Act like a Boss

You’ll need a commanding presence if you want to lead, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, Ph.D., author of Power: Why Some People Have It–and Others Don’t. Here’s how to beef up your image.

Use your voice
Speak in a loud, strong tone that commands attention. “Interrupting can actually be good sometimes,” Pfeffer says. But don’t let people barge in while you’re speaking; this suggests a lack of control.

Stand tall
When addressing a group, keep a straight posture. Don’t hunch or shrink inward. Elevated physical stature and open body language make you seem more powerful, says Roderick Kramer, Ph.D., of Stanford University.

Add flair
To set yourself apart, wear clothing that’s a bit showier than the norm. “You need to wear something that makes you stand out,” Pfeffer says. This can be a touch as subtle as a handkerchief in your pocket.

Take up space
To magnify the power of your presence in smaller groups, Pfeffer says, try to consume more space than everyone else around you. “Spread your arms and legs,” he says. “Expand.” It’ll feel awkward, but you’ll notice results.

Use your hands
Injecting emotion into a speech is effective, as long as your effort seems natural. “Standing still is not good for a leader hoping to engage others and influence their thinking,” Kramer says.


Forbes Leadership Highlights of the Week: Do These Five Things! –

Forbes Leadership Highlights of the Week: Do These Five Things!

This week at Forbes Leadership, a lot of wisdom came in bundles of five. August Turak unleashed “The Power of Why: Five Keys to Getting Business Right.” Meghan Biro identified an essential “Five Leadership Behaviors Loyal Employees Trust.” Dorie Clark sketched out “Five Ways to Become a Global Leader” and then, for after you’ve become one, added “Five Tips to Maximize Your International Business Travel.” Carol Kinsey Goman nailed “Five Tips for Virtual Collaboration.” And Verena Sisa let us in on“Five Realities Marketers Need to Know About Hispanics.”

Not that we limited ourselves. Mike Myatt counted no fewer than “15 Ways to Transform Useless Ideas Into Innovation.” Jacquelyn Smith offered “So You Hate Your Summer Job: Here are 12 Things You Can Do.” Glenn Llopis counted out “The Top Nine Things That Ultimately Motivate Employees to Achieve.” John Mayo-Smith summed up “Six Tips for Forging a Strong CMO-CIO Partnership.” And, distilling the numbers down, Christine Riordan suggested you “Take These Four Steps if You Want to Lead Big Change,” and Dorie Clark found “Four Steps to Becoming a Corporate Thought Leader” and“Three Ways to Harness the Power of Your Intuition.” Lisa Arthur whittled down to “Three Books for CMOs to Read This Summer.” And Avi Dan zeroed in (so to speak) on “The Single Most Powerful Word in New Business,” just as Victor Lipman revealed the “One Easy Way to Reduce Workplace Stress and Enhance Productivity.” We’ll take it.

We looked hard at a lot of leaders and their doings this week. Christine Comaford considered “Leo Apotheker, Jack Griffin, Michael Woodford: Beware the Boardroom Ninja and Prevent Being Blindsided.”Duane Hansen reported that “Steve Blank Cracked the Code on Entrepreneurship—and the Economy.”Ken Makovsky celebrated a no-hitter with“Unleashing a Hero: Johan Santana,” and also in the realm of sports, Karl Moore drew together “Duke’s Coach K and Building a Leadership Legacy.” Kasia Moreno asked, “Mayor Bloomberg: Oppressor or Mary Poppins?” (along similar lines, Robert Passikoff saw where “Big Gulp Meets Big Brother”). Geoff Loftus singled out Jamie Dimon in proclaiming this “The Golden Age of Mismanagement.” Rahim Kanani interviewed “Alicia Keys: Up Close and Personal on Making a Difference.” James Marshall Crotty marveled at how the“Intrepid Nine-Year-Old Behind Cain’s Arcade Has Inspired a Film, a Foundation, and Now a Curriculum,” and he also wrote a stirring eulogy: “Ray Bradbury Dies at 91. His Dystopian Classic, Fahrenheit 451, Speaks to Us Today.”

We had a few big lists this week. Jacquelyn Smith ranked “The World’s Most Reputable Companies,” with BMW emerging as No. 1 for the first time ever this year. She also found out and shared with us “America’s Best-Paying Blue Collar Jobs” and “The Best and Worst Master’s Degrees for Jobs.”

In company news, Erika Morphy reported that “ Buys Buddy Media for $689M; Oracle Took Vitrue. Who’s Left for Microsoft CRM?” Simon Graj assessed “The Facebook Glitch: Will Brands Turn Social Media Shy?,” and David Cooperstein told us “How Facebook Can Avoid Being the Next Yahoo!”Rahim Kanani explained “Why YouTube Is the Ultimate Platform for Global Social Change.” Steve Olenski found that “American Express Looks to Shake Up Mobile Advertising.” Will Burns rebuked “Apple: Borrowing Interest Only Makes You Less Interesting,” but Erika Morphy revealed that “Apple’s Getting Ready to Spring Something Big at WWDC Next Week.” Carmine Gallo admired an “Extreme Business Makeover, Foursquare Style.” Paul Hodgson saw just deserts at “Chesapeake: The Governance Ravens Come Home to Roost.” And David Vinjamuri wanted you to eat the right desserts: “Disney Rejects Junk Food, and Other Brands Should Too.”

No matter what kind of desserts you eat, don’t sit inside reading Forbes Leadership articles all weekend, as tempting as that may be. After all, we just got this good news from Victor Lipman: “New Study Links Exercise to Higher Pay.”


How To Sell Yourself

How To Sell Yourself


Earlier this week, I posted “She Got the Promotion. You Didn’t. Here’s Why.”

One reason I suggested you may get passed over for a promotion is if you’re not selling yourself.


“You forgot to sell you at work,” I wrote. “She sold herself like a pro and the boss bought it.”

In response, one of my Twitter followers, Natalia, tweeted, “@iamsusannah How do you sell yourself? Teach us!”

I’ve always been good at selling myself. Why? I’m not sure.

Because I figured no one else would. Because I’m a natural born hustler. Because I’ve spent a fair amount of my career hanging around pimps, prostitutes, and porn stars, and, boy, do they know how to sell themselves.

Here’s how you can sell yourself — at work, in life, to the world. 

TIP #1: It’s not you, it’s “you.”

One of the biggest challenges for those who are selling-themselves challenged is an inability to separate who they truly are from who they are as a product. There’s you — imperfect, conflicted, fallible — and then there’s the “you” you’re selling — awesome, cool, superhuman.

Don’t sell yourself well? Think of “you” as a superhero version of yourself. Make a list of your best qualities. Dress the way SuperYou would dress. Talk the way SuperYou would talk. Be SuperYou. Role play. It’s a part. Experiment. This is play.



When I used to be on TV, I would get very nervous beforehand. Then I would think about how I only had to be “Susannah Breslin,” not Susannah Breslin, for 22 minutes on a half-hour TV show, if you subtract the time they need to run the commercials. I can be my idealized self for 22 minutes. That’s how it starts.

TIP #2: Annoy others.

It’s not enough to just be. There’s too much competition. You need to network, communicate, and engage with people as the “you” you want to be, and you won’t get there by hiding.

Recently, I heard about a job opening. It would be a very cool job working with a very cool group of people. The situation gave me the opportunity to suggest anybody for the position. I suggested one person.

It was the person who had annoyed me the most.

I’ve known her for about a year, and it was because she kept bugging me, kept sending me emails, kept reaching out to me — and, in doing so, selling herself to me — that she was the only person who came to mind and the only person I suggested.

This is stupid. Because I have 4,000 followers on Twitter, and I have a blog on, and there should be way more people who I should have been able to suggest. But because she was the only who waspersistent, she was the only one I suggested.

She is young. She is a millennial. She gets it.

TIP #3: Be a unicorn.

People try to sell themselves, their products, and their services to me all the time. Mostly, they do this through emails. I would say 99% of them do it wrong.

They’re boring.

They pitch dull ideas, uninteresting products, unoriginal versions of themselves. They think they’re adding a new spin, or a groundbreaking product, or a forward-thinking service, but it’s the same old thing.


One thing that’s great about the internet is that it’s a marketplace where anyone can sell anything. One thing that sucks about the internet is that this digital marketplace gives everyone the opportunity to hawk their crap.

You want to be a freelance writer? Wow, nobody’s tried that before. You have some new app that’s like five others before it? Congratulations. You’re working with an expert in a field wherein better experts already exist? I fell asleep reading the first sentence of your lame pitch.

Be a unicorn.

What is original? What is unique? What does it mean to be a unicorn? Find something nobody else is doing. Create something that did not exist previously. Be that new chimera the rest of us are too afraid to dream is real.

BONUS TIP: I wrote this post and this post the same day I did chemo. What’s your excuse? Stop thinking about all the reasons you can’t start today and just get started.

Email me. Follow me on Twitter. My personal blog.

She Got The Promotion. You Didn’t. Here’s Why. –

She Got The Promotion. You Didn’t. Here’s Why.

The word just came down about that promotion. You didn’t get it. She did.

Frankly, you’re shocked. And baffled to boot. Her, not you? You can hardly believe it.

Here’s why she got the promotion and you didn’t.

TIP #1: You’re not empathetic enough.

We’ll give you this. You sure played by the rules. You read the job description, and since day one you’ve done everything you can to fulfill it. You learned X and polished your Y skills, networked with the ABCs and even upped your pay grade.

But all you did was fill a slot, and now you learned that’s not enough. 

Your failure: a lack of empathy. You never put yourself in your boss’s head and got a 360-degree view of what your boss wanted. You became your idea of the perfect employee, and why would your boss give you a promotion for that?

TIP #2: You didn’t sell yourself.

Man, is it easy to point the finger at someone else, to shirk responsibility, to blame anyone but yourself for your glaring failure. You thought that doing enough was enough. You thought what you did would be recognized without you pointing it out to anyone. You thought operating your career path like a circling helicopter would get you somewhere.

You forgot to sell you at work.

She sold herself like a pro and the boss bought it.

TIP #3: It’s not you, it’s her.

So, you feel like a loser. Or you’re pissed. Or you’re humiliated. 

This sucks, you think on the train home from work, in bed waiting to fall asleep, eating a breakfast burrito.

Or, you know, maybe she’s just good. Maybe she’s just really, really good at what she does. Maybe you could learn from her. Maybe if you asked her how she scored that promotion, how she does what she does, how she can help you do what you do, you’d get over feeling sorry for yourself when you’re not resenting her, and, after all this wasted time, you’d learn how to get a promotion.

Email me. Follow me on Twitter. My personal blog.


  • Victoria PynchonVictoria Pynchon, Contributor 4 days ago

    Spot on.

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  • Jappreet SethiJappreet Sethi 1 day ago

    One of the best ways to stand our positively from the rest of the crowd – and therefore increase your chances of getting a promotion – is by helping your colleagues. Take time out each week to help someone facing problems. This is a sure-fire way of getting yourself noticed, because very few employees do it. Offer guidance on specific tasks and help them to organize their work better. Going over and beyond the call of duty in such a way will soon get you noticed by someone in management.

    Jappreet Sethi

    Follow on Twitter @HR_Whiz

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  • whrosenwhrosen 5 hours ago

    TIP #4: She’s seeing the boss on the side.

    If the person passed over is shocked and baffled there are probably other things going on. I have yet to work in a place where there was not an agenda of this sort in office politics. Usually people know about it but the perpetrator is unaware of just how many or the demoralization it causes. Look at that bozo (just fired CEO) that drove Best Buy from Forbes company of the year a few years back into the ground. He was having solo meetings with a female for two hours in locked conference rooms.

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How a Freelancer Learned to Be a Hustler –

How a Freelancer Learned to Be a Hustler


Ah, the freelance life. You work from home. You set your own hours. You are your own boss.

It’s awesome, right?

It can be, if you know how to do it.

TIP #1: Ignore the experts.  

If you Google “how to be a freelancer,” you will get a range of advice. But most will fall into a single category. They will encourage you to impose a series of rules upon yourself that will make you productive, happy, and successful. Sometimes, these rules involve getting dressed as if you’re going to work, setting regular work hours, and pretending you’re at a “real job” while you’re at home.

What is the point?

I’ve been a freelancer for most of the last 15 years. Here’s how I do it. I get dressed if I feel like it. I work whenever I feel like it. I go for a walk when I feel like it.

If you’re what I would call a “true freelancer,” someone who freelances because they can’t stand to work any other way, you must honor your “true freelancer” nature and do it your own way. If I wanted a job where I had to wear a skirt to work, commute more than 10 feet from my bed to my computer, and discuss last night’s TV lineup at the water cooler, I’d have that job.

I don’t want that job. I’m a creative. I do what I want.

TIP #2: Hustle or die trying.

In order to be a successful freelancer, you must be a good hustler. Ideally, you should be a born hustler. My grandmother was something of a hustler, and I like to think she passed the hustler gene on to me.

For those who find self-promotion agonizing, who can’t stand the idea of negotiating payment on a regular basis, who aren’t sure if they have what it takes so maybe they should go back to that old job they hated, it’s best to avoid freelancing altogether.

According to Merriam Webster, the definition of hustle is (in part), “  to obtain by energetic activity <hustle up new customers>.” The enterprising freelancer must be good at the hustle in order to survive in today’s economy. He or she must get a perverse thrill out of finding new revenue streams, extracting payment from clients, and surfing the waves of gigs as they ebb and flow.

According to Wikipedia, the definition of hustler is (in part), “a practitioner of confidence tricks.” It’s always seemed to me that a good freelancer is one who can hustle oneself — hustle oneself into believing that one can make this work. Without that confidence, the freelance hustler will fail.

TIP #3: Diversify, diversify, diversify.

Here’s how I would never be able to survive as a freelancer: doing one thing. I’m able to support myself as a freelancer because I can do more than one thing. I’m a writer, a blogger, and an editor. But I also do things that fall into the category of marketing. I generate social media content for big PR companies working with big-name brands, and I work with big websites helping them drive more traffic to their sites.

I can do this because I am good at being a creative, and I am good at being a marketer. This means my clients get two for the price of one. This is what is referred to as a “deal.”

TIP #4: Work for free.

I do this rarely. I do this for certain reasons only. Those reasons may vary.

For example, recently I wrote this piece for Harvard’s Nieman Storyboard. I did it because I was writing about something I love, and that’s what I need to do more of: things I love.

If you don’t sometimes do work for love and love only, you’ll probably go insane as a freelancer.

TIP #5: Be an asshole.

The other day I asked my editor at Forbes if I could write a post entitled: “Why Being an A**hole Pays.”

Not long before that, I had written a post entitled: “Fire Me? F*** You.” That post was about how departing CEO Carol Bartz had gone out in a blaze of swear words. My “A**hole” post was going to be about Bartz, editorNikki Finke (who recently wrote a letter to a rival publication with which she is legally feuding that concluded: “Now get the fuck out of my face“), and Michael Arrington, the founder and now former editor of TechCrunch who is notorious for, among other things, being something of a jerk.

I ended up not writing the post because my editor didn’t care for the title, which, frankly, irritated me. But here is my point. The point is you can read all over the internet about how it pays to be nice, and it’s all about good faith, and why this sort of kumbaya approach to doing business is the best way to do business, and while I would like to agree, I would have to say after 15 years of freelancing — or hustling, whatever you want to call it — I do not agree.

This is capitalism, not a self-help party. Capitalism is not about holding hands, and sharing your feelings, and hugs. It’s about dogs who eat other dogs, and hustlers who play confidence tricks, and winning big. I’m not saying I live in this mentality all the time, but I have come to feel that the endless reams of advice given to people, women especially, to play nice is seriously misguided.

In one of the many posts on TechCrunch about Arrington’s departure, a commenter referred to him as a “controversialist.” I’m not sure I’d encountered that word before. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, thedefinition of a controversialist is: “a person who likes to disagree with other people and say things that make people angry or think about a subject.”

I like this idea. Of being a controversialist. I think this is important. I think this is the new, new thing. I think I am something of a controversialist, and I think this, maybe more than anything, is what has helped me survive as a freelancer. I think sometimes it’s hard for women to be controversialists. Although not always, of course. For example, there’s Madonna, and Ann Coulter, and Cindy Gallop.

That’s what I meant when I wanted to write, “Why Being an A**hole Pays.” It means if you want to be successful, you are going to have to do more than want it. You are going to have to be it, and weather the criticism, and do the hustle, even when that means being an asshole.

Stop taking no for an answer. Stop giving up. Stop playing nice and start playing hardball. Then you will start hitting home runs as a freelancer.

Read my Forbes blogEmail me. Follow me on Twitter. Visit my blog.


  • smallfarmersmallfarmer 8 months ago

    Good stuff. Definitely true about women over-buying into kumbayah. Nice has a role, but you have to be able to throw down as well. Too much kumbayah keeps women down.
    Surprised you didn’t mention Ms. Stewart in there.

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  • erichenaoerichenao 8 months ago

    I love you being an a**hole. It inspires me…thank you…AGAIN!

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  • hosedinamericahosedinamerica 8 months ago

    Totally agree. When I get up in the morning I look in the mirror and ask “What can I do today to be a bigger a***ole than I was yesterday?”.
    I’m not at work to run a popularity contest and I’ve always had to “hustle” for a job, I enjoy eating lunch alone and I could give a rat’s a*s if myo-workers like me or loath me. Afterall, business is a dog eat dog world.

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  • chiguy31chiguy31 8 months ago

    Its important to have teeth – and be known to have teeth (especially for women).

    Once you have nipped a couple of times, people become aware of this attribute and watch for the teeth. In fact once you have bitten publicly, you probably will not have to bite again.

    Robert Heinlein said: “An armed society is a polite society”. Holds true for having teeth in the business world.

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  • suicideblondsuicideblond 8 months ago

    “im a hustler baby… i just want you to know..its not where ive been..its where im ’bout to go”~JayZ

    i sing this to myself in the shower EVERY DAY…

    “namaste” is for hippies (ok ok or for AFTER work)

    im a BUSINESS person … so ill be over here… hustling…

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  • Author
    Susannah BreslinSusannah Breslin, Contributor 8 months ago

    Martha was here in spirit.

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  • Author
    Susannah BreslinSusannah Breslin, Contributor 8 months ago

    You inspire my assholery.

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  • Author
    Susannah BreslinSusannah Breslin, Contributor 8 months ago

    I can’t tell if you’re being serious or sarcastic, but if you’re being serious, you’re a bigger asshole than me, so kudos on that.

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  • Author
    Susannah BreslinSusannah Breslin, Contributor 8 months ago

    It’s a fine line, knowing who to bite, when, and how hard.

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  • Author
    Susannah BreslinSusannah Breslin, Contributor 8 months ago


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  • kenhollykenholly 8 months ago

    Brilliant and humorous too. Most of the constructive criticism I received during my working years had negative value.

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  • Author
    Susannah BreslinSusannah Breslin, Contributor 8 months ago


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  • dsantodsanto 8 months ago

    I work as a consulting geologist. In my circle, if you are identified as a hustler you are doomed. It is one thing to market yourself and exagerate your abilities or your companies expertise, it is another thing to fail to back up your claims. Do not promise more than you can deliver.

    Business people are smart. They can smell a phony. This also applies to government Bureaucrats to a lessor extent. Bureaucracies are a major source of business at the present time.

    Maintain existing clients through outstanding service and product. Attract new business by demonstrating previous success. Establish a strong, aggresive, honest reputation. Integrity and character are your key to success. Also, value. Provide outstanding service and product at a cheaper rate.

    Maybe it’s different in marketing, but my advice to young business people is, do not identify yourself as a hustler.

    Doug Santo
    Pasadena, CA

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  • principlexprinciplex 8 months ago

    I have a different self-talk than “being an asshole.” Mine is, “Stay true to yourself and if it doesn’t come out as polished as you would like, you will learn as you go.”

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  • donblancodonblanco 8 months ago

    After being out of the workforce for nearly two years, due to illness. Do you have any reccomendations on how to jump back into the workforce, head first?

    I’m in Detroit and the job market is very poor (Marketing/Graphic/Multimedia Arts.) I’ve been thinking long and hard on how to attack it. Do I go in as the bargain and get some clientele, or go in with a high price (get things done) kind of work? If I was in a larger Metropolitan area, I believe I could easily go for the bigger fish. Since I’m in Detroit, for the first time in my “Professional” life, I’m thinking about earning some clientele and a business base instead of going for the dosh right away. I’m thinking there are not enough “big fish” to go around to sustain myself? Not to mention, if I get enough work to hire some others to help build business.

    I realize that this is the complete opposite idea of your piece. That is exactly why I’m posing this dilemma to you! What is your advice?


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6 Things Best-In-Class Companies Do To Grow Leaders –

6 Things Best-In-Class Companies Do To Grow Leaders

There have been numerous FortuneForbes, and BusinessWeek stories in the last year citing the importance of growing leaders and the challenges organizations are facing with the coming paucity of leaders due to the demographic shift occuring with the baby boomers retiring and leaving a void.

Paul Reilly of the venerable Korn/Ferry states in the Forbes article linked to above that over 50% of all C-level execs will retire in the next 5 years.

That begs the question: what are organizations doing now to prepare for this difficult challenge? In every crisis, lies opportunity. And, certainly, this immovable fact is good news for the Korn/Ferry’s, and Monster’s of the world, as it suggests an increasing need from Corporate America for recruiting top talent.

However, the best organizations do not over-rely on recruiting firms to “fix” their lack-of-leadership problem. They look inside and set up processes and programs which ensure that their “Leadership Funnel” is as full as their “ sales funnel.”

Of course, everyone pays homage to GE, when talking about leadership development. Yet, very few actually do a great job to coach, mentor, and develop top talent.

Here are some quick tips on what the best companies do to ensure an adequate supply of leaders for years to come:

  1. Leadership Development happens at multiple levels within the Organization – Not just below the C-Level. We all like short cuts. Yet, we know that, in important areas, we can’t take short cuts. Developing an adequate supply of leaders is a long-term investment. The best companies understand that and work at bringing their people along no matter the level of the organization — from entry-level to the C-Suite.
  2. Assess Where Leaders Are At Today, to Measure Where they will be Tomorrow. You can’t improve something, if you don’t measure it. Doing a leadership assessment at the front-end of any development program gives you a baseline to measure someone’s development — and hold them accountable if they don’t develop. 360s are great as a tool, but the most reliable measurement of a leader’s strengths and weaknesses comes from a process called an “Assessment Center” which uses multiple methods (including case studies, work simulations, and behavior-based interviews) to measure someone’s leadership performance and potential. One thing that surprised me when I started to “coach” “high-potential” leaders is how many of them were hungry to know where they ranked relative to other leaders out there. Most people work for one company for a long time – sometimes 10, 15, or 20 years. They lose sight of their “market value” relative to other execs. Being able to tell them that they are in the top quartile on “strategic orientation” relative to others is very interesting to them; often raising their confidence levels. By contrast, it can be an eye-opener when they are in the bottom quartile on a number of important leadership dimensions.
  3. Meet with your Boss to discuss the Results of the Assessment and Build an Action Plan. Leadership Development programs fail if the leader’s boss is not involved. It’s critical to meet with the boss to discuss the strengths and weaknesses that were identified in the assessment. The leader is always interested to have the opportunity to hear how his/her boss sees his/her strengths and weaknesses. This meeting also needs to focus on building a Leadership Development Plan, which the leader and boss buy-in to and endorse.
  4. Track the Leadership Development Action Plan over time. What good is a plan if you don’t track it and do what you say you will do. The process of setting up and tracking this action plan forms the basis of the “Leadership Development Program” that the best-in-class companies follow. This program is separate from any performance review process. It is a supplement to that — not a replacement. In our work, we act as external coaches who come in and meet with the leader once a quarter to review progress over time (usually 2 years). The leader’s boss is kept in the loop by receiving updates of the plan on a quarterly basis and then coming back at the 1-year mark and 2-year marks to meet with the leader and external coach. Knowing that you are accountable for progress is a huge stimulant to the leader.
  5. Encourage mentors in your Organization – but don’t force them.Mentors are great. Who hasn’t had someone take an interest in us at one point in our lives and give us some advice which was really valuable. Yet, a lot of organizations have tried to “assign” mentors to “high-potentials,” as part of their leadership development programs. This just doesn’t work. It’s like fixing up two people on a blind date who have nothing in common or are too busy to meet. The best approach we see is to have the leader and boss discuss some possible mentors (a lot of times the boss will have the best ideas because he/she knows a wider universe of people in the organization who might be interested and a good fit with the leader). Then, the boss should contact the possible mentor, rather than the leader. We’ve seen successful mentor relationships where the 2 people meet once a year for dinner; others where they meet every couple of months. It’s up to the two people. When it works, mentors can have a dramatic impact on “high-potential” leaders.
  6. Discuss Career Path. Many bosses don’t make time to sit down and discuss a “high-potential” leader’s future career path at that company. However, the ones that do can create tremendous loyalty. People appreciate it (even highly talented people who you might think get tired of all the acclaim they receive) when their boss closes the door and says “let’s talk about what you want to accomplish here and how I can help.” Ideally, this career vision gets tied into the Leadership Development Plan.

Leadership Development is tough. If it wasn’t, we wouldn’t be having a “crisis.” Recruiting is an answer to a short-term need, but it doesn’t address the underlying problem. The best organizations understand that — buying into it whole-heartedly — and build systematic processes to ensure their best people know where they need to develop and what their future career path looks like at that company.


This One Leadership Quality Will Make or Break You –

This One Leadership Quality Will Make or Break You


One of the most often overlooked aspects of leadership is the need for pursuit. Great leaders are never satisfied with traditional practice, static thinking, conventional wisdom, or common performance. In fact, the best leaders are simply uncomfortable with anything that embraces the status quo. Leadership is pursuit – pursuit of excellence, of elegance, of truth, of what’s next, of what if, of change, of value, of results, of relationships, of service, of knowledge, and of something bigger than themselves. In the text that follows I’ll examine the value of being a pursuer…

Here’s the thing – pursuit leads to attainment. What you pursue will determine the paths you travel, the people you associate with, the character you develop, and ultimately, what you do or don’t achieve. Having a mindset focused on pursuit is so critical to leadership that lacking this one quality can sentence you to mediocrity or even obsolescence. The manner, method, and motivation behind any pursuit is what sets truly great leaders apart from the masses. If you want to become a great leader, become a great pursuer.

A failure to embrace pursuit is to cede opportunity to others. A leader’s failure to pursue clarity leaves them amidst the fog. Their failure to pursue creativity relegates them to the routine and mundane. Their failure to pursue talent sentences them to a world of isolation.  Their failure to pursue change approves apathy. Their failure to pursue wisdom and discernment subjects them to distraction and folly. Their failure to pursue character leaves a question mark on their integrity. Let me put this as simply as I can – you cannot attain what you do not pursue.

Smart leaders understand it’s not just enough to pursue, but pursuit must be intentional, focused, consistent, aggressive, and unyielding. You must pursue the right things, for the right reasons, and at the right times. Perhaps most of all, the best forms of pursuit enlist others in the chase. Pursuit in its purest form is highly collaborative, very inclusive and easily transferable. Pursuit operates at greatest strength when it leverages velocity and scale.

I also want to caution you against trivial pursuits – don’t confuse pursuit with simple goal setting. Outcomes are clearly important, but as a leader, it’s what happens after the outcome that you need to be in pursuit of. Pursue discovery, seek dissenting opinions, develop your ability unlearn by embracing how much you don’t know, and find the kind of vision that truly does see around corners. Don’t use your pursuits to shift paradigms, pursue breaking them. Knowing what not to pursue is just as important as knowing what to pursue.

It’s important to keep in mind that nothing tells the world more about a leader than what or who they pursue – that which you pursue is that which you value. If you message to your organization you value talent, but don’t treat people well and don’t spend time developing the talent around you, then I would suggest you value rhetoric more than talent. Put simply, you can wax eloquent all you like, but your actions will ultimately reveal what you truly value.

Lastly, the best leaders pursue being better leaders. They know to fail in this pursuit is nothing short of a guarantee they’ll be replaced by those who don’t. All leaders would be well served to go back to school on what I refer to as the art and science of pursuitology.

What’s been the best thing you’ve pursued? What pursuit has led you astray. Thoughts?

Follow me on Twitter @mikemyatt



  • daburbdaburb 5 months ago

    The best thing I’ve learned to pursue is the truth. I pursue it with ‘hard questions’. A ‘hard question’ is one that requires an answer that is known to be true, even if it’s “I don’t know” as long as there is follow-up as to why the person doesn’t know, and if there is a mechanism to find the answer. I ask questions of others for two reasons – first and foremost is to educate myself and secondly to ensure that the person that is providing answers to me understands the answer and why its right and whether or not the answer is based on fact or conjecture. I’m not questioning their integrity, I’m challenging them to ask hard questions of others or to be prepared to bring about substantiated facts, or if they cannot be substantiated, to know the difference between the two and the amount of risk involved with the assumption of ‘truth’ regarding that fact. We’re not perfect but we can be a heck of a lot better by not assuming that what we’re told is correct, especially when you’re using that information to make a decision that affects the life and / or safety of a person or business.

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  • myjobmanmyjobman 5 months ago

    Nice article. A good leadership advice.

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  • msimmeringmsimmering 5 months ago

    Over years of providing leadership in small, medium, and large organizations, I’ve learned that companies and staff need outside targets to pursue and exploit.

    By that, I mean consistently researching and targeting new competitors, whether in fringe/expansionary markets, up and coming new ventures; direct or indirect, or simply those organizations employing best practices we could adopt and execute.

    Motivated employees and managers are very open to accept new tasks involving market research, strategic positioning, and tactical development, especially if they realize they will be intimately involved in any new initiatives which prove viable and contribute to the organization’s growth.

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  • petrisollmanpetrisollman 5 months ago

    Thanks Mike for great article!

    #1 Working on sales you need to do your numbers.

    But if you can find new innovative ways how customers can do their business and to get them competative edge and more valuable business or other values that will help them. I think that kind of business is one pursuit for me. The challenge is that sometimes these needs & wants are hidden and there are several of those. Also the relative priority changes over time.

    Great arcticle, it makes me think my own values and pursuits!


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  • aharrellaharrell 5 months ago

    I would also say pursuit of “Humility”…something we should ALL try to attain on a regular basis. Hubris has gotten the best of all of us…including our “so-called leaders”. I try to pursue “Humility” everyday…it keeps me grounded and healthy perspective on “Life”.

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    Mike MyattMike Myatt, Contributor 5 months ago

    Agreed! There are few things more worthy of individual pursuit than humility. You might be interested in the following piece which takes a deep dive on the topic of humility:

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    Mike MyattMike Myatt, Contributor 5 months ago

    In principle, I agree with the sentiments expressed in your comment. That said, keep in mind that the conjecture of some can be far more accurate than the “facts” as spun by others.

    By all means, question things, but remember the best form of questioning encourages discussion – it doesn’t end it. As suggested in one of the comments below, humility should be a key construct of any discourse. Many seem to have lost the ability to disagree without being disagreeable. Exercising humility goes a long way to solving this divide. Thanks as always for sharing your thoughts.

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    Mike MyattMike Myatt, Contributor 5 months ago


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    Mike MyattMike Myatt, Contributor 5 months ago

    Thanks for the kind words Petri. Good luck in hitting your numbers.

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  • jrafter65jrafter65 5 months ago

    Data. Our professional lives are all about gathering data to understand what is happening, interpreting the data to make new decisions, and finally, starting the process all over again.

    I believe this process happens everywhere, for example, leaders seeking to understand how others are relating to them leading them to possibly modify their actions or style. Companies gather data to understand their markets, products, and customers to take corrective actions towards achieving their desired goals.

    Relentless pursuit of data enables you and your company to keep your pencil as sharp as possible.

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    Mike MyattMike Myatt, Contributor 5 months ago

    Hi Chazz:

    Thanks for the kind words Chazz. Regrettably, the issues you describe don’t follow partisan lines – that would just be too easy.

    While I tend to be a bit more conservative in my beliefs, I’ve witnessed many who share my sentiments fall prey to parroting form over substance. Heck, there’s no shortage of people who accuse me of this:).

    Debate is a great thing. It educates and informs, and it evolves our thinking – so long as we keep the discourse civil and focus on the positions, and not the people who articulate them. Thanks for weighing-in Chazz.

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  • dmmatyasdmmatyas 5 months ago

    Pursuit of leadership is a great way to start the day. Everyday is a learning experience and should even the smallest tidbit of knowledge be obtained, then pursuit is forward. Are you equal to greater to or less than you were yesterday?
    Funny, making a life comparison to a mathmatical inequality, but I feel it’s true. I find it difficult to score a touchdown WITHOUT forward progress. Some of our pursuits DO lead us in other directions, but you are responsible for choosing the forward path. Nothing wrong with taking the long way home to see the others view. Learn from it and ultimatley use it strategically to increase YOUR forward progress. FORWARD!

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