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Book:  Fierce Leadership

Author:  Susan Scott

Purchase:  Print | eBook | Audiobook

Citation:  Scott, S. (2009). Fierce leadership : a bold alternative to the worst "best" practices of business today. New York: Broadway Business.

Three Big Takeaways:
  1. Most companies want honesty, openness, transparency and then use anonymous feedback.  Our recommendation is that companies should NOT using anonymous feedback..

  2. Practice your opening statement of a fierce conversation, but don’t play out the whole conversation in your mind, you might scare yourself away from having the conversation! 

  3. Weak leaders want agreement.  But fierce leaders want to know the truth.  We need to encourage those we lead to tell us the whole trust, paint the whole picture, even if its ugly, unpleasant, not what we wish it to be.  Because only then can we put our best efforts forward to fix what needs fixing.


Other Key Ideas:

Creating real impetus for change requires extraordinarily compelling feedback that is clear, insightful, well thought out, specific, and delivered face to face by someone who has observed us in action long enough and thoughtfully enough to tell us something about ourselves that gets our full attention.  360-degree anonymous feedback fails on all counts​​. 

When someone expresses criticism about you, say “tell me more” - don’t defend yourself...instead ask questions

Never confront an employee via email, you are just asking for more problems

As a leader, feel free to identify your contribution to the problem - “I wasn’t clear about the due dates…” etc.

Do not prepare others when you have a difficult conversation with them - simply walk in the door, on their turf, and have the conversation

“A good gardener pulls the weed as soon as they see it” - great leaders need to address problems right away

Positive feedback is the most powerful feedback of all; comments should be are authentic, specific, and heartfelt

The doctors that DON’T get sued are typically the ones that their patients like.  Why do patients like them? They take their time having conversations with their patients. 

Each of us accumulates or loses emotional capital one conversation at a time

Talented employees will leave when they sense there is a work environment that will make them happier

Your most valuable currency is relationship, emotional capital, and the ability to connect with others

Most people admire when a leader admits they made a mistake and suggest that same mistake will not be done again

If customers (students) are not responding to you (the teacher) then you need to change - the customers (students) don’t need to change


What's the real problem in most organizations? We want employees to be engaged and feel included, while we ourselves are detached, distracted, disengaged, focused on our to-do lists. We want others to bring effort in the door with them everyday, but we don't have time to engage in the conversations that would enrich our relationships. We are busy, and even when we are willing to spend more time with people, we don't want to get too close to them. After all, there’s a professional distance to maintain. Conversations and meetings that create actual intimacy make us nervous and uncomfortable. Besides, intimacy requires too much upkeep on an emotional level, and conversations and meetings that are really engaging and include take too much time. We're kind of busy.​

Advocate for your top performers moving up even if its a move that has a short-term negative impact on your progress.  Too many leaders will only support someone’s advancement if fits both good for that person and in the best interests of the leader.  ​

When people are more concerned about pleasing their leader than interrogating reality, it is a tell-tale sign that there are bad times ahead.

In a strong company, employees realize they may have to implement plans and strategies with which they’re not in complete agreement with.  However, they’ll do it anyways and support the idea if they know they’ve been heard.

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