// what do you think?


What’s So Hard About Being a Great Leader?

Seriously, what is so hard about being a great leader? I’m not asking what does it take to be a great CEO or what does it take to have the biggest most profitable business in your market. I just want to know what’s so tough about being a leader.

During day 2 of HBS leadership Best Practices, we studied

What’s so hard about being a great leader?

I’m not tweeting in class because they asked us not to but also because the classes are very engaging with lots of conversation and participation so here are the snippets of tweetable wisdom I wrote down:

  • “A turnaround is a transformation tragically delayed.”
  • “No one wins on strategy. You win on execution” (This was from a former McKinsey guy)
  • Anything that you have an advantage on today, you will eventually lose.
  • The more ownership employees feel the more productive they are.
  • Among knowledge workers, in highly complex work, the difference in productivity between the top 1% and the rest of your employees (in any business) is 127%.
  • The difference between the top 1% and the bottom 1% is infinite, because there are people who are incapable of doing their job.
  • It is better to cannibalize your own business than let your competitors cannibalize it.
  • Two types of leaders: Presiders and Transformers.
  • Are you constructively shocking your people daily to change?

What’s so hard about being a great leader?

If I could simplify all the case studies and lectures of the last two days (and probably the next 3 days) it would be this:


  • Hire the best people. Gary Rogers said, “You can either hire smart or manage tough.”
  • Then treat your people great. Vineet went so far as to say, “Employees First. Customers Second.”
  • Always strive for greatness.


  • Listen to your customer and give them what they want. I don’t think I need to go on in too great of detail about the importance of customer service here.
  • Keep your eyes on the market and look for coming changes.

What’s so hard about being a great leader?

So in theory none of this is very tough. Most of what we’ve learned has been common sense. But there’s one problem. We’re human. Being great is really hard. Being great at anything takes persistence. Every day you have to show up and give everything you have and I don’t care what anyone says, no one wants to give 100% of their effort 100% of the time.

What’s so hard about being great is that we can imagine a level of greatness that exceeds our own abilities. No one can ever achieve their own vision of greatness. I think what makes a great leader is someone who’s willing to show up every day and strive to do better. You’re human, you’re not perfect so give yourself some credit.

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About Tac

Social media anthropologist. Communications strategist. Business model junkie. Chief blogger here at New Comm Biz.

  • AlisonSchwartz

    I love “A turn around is a transformation tragically delayed.” Great.

  • http://www.highway12ventures.com Mark Solon

    What a great opportunity Tac. Take great notes and share liberally!

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Thanks Mark. Will do. I’m better at the sharing than the taking notes though :)

  • http://www.jasonmkey.com Jason mKey

    Another great post Tac

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Thanks Jason.

  • http://timbursch.com timbursch

    More great stuff. Wonder about the old adage, “lead by example.” In our new digital world do leaders get out among the troops and lead by walking around? Again, common sense, but these principles take intentionality and practice.

  • http://www.newcommbiz.com tacanderson

    Good question. I think lead by example applies to culture and values more than the various job activities of your company.

  • http://jeffhora.wordpress.com Jeff Hora

    I like “It is better to cannibalize your own business than let your competitors cannibalize it.” Sounds like a call to disruptive innovation.

  • http://mubbisherahmed.wordpress.com/2011/04/19/louis-v-gerstner-ceo-ibm-1993-2002-management-style-and-cios/ Louis V Gerstner (CEO IBM 1993-2002 ) management style and CIOs « Engaged IT for the CIO

    [...] What’s So Hard About Being a Great Leader? (newcommbiz.com) [...]

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