Top Management Experts Share Hard-Earned Lessons on Becoming Great Mentors and Leaders


Marshall Goldsmith, Beverly Kaye, Ken Shelton, eds.

Davies-Black Publishing, 2000, 219 pp. 

ISBN 0-89106-147-9

GolLear  03-1-1

The Learning Network asked 100 of the most prominent figures in management and organization development to describe a personal learning experience—a “marker” that shaped their life’s work and influenced their teaching.  The resulting 37 pieces demonstrating how great teachers learn are, perhaps, less powerful than you might expect.  Some of the points I found valuable are listed below.  But learning the lessons is difficult without the stories. 

“Truly effective people learn from all of life and learn all their lives long.”  (Introduction) 

“Learning to live our own lives effectively often provides the most powerful lessons on leadership.  After all, if we cannot be leaders for ourselves, how can we be leaders for others?  And for others to trust us as leaders, they must know us; they must see our true selves.  That means that we must know and be willing to reveal our true selves.”  (Intro)

Warren Bennis.  “Anyone in authority is to some extent the hostage of how others perceive him or her.  The perceptions of other people can be a prison.  People impute motives to their leaders, love or hate them, seek them out or avoid them, and idolize or demonize them, independent of what the leaders do or who they are.”  (7)

James Collins.  “How would your day be different if you organized your time, energy, and resources primarily around the objective of learning, instead of around performance?”  (11)  “A true learning person also has a ‘to-learn’ list, and the items on that list….”  (13)  “Does your ‘to learn’ list carry at least as much weight as your ‘to-do’ list?  (15)

Robert Terry.  “Leadership is more about who you are as a human being than what you do for a living.  It’s more about being than doing.”  “To me, the profound challenge in leadership is authenticity….”  “I’ve learned that if I forget the little people and get caught up in the arrogance of working with the power players, then I’m off track.  My authenticity is compromised, and I don’t have a clue what’s going on.”  (20-21)

Terry Paulson.  “Every person I work with knows something better than I.  My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.”  (24)  “Leaders are known by the questions they consistently ask.  Jack’s question was, What’s working for you?  Jack always listened.  Jack knew how to get the best out of his team.  He came alive as a listener.  He was more excited about my ideas than he was about his own.”  (250

Stephen R. Covey.  “The best way to get people to learn is to turn them into teachers.”  You learn material best when you teach it. 

“The key to human influence is first to be influenced—first understand, before seeking to be understood.  People are only open to influence when they feel understood.  If I seek first to understand and even have my thinking and my message influenced by their feelings and concerns, I find people are much more open to my influence.”  (50)

James M. Kouzes.  “The moment you’re asked to teach you start to think, study, worry, and prepare.  In the process you become consumed by learning.  You’ve got to learn at a deeper level.”  “It inspires me daily to find new ways for people to teach each other.”  “I always try to provide an opportunity for participants to become the teachers.”  “Master teachers and learners are master storytellers.”  (59-60)

James Belasco.  “I know that my value as a teacher is measured by the performance of my students.  It’s not what I do that matters; it’s what my students do in life that really counts.”  (64)

Paul Hersey.  “I should be doing the things I do well and be willing to delegate other tasks to those who did them well.  It comes down to capitalizing on one’s strengths.”  (69)

Homa Bahrami.  “My effectiveness as a teacher will be limited if I can only see things from my point of view.  If I solicit feedback periodically, I can make midcourse corrections that help students experience further learning.”  (76)

Deepak Sethi.  “Even though I am an avid reader, it has been my deep belief that true learning is a socialization process and that transformative learning happens most effectively in the physical presence of one or more people.”  (84)

Dave Ulrich.  “How often do we do things that are out of the ordinary?”  (111)

Stratford Sherman.  “Strength of character is the ability to change when change is needed.”  “I had…been powerfully attracted to the idea of change—so long as it involved other people.”  (130)

“I am convinced that organizational transformation is not only a triumph of leadership but also the sum of individual actions of voluntary commitment.  People need to understand their own need for change and decide independently that change is what they want.  Without that commitment, shared by a great many individuals, organizational change can’t reach beyond the narrow confines of reengineering.  That’s why I believe it is imperative that leaders understand what their employees want, what they believe, and how they feel.  At work, as in marriage, voluntary commitment is the key to success.”  (130)

Jay Galbraith.  “Do you question your own perspective occasionally and try to see things fro another perspective?”  (135)

Robert W. Eichinger.  “Be a person who adds value.  Parroting, no matter how academically sound, isn’t of value in the real world.”  (140)

Marshall Goldsmith.  “It is much easier to see our problems in others than it is to see them in ourselves, and even though we may be able to deny our problems to ourselves, they may be very obvious to the people who are observing us.”  “Often the rest of the world has a more accurate perspective than we do.  If we can stop, listen, and think about what others see in us, we have a great opportunity.  We can compare the self that we want to be with the self we are presenting to the rest of the world.  We can then begin to make the real changes needed to align our stated values with our actual behavior.”  (147-8)

Wally Amos.  Principles that helped me through my crisis. (160-63)

  1. Don’t become part of the problem.  (Don’t internalize the dispute.)
  2. Accept and acknowledge the reality of your situation.  (Don’t try t deny it or wish it away.)
  3. Remain committed to creating a new life for yourself.
  4. Allow the experience to open you up to what you need to learn.
  5. Maintain a positive mental attitude.
  6. Hold on to your faith.
  7. Consciously practice living in the present.  (Be aware of and make the best use of each moment.)
  8. Keep your sense of enthusiasm alive and active.
  9. Engage in acts of selflessness.
  10. Aim at responsibility, honesty, and integrity at all times.

David M. Noer.  “What really matters when helping people or organizations through change and transition is not technique but authenticity, vulnerability, and empathy.  …connecting with others at the warm, messy, and unscientific level of the human spirit is a prerequisite for any methodology or process.  …technique without a grounding in empathy and vulnerability is sterile and artificial.”  (165-6)

Bernice McCarthy.  “All real change involves major uncertainty, and we cannot deny the questioning time to others simply because we have already answered the questions for ourselves.”  “We need to invite opposition among those with differing viewpoints.”  “When presenting ideas to others, are you more interested in winning them over or in hearing what they think?”  (172-3)

Charles E. Dwyer.  “If you don’t get defensive an don’t rationalize, you are able to listen to people and they will be reasonable.  You are then able to respond to their input.”  (177)

Lou Tice.  “Great coaches and mentors are so unshakably convinced that we have greatness in us, and their vision of what is possible for us is so clear and powerful, that they wind up convincing us, too.”  (186)  “the most powerful act any of us perform for others is to help them access their untapped potential, help them nurture and grow the best parts of themselves…”  (188)

Chip R. Bell.  “Great teachers are quick to confirm and slow to correct.  They use body language that speaks acceptance and affirmation.  They suspend critique, knowing judgment impedes risk taking and experimentation, both necessary for effective learning.”  “Great teachers perpetually seek ways to include and to partner.”  “Great teachers show perpetual curiosity.”  “They view themselves as learners more than teachers.” (192-3)

“…merriment [is] a key piece in the puzzle of learning.  When learners encounter humor and joy in their teachers, they learn to laugh at themselves.  The serious pursuit of growth must be coupled with an unserious process of growth.”  (194)

“Teaching is an ethical act.  Effective teachers and trainers must be clean in their dealings with learners, not false, manipulative, or greedy.  Good teachers are honest and congruent in their communications and actions.  They never steal their learners’ opportunities for struggle or moments of glory.  They refrain from coveting their learners’ talents or falsifying their own.  Good teachers honor the learner just as they honor the process of mutual learning.”  (195)

Robert Fritz.  “Make the choice to move ahead just before you think you are ready.  That way you will assimilate the lessons you have been learning.  Not only that, but you will create momentum that helps the learning process.  Learning becomes easier and easier, even if what we are learning becomes harder and harder.  This approach takes a high tolerance for being less than perfect at first.”  (199)

Joel Barker.  His high school swim coach was always trying to learn new ways.  “He would start by saying that he had an idea, that he wasn’t sure it would work, but would we be willing to try it?  And then he would draw us into the experiment and ask us what we thought about it after we were done.  And he always listened carefully to our answers.  Whatever worked we applied with a vengeance.” (202-3)