and leader are two nouns which usually describe two quite … Read more

Do I Have to Be a Servant Before I Can Lead? (On Servant Leadership)

Robert Greenleaf was clear when he created the servant leadership framework: “ … the great leader is seen as servant first.… the only authority deserving one’s allegiance is that which is freely and knowingly granted by the led to the leader in response to, and in proportion to, the clearly evident servant stature of the … Read more

The Essential Qualities of Servant Leadership

In the years since Robert Greenleaf first published his essay, “The Servant as Leader,” many notable authors and experts have built upon his work. As expected, servant leadership in theory and practice has evolved over time as the context of leading has changed. Here we’ll summarize Greenleaf’s original ideas on servant leadership, recap what some … Read more

Why Servant Leaders Outperform Bosses

One of the most common structures used in organizations over the ages is based on a hierarchical model of bosses and subordinates. It likely has its origin in military command-and-control units. In this model today, every person reports to someone else, except the one at the top of the hierarchy who reports to a board. … Read more

How Robert Greenleaf Created Servant Leadership

Robert Greenleaf was the founder of the servant-leadership movement. But who was this self-effacing man? Why did Stephen R. Covey say, “… I have found Robert Greenleaf’s teachings on servant leadership to be so enormously inspiring, so uplifting, so ennobling.” With no grand title or celebrity, how did Greenleaf, a self-described introvert, create this world-wide … Read more

Who Determines If You’re a Leader?

Are you a leader if you’re a boss with people who report to you? If you’re a military officer with personnel subject to your orders? Are you a leader if a nonprofit board hires you as their Executive Director? Who determines if you’re a leader? In the late 1960s and 1970s, Robert Greenleaf (1904-1990), a … Read more

How Great Leaders Reward, Recognize, and Celebrate People

“There are two things people want more than sex and money—recognition and praise.” -Mary Kay Ash, founder, Mary Kay Inc. It’s not enough to recruit and develop exceptional people. Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations—must also recognize, celebrate, and reward them effectively through their culture.   How Leaders Can Reward People … Read more

Great Leaders Develop People Intentionally

Triple crown leaders—ones who build excellent, ethical, and enduring organizations or teams—focus not just on recruiting great people but also developing them intentionally. They focus on developing people systematically and continually. Unfortunately, many leaders fail miserably when it comes to developing people. Most organizations leave development mostly up to individuals, acting on their own initiative, … Read more

How Great Leaders Recruit People with Heart

Penguins lining up for interviews

“Acquiring and keeping good people is a leader’s most important task.” –John Maxwell, leadership author How much scrutiny do you use in assessing people for your team? What do you look for? And how? Triple crown leaders—ones who build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring—systematically recruit people with specific characteristics. They invest their precious … Read more

The Importance of Heart in Leadership

head and heart

In “triple crown leadership,” our framework for how to build organizations that are excellent, ethical, and enduring, both head and heart are required for exceptional leadership. In most workplaces, it’s almost all head power. We need much more heart power in leadership. The way most leaders go about identifying and developing talent is utterly insufficient … Read more

What We Can Learn from the Olympics about Life and Leadership

With the Olympics underway­­­—with all the competition, drama, and intrigue—what can we learn from them not only about excellence and teamwork but also about life and leadership? Sure we admire the grueling physical feats and the mental preparation. The years of punishing practices, discipline, focus, and skill-building that go into the nine-second sprint, the epic … Read more

Tribute to General Jack Chain—An Extraordinary Leader

A great leader and our dear family friend, Four-Star Air Force General John T. (Jack) Chain died peacefully in his sleep this month at the age of 86. All who knew Jack mourn his loss and are grateful for the time he had with us. Jack and his dear wife Judie were neighbors of Bob … Read more

Leadership for the Long Haul—The Endurance Imperative

It’s one thing for an organization to achieve outstanding results. It’s another thing to do so ethically. And it’s another thing altogether to get outstanding results ethically and to sustain it over time. Leadership for the long haul. “Enduring” is the third imperative of what we call “triple crown leadership” (excellent, ethical, and enduring). By … Read more

Leadership and the Excellence Imperative

Getting results is one of the preeminent tasks of leadership. What we call “triple crown leadership” (from our book of the same name) seeks not just any results, but excellent results—exceptional outcomes. It strives for the pinnacle of performance. (Our “triple crown leadership” model has three aims: excellent, ethical, and enduring. Leaders should begin with … Read more

Why Conflict Is Good–And How to Manage It

Most people avoid conflict. But that’s a mistake. Conflict is essential in high-performing teams but must be managed well. Here’s how.

Leadership and Psychological Safety in Teams

The problems in far too many organizations today are legion: Unproductive, boring meetings Astonishing amounts of wasted time Avoidance of sensitive issues Lack of full engagement Reluctance to provide candid, constructive feedback Political games and hidden agendas Sound familiar? The effects are far-reaching, from low quality work to employee turnover. According to a Corporate Executive Board … Read more