The one sentence summary

Hands-off leadership works best – work less and achieve more by getting the right team and letting them get on with it.


  • Good leaders should not act now, send a note, micromanage, get on it, monitor and verify, check it again, run the numbers, or demonstrate any other annoying characteristics.
  • Instead they should focus on the people, start at the end, trust them more, release control, bear down warmly, ignore performance goals, de-emphasize profits, and overall, do nothing, or as little as possible.
  • However, leaders should not do nothing when they are the only one with the skills to get something done, or when dirty work needs to be done.
  • The Leadership Law: Think of the reaction that you want first, then determine the actions you can take to maximize the chances that those reactions will actually happen.
  • 5 natural problems of individuals as leaders (and what to do about it):
  1. Egocentrism: start by focusing on them, not yourself.
  2. Empathy gap: learn to take your team members’ perspectives.
  3. Focus on own actions first: don’t. Instead, follow the leadership law.
  4. Transparency (thinking that people understand them completely): people don’t, so use active listening (“tell me what I just told you.”)
  5. Double-interact: get on the balcony and walk the floor (view the whole thing as though from above, including your own role in it, and talk to people.)



  • Transactive memory allows leaders to turn to the right person in a team because they know their skills intimately. This maximizes the diversity of the group, but it only works with deep knowledge of who is good at what.
  • Leaders should set superordinate goals and repeat them regularly, because people always forget what they are.
  • Backwards induction involves stating the desired end goal, and working backwards from there, identifying each next step that will lead there.
  • The more trust you give people the more you get back – something of an unexpected mutual benefit.
  • Leaders need to create an atmosphere of psychological safety, in which team members feel able to make observations, question things, and comment without fear of reprisal. By contrast, fearful silence can lead to pluralistic ignorance – everyone having the same question, but failing to ask it.
  • Smart leaders structure the agenda carefully to create structural control. This eliminates alternatives that you don’t want. Interestingly, eliminated alternatives are almost never reconsidered.
  • After a massive reorganisation, Kodak forgot all about a division who just carried on doing their work. Management only noticed when they received a note from a happy customer thanking them for their work.


  • Nothing. This is wise advice.