Blog · Dec 10, 2015

Leadership – which of these Mantras do you use?

Leadership mantras – do you use them?

What are the qualities that make someone a good leader? That’s a difficult question to answer. The skills and traits that make for excellent leadership in one set of circumstances, could be a leader’s Achille’s Heel in another.  It all depends on the group of people you’re leading and what you’re working to accomplish together as a high performing team.

In this article. we’ll explore 4 contrasting leadership mantras, and examine the situations in which they might be appropriate – and where they might get you into trouble. We’ll include mantras used by iconic business leaders and a few that you may not have come across before.

Listen to your gut

Richard Branson is famous for his somewhat unorthodox hiring methods. In a recent article for, he explained that a person’s personality is a key part of the hiring process. A person can look perfect on paper, but if you know that they’d cause a major personality clash with your existing team then they may be the wrong person to hire.

Of course, this approach has its limits. Personality is important but qualifications are key as well. It’s also worth making sure that your existing team doesn’t stop you from hiring the right candidate. As is so often the case with leadership, there is a balance to be struck. If you’re leading in an environment where collaborative working is key however, then make sure you consider the personality when making hiring decisions.

Don’t make tough decisions until you need to.

This is a controversial one. Procrastination is rarely a positive trait in leadership. If you don’t try and resolve problems when they first appear, they can become far bigger and problematic.

There is, however, a case to be made for standing back and thinking before you make a tough decision – not just doing the first thing that comes into your head. Anyone can make a quick decision, making the right decision can be far more difficult (and far more important!)

Saying it out loud – “I was wrong”

Admitting that you’ve made a bad decision can be difficult. It’s far better to recognise your mistake and work to recover from it, rather than digging yourself in deeper. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to have to learn from your mistakes too often, but a mistake is an opportunity to improve next time.  Being able to learn from them is a very positive trait. One of our favourite questions is “What could I do  better next time?”.

Being able to admit when you don’t know something and referring something up or down the chain as appropriate is a healthy habit.

Will It Make The Boat Go Faster?

You probably won’t be surprised to hear that this is our favourite leadership mantra but we’re not alone. The senior leadership teams at companies like Innocent Drinks and Hilton Worldwide use it to maintain momentum towards their Crazy goals.

Having the right question is key. It’s a simple litmus test that you can run before you do anything at all – whether it’s flying to the other side of the world to speak at a conference or making a telephone call. If the action doesn’t make your boat go faster you should consider delaying it, delegating it or not doing it at all. You can then spend the time that you would have spent on the action doing something else that actually will make your boat go faster.


Which of these leadership mantras could you make use of? Do you have one of your own? We’d love to hear it in the comments. If you’d like regular performance enhancing insight, direct to your inbox, then why not sign up to our regular Performance Insights emails.

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