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Top 5 Lessons I Learned From Master Mentors


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After three years and more than two hundred episodes featuring interviews with some of the world’s most influential thinkers, it’s a fair statement that I’ve learned a thing or two.

Thirty, to be precise.

I am privileged to host FranklinCovey’s On Leadership With Scott Miller podcast, now the world’s largest weekly leadership podcast. The insights shared from our guests—four-star military generals, Pulitzer Prize–winning authors, iconic CEOs and entrepreneurs, research scientists, celebrities, and less well-known but equally as influential practitioners—have been profound. So naturally, I wrote a book to share them as broadly as possible, titled Master Mentors: 30 Transformative Insights From Our Greatest Minds.

Here are five of the most profound insights I feature, which I found transformational for myself even three decades into a career dedicated to leadership development. 

As you read them, remember the sage advice from Voltaire: “Common sense is not so common” and from FranklinCovey’s co-founder Dr. Stephen R. Covey: “To know but not to do is not to know.”

Dave Hollis, entrepreneur and bestselling author of Get Out of Your Own Way.

Vulnerability is a leadership competency. Many have described our current times as the Great Resignation, given some studies show more than fifty percent of professionals are strongly considering or actively looking for a new job. That’s the reality of a post-pandemic world where your employees are no longer held captive. Remember: People don’t quit bad jobs. They quit horrible leaders and corrupt cultures. Your leaders are the lynchpins of your organizational culture. The key to building team engagement is the leader’s willingness to show vulnerability on their strengths and weaknesses, and coach their colleagues not only through their successes but also their messes.

Dr. Susan David, Harvard Medical School psychologist and bestselling author of Emotional Agility.

Effective leaders understand the difference between facts and emotions, opinions, and feelings. All are important and valuable, but facts are facts. Self-aware, emotionally agile people acknowledge the legitimacy of their feelings and emotions (and those of other people), while also recognizing that they should never confuse them with facts.

Karen Dillon, former editor of the Harvard Business Review and bestselling co-author of How Will You Measure Your Life? with Clayton Christensen. Research from Harvard visiting professor Amar Bhidé showed that “93 percent of all companies that ultimately became successful had to abandon their original strategy because it was not viable.” Only 7 percent of successful organizations did so with their original (or “deliberate”) strategy. Overwhelmingly, financially successful companies needed to change their deliberate strategy with an emergent strategy to become successful. The leaders, founders, and inventors needed to change their minds, check their egos, and be open to influence by others. The ability to change your mind—especially as it relates to your ideas, inventions, and strategies—is a key differentiator in business (and life) success.

Kim Scott, entrepreneur and bestselling author of Radical Candor and Just Work.

Of all the contributions leaders make, the most vital is offering people feedback on their blind spots. Even the most senior executives in the organization have blind spots (you too), and rarely have they been fortunate enough to have worked with or reported to a leader who cared enough about them to move outside their comfort zone and discuss the undiscussables. These blind spots might relate to business competence or interpersonal skills, or be as simple yet sensitive as personal hygiene or dress. This is an incomparable gift leaders can offer their colleagues—and too few ever rise to the occasion.

Seth Godin, iconoclast, entrepreneur, and bestselling author of books including Tribes, Purple Cow, and This Is Marketing.

After a decade-long friendship and having read every book and nearly every blog he’s ever posted (all six thousand of them), I learned from Seth the value of understanding the difference between being fearless and being reckless. It may seem self-evident, but I think for many of us, namely me, it’s not. I came to realize that I’d spent decades thinking I was acting fearlessly, when in fact I was behaving recklessly, with my behaviors and perhaps most importantly with my words. I was reckless in how I addressed situations, approached high-stakes, crucial conversations, and generally lacked diplomacy that could have helped my brand and allowed others, on the receiving end of my thoughts (and vitriol), to keep their self-esteem and self-confidence high. Building a more robust level of personal maturity and self-awareness around when you’re masquerading as being fearless, but really being reckless, can be a culture changer for any leader.

Written by Scott Miller of FranklinCovey.

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