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The Leader’s Checklist

| May 1, 2012

by Jim Bruce

This past year Michael Useem’s new book “The Leader’s Checklist” was published.  Professor Useem is Professor of Management and Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.  

The checklist has 15 leadership principles that taken together can constitute an effective playbook for leadership decisions whatever the challenge.  According to Useem, the principles are applicable to most leaders, in most situations, in most circumstances.

The 15 principles are:

1.  Articulate a vision.  Formulate a clear and persuasive vision, and communicate it broadly.

2.  Think and act strategically.  Develop a practical strategy for achieving the vision both in the short and the long term.

3.  Honor the room.  Listen to and support those who work with you.

4.  Take charge.  Embrace a bias for action.

5.  Act decisively.  Make good and timely decisions, and ensure they are executed.

6.  Communicate persuasively.  Be timely and crystal clear.

7.  Motivate the staff.

8.  Embrace the front lines.  Stay in contact with those in dirct contact with the customers.  Listen for ideas and concerns.

9.  Build leadership in others.  Develop leadership throughout the organization.

10.  Manage relationships.  Build and maintain relationships with staff and others involved.

11.  Identify personal implications.  Help the staff appreciate the impact that the vision and strategy are to have on their own work and future.

12.  Convey your character.  Ensure that others see you as a person of integrity.

13.  Dampen over-optimism.  Counter over enthusiasm, focus attention on latent threats and unsolved problems.

14.  Build a diverse top team.  Top quality, diverse in expertise, united in purpose, engaged and energized.

15.  Place common interest first.

Useem believes that these principles provide a solid template for action, suitable for most leadership moments.  But, sometimes it’s appropriate to customize the list for your specific context.  He notes that both GE and Google have done so.

Interested in reading more.  Useem has an article “The Leadership Checklist in the European Business Review <> and Forbes also has a helpful review at <>.  Want more, check out the book – The Leader’s Checklist:  15 Mission-Critical Principles.

You’ve heard most of these principles in the Leaders Program.  Do take this opportunity for a review.


Have a great week.  .  .  .     jim