Three Pillars of Effective Leadership

I am a huge fan of Jeff Weiner, LinkedIn’s Executive Chairman (and prior CEO). About five years ago, I watched a talk he gave at Greylock’s Blitzscaling sessions that deeply changed me.

I recently took his three-hour course on The Three Pillars of Effective Leadership and would like to share my notes with you. I highly recommend this course to anyone interested in kind and effective organizational leadership. I hope you find the following notes useful.

1. Awareness

The best leaders are most self-aware; they are aware of how the message is being received and can course correct.

  1. Be a spectator to your own thoughts
    1. Recognize we are wired for certain behavior. Fight human nature: Egocentrism, triggers (past exp.), bias (particularly unconscious) [1]. When you can become a spectator to these processes, triggered by someone else’s agenda, that’s when you can be interviewed, difficult because of natural tendencies.
    2. How to: Develop a mindfulness practice.
  2. Manage compassionately
    1. Compassion = Empathy + Action
    2. Compassion is not conditional; the people you don’t like need it the most. Don’t simply surround ourselves with people like us.
    3. When an interaction goes sour, be compassionate to recognize (be a spectator), be kind and truthful (establish trust).
    4. Trust = consistency over time.
    5. Value of managing compassionately. Ultimately, a company’s value is about the speed and quality of the decisions made within that company.
  3. Know what you ultimately want to accomplish
    1. Optimize for Passion and Skill.
    2. Understand strengths and weaknesses.
    3. Ways to generate self-awareness: mindfulness practice, 360-reviews, mentorship – Ray Chambers [2], Fred Kofman [3].

Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness, and compassion without wisdom is folly.

Fred Kofman
  • Inspiration: What are the most important qualities of a leader? The ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives
  • Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire people to do it.
  • Synthesis: Effective leaders can separate signal from noise, connecting dots.

Team and Company Awareness

  1. Building Your Team
    1. The winning teams are comprised of people that complement one another: skills + life experiences + perspectives.
    2. The team performs better when there are people like them in the team: diversity and inclusion.
    3. Zero tolerance for people who are not willing to uphold values and cultures. Rogue/toxic people.
    4. Three qualities of teams I want to work with:
      1. Dream big
      2. Get stuff done
      3. know how to have fun (share values)
    5. Be grateful to your team.
  2. Reading the Room
    1. Listen with the intent to understand, not just with the intent to reply.
    2. Speak with the intent to be understood, not just to prove your point. Model behavior to foster options, compassion.
    3. Just because you said, it doesn’t make it so.
      1. Must share goals, objectives, roadmaps, visions, best practices, socialized, cascaded the direction.
    4. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Once you get sick of yourself saying, only then will BEGIN to internalize what you are saying.
  3. Meeting Dynamics
    1. Identify what problem you are trying to solve. This meeting will be a success if (no higher than 3)
    2. Balance: presentation & discussion, pressure & patience.
      1. Read the agenda/docs before or first thing in the meeting.
      2. Tension: there should be a minimum productive tension; if everyone is quiet, it is a problem.
      3. Patience vs. impatience balance.
      4. Be careful w/ unintended consequences of casual feedback. They’ll treat as mandates. The more responsibility you have, the more influence you have, the more people will weigh your words and actions. The more senior you become, the more aware you need to about how your behavior is being interpreted.
      5. Three tiers of feedback:
        1. OPO (one person’s opinion)
        2. Strong suggestion – if mistakes, OK.
        3. Mandate
  4. Company Awareness
    1. Daily and weekly data: dashboards, email updates
    2. Weekly meetings: 1-on-1s, staff meetings
    3. Longer-term picture meetings: Corp Dev meetings, Corp Biz Reviews, OKRs

2. Synthesis

Separate signal from the noise, focus on what matters most, connect the dots. Create a sense of mission, and roadmap, use your awareness to course correct.

  1. Vision to values
    1. Vision: dream, true north, designed to inspire.
    2. Mission: Overarching objective, measurable and realizable.
    3. Value prop: Benefit or advantage creating for customer.
    4. Target audience: Who needs prioritizing.
    5. Strategy: How to make mission become a reality (understand competition)
    6. Priorities: Ranked list of tactics designed to realize objectives
    7. Objectives: Measurable goals aligned with the realization of mission and strategy. Unintended consequences of a measurable goal.
    8. Culture: Collective personality of the corporation, who we are, and who we inspire to be.
    9. Values: First-principles to make day-to-day decisions.
  2. FoCuS
    1. Fewer Things Done Better
      1. Everybody is trying to do too much.
      2. Start with the value proposition at the top, draw a bulls-eye at and concentric circles. The center is your primary opportunity.
      3. Don’t draw out resources from an inner layer to an outer layer too early. Competitors are chomping at the bit to steal that from you.
    2. Communicate: The right info to the right people, at the right time.
      1. Avoid surprises, over-communicating, bring it up quickly, don’t overdue, address prioritize.
      2. Who is in the to: and cc: is really important.
      3. Be clear when you expect to hear back,
    3. Speed
      1. Role of RAPID (recommend, agree, perform, input, decide) — understand who contributes to each category of rapid. Ask “what’s the RAPID?” for this decision.
      2. Alignment within 5 days (alignment, not necessarily decision, some decisions take a lot longer). Misalignment that goes longer for 5 days is counter-productive, time to escalate to the D.
  3. Tools
    1. Flying at the right altitude, there are two times continuous.
      1. Tactical <—> Strategic: Become more strategic as the org grows.
      2. Problem-solving <—> Coaching: As you become more responsible for people, coach to scale, don’t simply solve their problems. Coach your teams to coach their teams; that’s how to scale.
    2. Time management
      1. Scheduling every minute of your day leaves you no time to think.
      2. Make time to think mindfully.
      3. The constant pressure of falling behind will undermine your ability to think, make good decisions and your morale. Establish proper buffers.
      4. Walk the walk. Someone’s schedule sets your priorities.
    3. Forums
      1. Create forums (meetings/people) to help you synthesize. Regular staff meetings, strategy reviews, team offsite, product reviews.

3. Inspiration: Effective Communication

Leadership: The ability to inspire others to achieve shared objectives.

Managers tell people what to do. Leaders inspire them to do it. Ideally, all managers can be leaders.

Jeff Weiner

If you want to inspire others, start with what inspires you. It May sound obvious, it’s not. In order to inspire you to have to believe completely in what you are trying to convey. This is why name-dropping is not effective.

  1. Clarity of your vision
    1. Requires you to have a defined personal vision and reconcile that with your goals.
  2. The courage of your convictions
    1. Beliefs: Belief in your vision with everything you got; you can’t just be rationalized. Lead from the place of deeply held belief.
    2. Values: If we pursue to what at the exclusion of the how, it’ll lead to potential unintended consequences. What are your leadership values?
    3. Alignment
      1. Define your personal values
      2. Define your leadership values
      3. Think about how they align with the company values
  3. Effective Communication
    1. Authenticity – absolutely essential
      1. Ensure Belief, feel, do, say are in sync. That’s when you will show up as a leader.
      2. It’s human to feel that you are expected to be different from who you actually are at some level. Being true to yourself is key to effective communication.
      3. Vulnerability: Strike the right balance, too much you seem dishonest, too little, you can seem weak.
    2. Transparency
      1. The vicious cycle of obfuscation: Leadership holds info → info leaks, people lose trust → more measures to prevent leaks → repeat.
      2. The virtuous cycle of transparency: Leadership shares info → people feel like the info is theirs → they’ll protect their info → learn and build on best practices → helps solve problems → repeat.
    3. Repetition
      1. Repeat a message often. That’s when people begin to hear you.
      2. This is necessary because people see the world through their own lenses.
      3. History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once — David Gergen

History teaches that almost nothing a leader says is heard if spoken only once.

David Gergen

Inspiration: Effective Public Speaking

  1. Know Your Audience
    1. Don’t start with what you want to say. Find the union of what you want to say and what your audience wants to hear. Understand your audience. Who, why?
  2. Know Your Material
    1. Recognize and avoid the doom loop: Memorize → Forget a line → panic → people disconnect/discomfort → panic.
  3. Know Your Passion
    1. Your Energy > Your Words. Best speakers make you feel inspired, connected, passionate.
    2. When you are passionate about what you’re talking about, it’s going to shine through.

Jeff ends with a recommendation to a superb keynote delivered by Bryan Stevenson at Ted.


  1. Egocentrism: in theory, by leveraging experiences, we think we can make better decisions. Triggers: unwind neuro connections by putting yourself in a safer situation, deeply embedded.
  2. Ray Chambers:
    1. Importance of being in the moment
    2. Spectator to your own thoughts
    3. It’s better to be kind than to be right.
    4. Be grateful for at least one thing daily.
    5. Help others every chance you get
  3. Fred Kofman: Wisdom without compassion is ruthlessness, and compassion with wisdom is folly.

Thanks for reading 🤗

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