Magazine Article | August 1, 2018

6 Radical Leadership Lessons

Source: Software Executive magazine

By Dusty Staub

Since 1990, I have discovered some critical leadership lessons from working with more than 200 organizations, several thousand teams, and tens of thousands of executives. These are so pivotal in determining the level of success you can experience that I call them “radical leadership lessons.” These are some of the lessons that can make or break you, not only in terms of your success professionally, but in terms of your level of personal satisfaction.


It is very easy to assign blame and point your finger at others. This is not helpful. Focus on your reaction to the other person. Be mindful of the “story” that you tell yourself and the meaning you assign to their behavior. Your interpretation and what you choose to do or not do is where power lies. A person or group can be engaging in highly problematic behavior — that is on them. How you react is on you. Focus on developing the courage to confront, be confronted, learn, grow, be vulnerable/ open, and see current reality. Give up all blame and shame on yourself as well as on all others — it destroys accountability. Give up any addiction to being right. Respond with compassionate, thoughtful action, making use of tough love to hold yourself and others accountable while always maintaining respectful interactions.


High-performing players always have more permission and freedom. No supervisor can keep you from high performance — only you have the power to do that. Having coached executives dealing with challenging bosses, I have found that there are five things that will lead to more freedom by helping you outperform expectations:

a. Look for opportunities to take things off your supervisor’s plate.

b. No excuses; take full responsibility for any mistakes or errors, even when others make them. Own the outcomes, not just the tasks.

c. Listen nondefensively and always to understand others’ needs, stresses, and challenges.

d. Document progress as well as lessons learned.

e. Produce greater value, not long hours. Focus on where you can create the greatest value and learn to say strategic “no’s” to less value-added work.


Many “A” players become “C” players, or worse, because they fail to change with the times, organizational needs, new culture, new supervisor, or new realities. Ask yourself: “What changes do I need to make in order to be truly seen as an ‘A’ player today?” “What key valueadded responsibilities or work do I need to take on to help my supervisor step back and up, thus granting me more autonomy and permission?”


Great questions to ask your supervisor, direct reports, and loved ones are:

  • “What is the one thing I am doing you want to make sure I keep on doing?”
  • “What is the one thing I could change that would make me more effective or even better?”
  • “What is the one thing I could be doing to help you, the team, or the department be more successful?”


The martial art form and philosophy of aikido teaches some powerful insights that lead to transformational results. You always maintain your power and your center, and move from that. You move with the energy flow, with what is being offered. You find ways to work with the energy and flow of higher leadership as well as team members and those reporting to you. You move from your center, your purpose, and your intent. When pushed, turn with that direction. When pulled, step into it, always holding to your inner balance and sense of purpose. You turn an attack into cooperation, something to build upon and shift toward a more productive direction.


Focus on what you need to do to offer the greatest value. Don’t focus on what someone else needs to do differently. Act according to the six radical steps above and you’ll perform and speak with greater authority, power, and grace in your work, your leadership, and your life.

DUSTY STAUB is an international speaker, best-selling author, and the CEO of Staub Leadership International, a business consulting company that trains executives and teams in creating high-performance outcomes. His books include The Heart of Leadership, The 7 Acts of Courage, and Courage in the Valley of Death. For more information, visit: