Your Leader’s ONE Thing

By John Pearson

I’ve started collecting the wise and pithy proverbs from management and leadership gurus who pontificate on “The Number One Thing/Most Important Task of a Leader.” They’re all good—but can they all be the most important? Examples:

Max De Pree: “The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.: "Life's most urgent question is: What are you doing for others?"

Peter Drucker to Bob Buford: “The first job is to make top management effective.”

Jim Collins: “The first task for leaders is to create an environment and a process that enable people to safely identify and eliminate misalignments.”

Jeffrey Sonnenfeld: “Perhaps the most common—and the most dangerous—failure is the tendency of leaders at all levels to overlook opportunities for feedback.”

Drucker (again): “The most important do is to build the organization around information and communication instead of around hierarchy.”

Frances Hesselbein: “Leadership in these times means scanning the environment for those few trends that will have the greatest impact on the enterprise.”

Drucker (again): “The task of the nonprofit leader is to try to convert the organization’s mission statement into specifics.”

Jeffrey A. Krames: “Getting high energy people into the company is only the first step—the organizational equivalent of setting the table. The next, and bigger, task is to create an organization that converts energy into results.”

Deepak Sethi: “The toughest thing for leaders is letting go of something that has served them well for a long time.”

Ruth Haley Barton: “It is also important to involve the right people. One very common leadership mistake is to think that we can take a group of undiscerning individuals and expect them to show up in a leadership setting and all of a sudden become discerning!”

Robert L. Daft: “Leadership is often described as getting the best out of other people, but the first job of leadership is often getting the best out of yourself.”

Stephen R. Covey: “Both management and leadership are vital and either one without the other is insufficient.”

Ram Charan: “There is nothing more important for a CEO than having the right strategy and right choice of goals, and for the board, the right strategy is second only to having the right CEO.”

King Solomon: "There is one thing worse than a fool, and that is a man who is conceited." (Proverbs 26:12, TLB)

King David: "This one thing I know: God is for me!" (Psalms 56:9, TLB)

What are your favorite “one things?” Stay tuned for my favorite “one thing” book in my next blog.

QUESTION: At your next board meeting, what discerning counsel should your board give your CEO regarding his or her “Most Important Thing” this year?


This article was originally posted on the “Governance of Christ-Centered Organizations” blog, hosted by ECFA.
John Pearson, a board governance consultant and author, was ECFA’s governance blogger from 2011 to 2020.
© 2021, ECFA and John Pearson. All rights reserved.




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