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5 Things You Won’t Hear the Best Leaders Say in 2020

Let’s start with the most clichéd item on the list…

“We’ve always done it this way.”

You’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who would disagree that this is one of the most useless statements of mindset there is. Still, every year I hear people at events and workshops who complain that leaders in their organization say this––or something similar.

Our world is moving at an incredible pace and it’s not slowing down. If you’re not continually transforming and adapting––as an individual and as an organization––you’re going to get left in the dust.


“I just don’t understand this generation.”

Well, you’d better try.

I’ve got to be honest, this one really yanks my chain. Why do we need to revisit this stupid idea with every new generation?

At one of our workshops one of the participants told me about a new compensation package he had developed to motivate his youngest gen employees, at that time millennials. He had worked two years to design a program he was sure would inspire new levels of performance…

Except it didn’t. “I just don’t get this new generation” he said.

I asked how many millennials were involved in designing this program.


Well there it is. I don’t care what label we’re going to use to tag the next generation, but the fact is if we want to understand them, we’ve got to include them.

Want to build understanding and trust? Then share. Share time, respect––responsibility and opportunity. The more you share the more you’ll understand––and it works both ways.

“We’re all set.”

Or it’s cousin: “We really don’t need any help in that area.”

I’m blessed to work with some tremendous leaders and some amazing organizations. I never have to sell the value of our workshops and human-centric leadership to the best. They’re on top and they stay there because they understand that top performance is a discipline that needs constant attention.

Those who are “all set” seldom are. When I hear that from someone at the top of the org chart, it’s most often the case that I just listened to a litany of woe from one or more very concerned managers down the line.

The best leaders fully embrace this mindset:

“Perfection is not a destination. It’s a never-ending process.”

The best are always committed to improvement. Instead of patting themselves on the back, they’re rolling up their sleeves. They have what we reverently call “Beginner’s Mind.” A total dedication to learning, growth and development.

We had a tradition whenever we promoted a new Black Belt class. After they all received their belts I’d ask them to raise a hand, then reach down and give themselves a well-deserved pat on the back. After about 3 seconds I’d say:

“That’s enough. Now let’s get back to work!”

Over 35 plus years of martial arts I met many more “great” orange belts than Black Belts. That’s because the best Black Belts are those who keep Beginner’s Mind. They’re not likely to talk about what they’ve done in the past. They’re more likely to talk about what they’re trying to learn and how they’re trying to improve.

Same thing in business and leadership. And for the best––it never ends.

“It’s not my fault.”

Well––yes. It is.

That’s one of the jobs of a leader. No matter what and no matter how far down the chain of command, whatever happens on your watch is your responsibility. Like it or not.

“A general officer who will invariably assume the responsibility for failure, whether he deserves it or not, and invariably give the credit for success to others, whether they deserve it or not, will achieve outstanding success.” ~General George S. Patton

Which leads us to our final item…

“My greatest success is ______________________.”

(Fill in the blank!)

Your greatest success as a leader is the success of the people you serve. Period.

That’s how your success is measured as a leader. There is no more important or meaningful factor.

I know this flies in the face of what many people say, but the best leaders never have to toot their own horns. And they don’t.

A very long time ago Lao Tzu observed that “When the people are not in awe of your majesty, then great majesty has been achieved.” He’s talking about humility. He also said:

“A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves.”

That’s the spirit of the Sensei Leader. Your role is to inspire, empower and guide others––to bring out their very best. Their best is your best. It’s that simple.

Can you stand one more quote? This is one of my favorites from "Fiddler on the Roof." After Perchik brags about his skill as a teacher, Hodel replies…

“I heard that the rabbi who must praise himself has a congregation of one.”

Well put!

Who you are as a leader becomes reality in the hearts and minds of the people you serve through your words and actions. What you say––and what you choose not to say has a tremendous impact on others. The best leaders choose their words––and their silences––mindfully.

It IS important to think about what you’re going to say in the New Year. It’s just as important to think about what you’re NOT going to say!


Got more? Please share and add your thoughts to the comments!


The "Sensei" enjoys a very special relationship with followers…

It's built on respect, trust and loyalty. It's a deep and meaningful relationship that brings out the very best in both teacher and student––leader and follower…

  • How can you access the power of this relational style to Inspire, Empower and Guide the people who trust in your leadership?

  • How can you bring out the best in the people you serve?

  • How can you transform ME into WE?

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The best leaders and the best organizations are ALWAYS looking for ways to learn, grow and develop. Start today!

Call for your complimentary Strategy Session today… Alex Armstrong


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