The one sentence summary

We don’t really know for sure what leadership is, and many of our beliefs and theories about it aren’t necessarily right either.


  • This book maps out over 50 misconceptions about what it takes to be great leader. In truth, we don’t really know for sure what leadership is, what leaders do, what their character traits are like, or how they succeed.
  • And many of our beliefs and theories about leadership aren’t necessarily right either.
  • Academic writing offers at least 90 variables that make great leaders – a recipe for confusion.
  • Henry Kissinger described a leader as “someone who takes people where they would not have got by themselves.”
  • There is a huge reality gap between the perceptions of leaders and their followers. The most reliable predictor of whether followers rate their boss is “My boss cares for me and my career”. If they agree with this, then they rate the boss highly on pretty much everything else.
  • Picture an old-fashioned watch that has three hands: frontline staff watch the second hand (here and now); managers watch the minute hand (near-term goals); leaders watch all three, including the hour hand (long term).
  • Leaders need IQ EQ and PQ: intelligence, emotional and political quotient.
  • Good bosses are good listeners. They have mastered the art of paraphrasing back – summarizing accurately what the other person said.
  • In a parent-child script, the leader always ends up with all the accountability. In an adult-adult script, everyone has equal accountability.
  • Be careful what you succeed at: if you do something really well, you will get a reputation for it, so make sure it’s the sort of work you really want to do.


  • Leaders are like teabags – you only know how good they are when they land up in hot water.
  • Leaders need strong-form honesty (politicians have weak-form honesty): the truth, positively and constructively.
  • Build a team that is strongest where you are weakest.
  • Never confuse position with performance.
  • Leaders need to be selectively unreasonable.
  • To have 30 years’ experience, you need to keep experiencing different things. Some people just have one year of experience repeated 30 times.
  • If leaders fail to prevail with their agenda, they have ‘gone reactive’, with other issues dictating the pace.
  • WWW= What went well? Then learn. Avoid the other WWW: What went wrong? EBI= Even better if…, leads to continuous improvement.
  • The median job tenure in the USA is now 4.2 years.
  • Old sailing mantra: To finish first, first you must finish. Consistency can lead to victory.