Leadership requires new ways of thinking which unleash trust and potential in an organization, and most importantly, in the people in the organization. The role of a leader is to empower the people in their organization to enact a shared strategy through the use of culture when they are not there.

Chapter by Chapter Summary

Chapter 1 - It's Not About You

🌎 The traditional models of leadership do not address the current challenges of the world.

👥 The job of a modern leader is to gain the trust of others so you can empower them to reach their full potential. It's more important to do this so that others act when "the leader" is not in the room.

🏁No matter what, the leader alone is responsible for the outcome of the work their teams do. This is the heart of empowerment leadership. Failure is the responsibility of the leader. When it goes well, all credit goes to the team.

🧘‍♂️ You must do your own inner work before you can help others reach their full potential. Do your work in private.

💕 Leadership requires that we see the interconnectedness between ourselves and that we acknowledge that we can each contribute to the growth of one another.

What are you doing to ensure the wild success of everyone on your team? What can you do to make them better?

Part 1 - Presence

🏭 Part 1 describes the activities that happen predominantly when the leader is present

Part 2 - Absence

🏭 Part 2 discusses what occurs the majority of the time - employees work in your absence. They must be able to thrive without you. This occurs because of strategy and culture. You use trust, love, and belonging when you are in presence.

Chapter 2 - Trust

👊 While trust feels precious, it is the foundation of most of the systems that undergird our lives.

👬 To build trust you must demonstrate empathy, have and be considered competent/logical, and be authentic. When trust is broken, it is normally one or more of these factors that is at play. One of these almost never lets you down. That is your trust "anchor". Additionally, every person has what the authors call a trust wobble and it is the one of these that breaks down most often.

👍 High achieving leaders often struggle with empathy. They describe the pattern of contributing until you feel as though you cannot add any more to the room as the "agony of the super smart (ASS)". Remember that your goal in all situations is to demonstrate to everything that they matter more than you do as the leader. Put aside what you want and make sure others get what they need. You will overcome an empathy wobble with presence. Be wary of letting logic override empathy.

🤹‍♀️ Equitable access to opportunity requires helping others gain knowledge, skills, and abilities so that they can improve their competence and logic.

🤍We must bring our whole, complete selves to every experience and create environments where others can do the same. Authenticity is contagious.

🏳‍🌈 Organizations take on far greater challenges every day than building inclusive workspaces. The challenge of inclusion is imperative and is much easier to solve than many of the other major disruptive things that organizations take on every day.

🐒 We are hard wired for survival. Our natural instincts are self protection. It takes work to overcome those natural instincts and create an environment that allows for meaning and impact and is not only about survival.

⭐ You must be willing to empower yourself. While it's not about you, it starts with you.

Questions for Reflection (Location 785):

  1. "How would it impact your leadership to build more trust tomorrow than you did today?
  2. In moments when trust has broken down or failed to gain traction, which of the core drivers of trust tend to get wobbly on you: empathy, logic, or authenticity?
  3. How do stress and pressure impact your ability to build trust with others?
  4. Does your wobble change or get even wobblier?
  5. Do you lead an organization or team that needs to rebuild trust with its key stakeholders? If so, what is the institutional wobble that needs to be addressed?
  6. How will you turn your trust diagnostics into meaningful action?
  7. What can you start doing immediately to build more trust with the people around you?"

Chapter 3 - Love

♥ Helping someone realize their full potential is a pure form of love - hence the title of the chapter. The environment you create must require high standards and show deep devotion. Most of us tend to one or the other of those two.

📌 We are often deeply devoted to the people around us but they aren't aware of that. Be curious, be present, seek to understand the true experience of the other person. Offer help and help without even being asked. Realize that in making someone else better you are paying a cost. Be sure you're willing to make that investment before you begin.

🧡 They reinforce the concept of "Clear is Kind" from Brene Brown.

💛 Building an environment that is just (where justice is clearly the driving factor) then you must have both high levels of authority and duty

❔ Build environments that don't allow complacency. Encourage others to look at where they have become complacent and deal with that.

💚 "Our thoughts and emotions distract us from leadership. It becomes about us rather than them. Said differently, most of us hit the justice target when it’s emotionally convenient. We embrace justice when the conditions are optimal—when we’ve slept well, or we’re not under pressure, or when it doesn’t require too much discomfort or deviation from our preferred patterns of behavior—but this convergence of circumstances rarely coincides with our biggest opportunities to lead." (Location 947) ..."your ability to empower others is the capacity to move into justice whenever it will make a difference." (Location 955)

💙 To go on a leadership journey you must be willing to challenge your own identity and reconsider the rules you've written for yourself.

💜 Growth mindset based on the work of Carol Dweck is critical here. Focus on effort rather than innate characteristics. This allows you to more easily set high standards and still demonstrate that you care deeply. "Dweck summarized her challenge with the following questions: Are you preparing the child for the path? Or the path for the child? Our translation to leadership is this: Are you asking your people to evolve? Or are you instead—because of loyalty or complacency or conflict avoidance—asking relatively little of them? Are you empowering others or are you making them comfortable?" (Location 986)

💞Feedback must be specific, particularly praise. Non-specific feedback is useless. Constructive feedback can only be given in an environment of trust. The sandwich method sucks. Your ratio of positive to constructive feedback should be closer to 5:1. You should judge your own performance as a leader by the improvement of those in whom you invest your time.

🔥 When you must separate from a team member and you're hesitating or if you're not sure, begin with doing a full and honest accounting of what the cost of not acting is.

Questions for Reflection (Location 1175)

  1. What do other people tend to feel when they’re around you?
  2. What do you want them to feel?
  3. Where do you naturally find yourself in the standards-devotion matrix?
  4. Which quadrant is most comfortable for you?
  5. What do you need to do differently as a leader to consistently occupy the justice quadrant?
  6. To reveal high standards and deep devotion simultaneously?
  7. What makes doing the work to be in justice worth it to you?
  8. What will change when you can reliably set other people up to thrive?

Chapter 4 - Belonging

🌈 Everyone benefits from an inclusive work environment.

⌚ The time to begin change for inclusion is now. Many organizations instill tactics to look like they are acting but that are actually stalling - assigning a committee or taskforce, assuming the conditions for change will be present later, or plans keep getting pushed out just to name a few.

👭 Every employment process is in need of improvement - from recruitment to hiring to onboarding.

🏃‍♀️ For everyone to thrive you need an inclusive culture where ongoing professional development is the norm.

🎈 "A culture of inclusion has four levels: safe, welcome, celebrated, and cherished." (Location 1396) A safe environment provides physical and emotional safety for everyone. A welcoming environment allows everyone to bring their "whole selves" to work freely. An environment that has moved to celebration is one where employees contribute unique ideas and perspectives and those are celebrated. You move to a culture that embraces cherishing when inclusion seeps through the organization and it provides advantages to the organization.

⚖ Informal development opportunities such as stretch assignments and mentoring are often unfairly distributed. If you commit to making sure everyone can thrive then you must also be intentional in how you provide these development opportunities.

🏋🏼‍♂️ Processes for promotion should be clear.

👻 Use anonymous evaluation tools carefully.

🤑 Pay people equally for doing equal work. Work hard to keep all of your people, especially when you've done the hard work of building an inclusive environment.

🤱🏿 Make life better for black working moms and you're making life better for everyone.

❓ Questions for Reflection (Location 1708)

  1. Who gets to thrive in your organization?
  2. Do you see demographic patterns in performance or engagement?
  3. What about promotion and retention?
  4. How would your company benefit if every single employee felt as if they could show up authentically and contribute their full capacity?
  5. Which of these words describes the way underrepresented people feel as employees of your organization: safe, welcome, celebrated, cherished?
  6. Which actions can you take right now to move your team along the inclusion dial?
  7. Whose support, endorsement, and/or participation will you need to achieve your inclusion and belonging goals?
  8. Who needs to be convinced that inclusion is an urgent, achievable goal?
  9. What is likely to get in the way of advancing your goals?
  10. How will you overcome these barriers?

Chapter 5 - Strategy

💹 Strategy determines how resources are used. When strategy is well done, people know how to deploy resources and they know they are empowered to do so.

🛑 If you want people to act in concert with your strategy then you must clearly explain your strategy AND ensure people understand it. And that goes all the way to the front line of your organization.

➕ You must decide what you will be better than your competitors at doing. This also means you will be worse at something. This is value-based strategy. Determine where you can add value without taking away value from what is most important to you.

👍 Empower your employees to use resources in the manner in which you'd like by ensuring they understand the strategy.

🔢 The best leaders spend their days prioritizing and reprioritizing all day.

👎🏼 Be absolutely terrible at the things that don't matter. To do this you must be clear on what matters.

💵 Create (a whole lot) more value than you capture

💰 Invest in your employees. MIT professor Zeynep Ton has done research on "good jobs" which shows that there are significant returns on investment in decent wages and good jobs even in low-cost and low-margin businesses. This thinking is contrary to the gig economy which creates plenty of customer delight through low cost, but it does not create a great living environment for the service providers.

🍰 She provides an exercise which asks people to try to find ways to improve various wedges of value in the company without decreasing value in any other wedge.

❔ How have you both internalized your strategy so you can explain it simply and how have you shared the strategy in an easy to understand way?

Chapter 6 - Culture

⚫ Culture fills any holes you leave or have in your strategy. Culture tells us what is true.

😊 Edgar H. Schein, a professor from MIT, divides culture of organizations into artifacts, behaviors, and shared basic assumptions. You have to get people to think how you want them to if you want them to behave how you want them to.

🤣 Use humor carefully or not at all. You must be really good at it to use humor well in the workplace.

⚠ "If your ambition as a leader is maximum impact, then learn to become a culture warrior." (Location 2209)

🗡 Beware of weaponizing your values or creating a culture where that is acceptable. As an example, if you have a value of being trustworthy then you must always seek to earn trust not to tell people they must trust you because that's a value of the organization.

❔ What elements of your culture are out of date? What needs to change?

🔛 "Culture changes the people it touches, and culture change transforms them." (Location 2368) The authors provide a culture change playbook.

📌 "the cornerstones of empowerment leadership: purpose, responsibility, accountability for the well-being of others." (Location 2435)

🌍 If you think you have a culture problem - address it immediately.

My Favorite Quotes

  • "... leadership, at its core, isn’t about you. It’s about how effective you are at unleashing other people. Full stop. That’s it. That’s the secret." (Location 112)
  • "...set high standards and reveal deep devotion at the same time, a nontrivial challenge we call love ...." (Location 230)
  • "The heady truth is that we all have the ability to release the energy of possibility in someone else’s life. (Location 294)"
  • "If you don’t have confidence in someone’s growth potential, then you can do many things with that person, but leading isn’t one of them." (Location 354)
  • Rose Marcario, CEO of Patagonia and former employee at USAID is quoted as saying, “never forget that investing in people has the possibility of infinite returns.” (Location 577)
  • "we end up concealing the very thing the world needs most from us—our differences—but we also make it harder for people to trust us in leadership, continuing a flywheel of diminishment that keeps the status quo firmly in place. The smaller we choose to make ourselves, the less likely we are to take up the space required to lead." (Location 666)
  • "It’s our shared moral and organizational imperative to create workplaces where the burdens of being different are shouldered by all of us." (Location 672)
  • "Inclusion is an urgent, achievable goal that requires far less audacity than disrupting industries or growing complex organizations, things organizations do every day without fear and confusion shutting down progress." (Location 674)
  • "Figure out the people and things that tend to pull your full humanity to the surface." (Location 695)
  • "...when it comes to trust, we also crave access to the person behind the talking points." (Location 702)
  • "Make it a requirement of Team membership that everyone is as comfortable with your insecurity as your audacity." (Location 715)
  • "Leaders are most effective in empowering other people when they create a context we describe as high standards and deep devotion." (Location 827)
  • "Our thoughts and emotions distract us from leadership. It becomes about us rather than them. Said differently, most of us hit the justice target when it’s emotionally convenient. We embrace justice when the conditions are optimal—when we’ve slept well, or we’re not under pressure, or when it doesn’t require too much discomfort or deviation from our preferred patterns of behavior—but this convergence of circumstances rarely coincides with our biggest opportunities to lead." (Location 947) ..."your ability to empower others is the capacity to move into justice whenever it will make a difference." (Location 955)
  • "an assumption has taken hold in many companies that “real” feedback is the negative stuff, the difficult conversations that we all need to learn how to have with each other. Positive reinforcement, in contrast, is something to be tolerated suspiciously on the way to getting to all this realness. In our experience, the very opposite is true." (Location 1013)
  • "Use your devices as they were meant to be used, to get closer to people at a distance instead of further away from the people right next to you." (Location 1100)
  • "The ability to quickly and gracefully part ways with employees is among your most important tactical leadership skills." (Location 1141)
  • "Development is the deliberate investment in the growth and evolution of the people around you. Development can be both formal (e.g., training programs and corporate universities) and informal (e.g., mentoring and access to stretch assignments)." (Location 1503)
  • "Earn the right to keep your people, every single day. We recommend you start (stay with us here) by making lots of paranoid assumptions. Assume your competitors are looking at your inclusive, well-oiled talent machine as their own development pipeline. Assume your best people are getting calls from enthusiastic headhunters on a weekly, even daily, basis." (Location 1604)
  • "When we began this work, the shorthand we offered people who wanted to get belonging right was that if you made your organization better for women, then you were likely to make it better for everyone. Over time, we evolved that advice to, “Make it better for black women,” to reflect the complexity of carrying around more than one marginalized identity. Sheryl Sandberg recently offered us this variation: “Make it better for black working moms.” If a black working mom has as good a chance of thriving in your organization as anyone else, then you’re getting a whole bunch of things right." (Location 1695)
  • "If you can replace anxiety and inertia with optimism and progress, few organizations will be able to resist your charm." (Location 1703)
  • "At its most basic, strategy describes how an organization wins." (Location 1754)
  • "...organizations that resist and try to be great at everything usually end up in a state of “exhausted mediocrity.”" (Location 1760)
  • "You will of course want to capture some of that value for yourself, but the capturing part is not about leadership. Capturing is about survival and security and wealth creation. We make no attributions about those pursuits—indeed, they are necessary—but we want to be clear about the distinction. You create value as a leader, and then capture some of it as an individual." (Location 1861)
  • "...understand deeply so that you can describe simply. (Location 2038)"
  • "When you step up to the leadership challenge, whether you like it or not, there’s no option to turn off the broadcast feature on your actions. Is it who you are or just for show? The answer is always both." (Location 2105)
  • "Most strategies have an expiration date, as conditions evolve and your good intentions get roughed up by reality." (Location 2110)
  • "Culture tells us how to behave in a meeting. It tells us who gets to take up space automatically and who has to work for it. It tells us whether we should follow the rules or cut corners, whether we should share or hoard information, whether we should stick our necks out and try to make things better or simply adapt to the status quo." (Location 2128)
  • "we believe that laughter is essential to surviving the absurdity of being human, to say nothing of going to work every day." (Location 2171)
  • "the roots of a company’s collective agreement about what is true can be found in the hearts, minds, and personal histories of its leaders. "(Location 2288)