The one sentence summary

Too many leaders abdicate their most important responsibilities because they are leading for the wrong reason.


  • As with the author’s other books, this is a short, fictitious business story (called a fable) that illustrates a point and is followed by a pithy summary of what needs to be done.
  • Too many CEOs spend the majority of their time on things that they shouldn’t, including reviewing ops and financials, driving marketing and sales programmes, handling the board, and so on. These all need attention, but not by the CEO.
  • Much of this is displacement activity which allows the CEO to avoid what they really should be doing, but probably don’t enjoy as much, or at all.
  • There are two leadership motives:

1. Reward-centred: the belief that being a leader is the reward for hard work; therefore the experience of being a leader should be pleasant and enjoyable, free to choose what they work on and avoid anything mundane, unpleasant or uncomfortable.

2. Responsibility-centred: being a leader is a responsibility, so the experience of leading should be difficult and challenging (though certainly not without elements of personal gratification).

  • There are five vital things that reward-centred leaders omit (it is important to note that this is not a list of the primary responsibilities of a leader):

1. Developing the leadership team: many leaders delegate this. If you feel that this is too touchy-feely or a waste of time, then you may have the wrong motive for leading.

2. Managing subordinates (and making them manage theirs): individual guidance and coaching is essential. If you feel you should trust people to manage themselves, or you justify not knowing what your direct reports are doing by claiming not to want to be a micromanager, your motive may be wrong.

3. Having difficult and uncomfortable conversations: you need to address bad behaviour and ask people if they are prepared to change. If not, they need to leave. Do not shirk these hard conversations.

4. Running great team meetings: running boring meetings or avoiding them is unacceptable – they are vital to cohesive teamwork and decision making. If CEOs allow poor meetings, they will permeate the whole company.

5. Communicating constantly and repetitively to employees: they have to hear a message seven times before they believe executives are serious about it. CEOs need to be Chief Reminding Officers.


  • This a smart, short book with excellent guidance for any existing or aspirant CEO. Leadership is described as a joyfully difficult and selfless responsibility – something the author calls joyful accountability.


  • Nothing. It’s a fast, helpful read.