Your Best Single Piece of Leadership Advice

Sage Advice

What is the single most important advice you would offer a person new to leadership?

Big Question

How would you respond to this question:

“If you were assigned to mentor a person new to leadership and could only share one thing with them to help them be most effective, what advice would you give them?”

I have asked this question over the years when teaching a leadership course entitled Upward Leadership. Over the years, I have a recorded the advice offered by scores of course participants. Here are the top six recommendations offered:

  1. Build relationship with your employees
  2. Lead by positive example
  3. Be a good communicator
  4. Be humble and/or open-minded
  5. Be flexible
  6. Be prepared…Do your planning/preparation in advance

I am curious, how does this advice fits with your experience? If I asked the same question to you, what would you say? Those of you who have read The Leadership Challenge will recall that, based on the case studies of more than four hundred reputedly good leaders, the following themes emerged:

  • Challenge the process
  • Inspire a shared vision
  • Enable others to act
  • Model the way
  • Encourage the heart

The advice offered by my course participants got a direct hit with “lead by positive example.” Moreover, being humble was a key finding in Jim Collins’ book, Good to Great, of Level 5 leaders.

Doing the Right Stuff

When one drills down in The Leadership Challenge themes, each of them consists of various competencies or practices.  For example, Modeling the Way, involves setting an example by behaving in ways that are consistent with shared values. The authors recommend various actions, such as taking time to do a personal assessment, writing your personal leadership credo, audit your actions, etc.

Modeling the Way also involves achieving small wins that promote consistent progress and build commitment.

Actions supportive of this commitment include such things as:

  • Making plans and breaking them down into smaller parts
  • Creating pilots to experiment with the process
  • Finding volunteers to make improvements
  • Selling the benefits to others

Given this context, being prepared, being flexible, and being a good communicator support Modeling the Way.

Specific comments by course participants support other Leadership Challenge themes, as well.  The challenge is actually getting people to commit to these practices.

And it is great when they do!

A Good Report

I received this feedback from a Regional Vice-President in the past week:

“I learned a great deal of practical and insightful information about leadership in your class. I attended it twice because I wanted to attend with different teams.  I was tempted to attend a third time with my new team, but instead, I decided that it might be more beneficial if  I meet with them afterward as a follow-up, and to help reinforce/implement action plans.  I am using your method of ‘one-on-one’ meetings to get to know staff at my new location and finding it extremely useful to learn what is important to staff and to build relationships.”

Considering your own advice, that offered by course participants or research from The Leadership Challenge, ask yourself this important question:

“To what extent do I build relationships with my employees…or lead by positive example…or am humble…or challenge the process?”

How did you do?  Better yet, ask your employees for their perspectives. You might be surprised at the feedback.   Effective leaders want to stay relevant. They want to get better. They keep growing. They are open to feedback. Remember, giving good advice is one thing, acting on it is another!

Dr. Merlin Switzer is Managing Partner at Switzer Associates
He helps clients with improving Leadership, Leading Change & Team Development
Email | LinkedIn |  Web |

Image Sources:

Enhanced by Zemanta

L2L Contributing Author


  1. Leadership Development on July 3, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    My suggestion is “Dont ever lose before trying, always try the things and be confident while doing it and ensure yourself that you can do it”.

    • Merle on July 5, 2011 at 9:52 am

      Thank you for your comment! Confidence in oneself is certainly important. As leaders, if we are not confident in ourselves, it is hard to convince others to be confident in us.

  2. Kelwyn on July 11, 2011 at 8:27 am

    My best leadership advice is to learn the business side of your job. Each of us focus in on our job description and being effective in that world. What I have found to best drive productivity and improve efficiency is when our leaders have a stronger business acumen. Knowing what drives the bottom line will drive their vision and communication towards making good business decisions rather than targeting in on a handful of metrics.

  3. […] Login or Register to read the rest of this content. Mouse here forRelated LinksRelated LinksYour Best Single Piece of Leadership Advice Filed Under: Call Center Manager Tagged With: chief operating officer, effective leaders, […]

  4. Leadership Advice : The Educators on April 24, 2013 at 4:53 pm

    […] […]