Leadership, Systems, and the End of the World

Throughout the week I capture notes on ideas that I find interesting, evocative, or thought-provoking. Here are my notes from last week.


I’m a student of leadership. One of the most educational reads, which is not about leadership, was “Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind”. I often recommend this book when someone asks for a great read. While it is not about leadership, It helps provide the context for how we humans are hard-wired to behave in groups and there are a lot of learnings about leadership to be found in looking at the history of our species.

Leadership, for me, is about serving those people whom you lead and I’ve written a lot about this in the past. I can’t recall what I was reading when I took these notes last week, but here are some thoughts on leadership that really struck me as being useful.

Great leaders inspire others to be their best selves, to have more confidence. Great leaders make others more comfortable to take risks, more willing to say something controversial. You can tell when a group has a great leader because they’re more willing to play. In short, great leaders create an environment that makes others better.

Often, people confuse charismatic leaders as being great leaders. These are two completely different things. Charismatic leaders inspire others to feel good about them, the leader. Great leaders inspire others to feel good about themselves, their ability, and instill confidence in those who follow them.



The Cynefin framework (/kəˈnɛvɪn/ kuh-NEV-in)[1] is a conceptual framework used to aid decision-making.[2] Created in 1999 by Dave Snowden when he worked for IBM Global Services, it has been described as a “sense-making device”.[3][4] Cynefin is a Welsh word for habitat.[5]

(Excerpt from Wikipedia)

What are the parts of the place that make it the place? The predictable ordered systems and random parts. HBR has an interesting article on this: “A Leaders Framework For Decision Making


There are two kinds of people:
1. Good people
2. Good people in pain

Episode #518 of the Art of Manliness Podcast: The Quest for a Moral Life with David Brooks is an excellent listen. His latest book: “The Second Mountain: The Quest for a Moral Life” is about the first mountain most humans attempt to climb is a career driven, ego-driven, materialistic one. The second mountain is about a spiritual and social journey many humans strive to climb near middle age. There’s a lot of great ideas in this podcast, I haven’t read the book yet.

Brooks speaks about one’s vocation and the importance of having one. He does not consider a vocation to be a job or career, but rather the unifying and organizing passion in a person’s life. To arrive at this he suggests writing down the four most beautiful moments in your life and drawing a line through them. What’s your vocation?

He also speaks about we, as individuals, facing a greatest generation moment. It’s not a world war, but rather more complicated global problems. For example the breakdown in the social fabric. I would add climate change as another global problem. that’s confounded by the break down in the social fabric. We should ask ourselves: what giant problem does society need to be solved? And what am I uniquely suited for helping with?

More information at the Aspen Institute: https://www.aspeninstitute.org/programs/weave-the-social-fabric-initiative/


Dinopocalypse Redux by Radiolab is incredible. Imagine the world ending in less than three hours. Imagine every living thing on earth having their blood boil and die within 120 minutes. Turns out, this is actually the end of the dinosaurs and all most other life on earth about 63 million years ago. Dinosaurs lived for 100s of millions of years. Whereas, we humans have been around for a couple hundred thousand…It makes you feel pretty insignificant.

A couple months ago, I started a new job at ServiceNow. I’m responsible for the Customer Workflows product. This is the first time I’ve worked in a matrix organization and the first time I’ve had a boss. So far, it’s been terrific. I’m learning a lot and it’s been great fun. One book that helped me get ramped up quickly was: “The First 90 days”. If you’re transitioning to a new company or a new role, it’s a useful read.
Ray Dalio has a terrific book I frequently recommend titled: “Principles: Life and Work”. They’ve been unpacking the principles outlined in his book on Instagram and it’s wonderful.



“This helps assure the quality of the probing (because others can make their own assessments), and it will reinforce the culture of truth and transparency.”


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