Leadership – Best Advice

The March 21, 2005 issue of Fortune magazine included an article titled “The Best Advice I Ever Got.” It was a great article that offered wit and wisdom about achieving business success. It motivated me to produce my newest book, Leadership-Best Advice I Ever Got. It describes the best leadership advice 131 successful CEOs, coaches, consultants, professors, managers, executives, presidents, politicians, and religious leaders received that most helped them become effective and successful leaders.

John Baldoni
Baldoni Consulting LLC
Author and Leadership Communication Consultant

Leadership is about making things happen. Advice I have received comes from my father, a physician. He taught me the value of persistence. If you want to make something happen with your life – in school, in your profession or in your community, do it. Perceived obstacles crumble against persistent desire. At the same time, my mother taught me compassion for others. Therefore, persistence for your cause should not be gained at the expense of others. Another bit of leadership wisdom!

Cordia Harrington
President and CEO, Tennessee Bun Company

Time and time again I have been told, “God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason”…or as Stephen Covey said …”Seek to understand, rather than be understood.” As a leader, listening first to the issue, then trying to coach, has been the most valuable advice I have been given.

Kevin Nolan
President & Chief Executive Officer, Affinity Health Systems, Inc.

What the people of an organization want from their leader are answers to the following: Where are we going? How are we going to get there? What is my role? The more clarity that can be added to each of the three questions, the better the result.

Debbe Kennedy
President, CEO and Founder, Global Dialogue Center and Leadership Solutions Companies,
Author, Action Dialogues and Breakthrough!

His name was Bookie. I was a young manager at IBM just promoted to my first staff assignment in a regional marketing office. For reasons I can’t explain, he called me into his office while I was visiting his location. “I want to pass along a little advice to you,” he offered unsolicited. He shared his secrets to success: “Jobs, missions, titles and organizations will come and go. Business is dynamic. It changes. Don’t focus your goals toward any of these. What you need to do is learn to master the skills that will allow you to work anywhere. There are four skills: The ability to develop an idea, effectively plan for its implementation, execute second-to-none and achieve superior results time after time. Seek jobs and opportunities with this in mind. Forget what others do. Work to be known for delivering excellence. It speaks for itself and it opens doors.” Bookie’s words remain fresh in my mind. They were instrumental in shaping my direction, future and achievements. He was right-on! I’ve always wished he knew.

Mary Jean Thornton
Former Executive Vice President & CIO, The Travelers

Be curious! Curiosity is a prerequisite to continuous improvement and even excellence. The person who gave me this advice urged me to study people, process, and structures; he inspired me to be intellectually curious. He often reminded me that making progress, in part, was based upon thinking. I applied this notion of intellectual curiosity by thinking about the organization’s future, understanding the present, and knowing and challenging myself to creatively move the people and the organization closer to its vision.

Brian P. Lees
Massachusetts State Senator
Senate Minority Leader

The most valuable advice I’ve received came from my mentor, United States Senator Edward W. Brooke III. He told me to listen to all different kinds of people. Listening only to those who share your background and opinions can be imprudent. It is important to respect your neighbors’ rights to their own views. Listening to and talking with a variety of people, from professors to police officers, from senior citizens to schoolchildren, is essential not only to be a good legislator, but to be a valuable member of a community.


Great advice comes from many sources – parents, other relatives, consultants, bosses, co-workers, mentors, teachers, coaches, and friends. The important point to remember is to stay open, listen to everyone, but develop your own leadership style.