Skip to main content

Bumper Stickers for Leaders

| May 8, 2012

by Jim Bruce

Roger Schwarz writes an occasional newsletter titled “Mindset. Behavior.  Results.”  In a recent edition he noted that collective wisdom is often found in unexpected places, for example, bumper stickers.  Here is his article:




I like bumper stickers. They’re brief, to the point, and often clever. Here are a few of my favorites along with how they relate to Mutual Learning leadership.


How you THINK is how you LEAD.


Minds are like parachutes; they function only when open. If you want to be a leader who gets the best from your team, it’s not enough to try to influence them to follow your views. You need to be open to being influenced by their views as well. If you expect your team to be open to new ideas, it’s essential that you model what you expect. That’s why one of the core values of the Mutual Learning approach is curiosity. 

You don’t need a parachute to skydive. You need a parachute to skydive twice. (Why are parachute bumper stickers so popular?) This bumper sticker is a brutal reminder that you need a different kind of mindset and skill set to create sustained team results than you need to get your team to perform only in the short term. It’s also a reminder that solid preparation pays off.


186,000 miles per second – it’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. This physics bumper sticker reminds us that we work in systems with immutable natural constraints and interdependencies that we must operate within. It’s similar for the social system of a team. For example, if you focus all of your energy on improving team performance and neglect how your team members’ work together, over time you won’t have high team performance or effective working relationships.


Forget about world peace . . . imagine using your turn signal. This is a satirical version of the bumper sticker “Think global, act local.” I’m all for world peace, but as a formal job, it’s a little above my pay grade. This bumper sticker reminds us that the little behaviors we engage in every day can make a significant difference for the people we work with.


Don’t believe everything you think. It’s smart to question others’ thinking; it’s wise to question your own thinking. You lead yourself astray when you tell yourself stories about what’s happening in your team and then act on your stories assuming that they’re true. It’s critical to question yourself and how you came to know what you think you know. And that takes us full circle to the first bumper sticker.

Copyright Roger Schwarz & Associates, 2011. All rights reserved.“

 And, if you have a favorite, do pass it along.


Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim