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The Leadership Podcast

The Leadership Podcast

Why do we do this?

We interview great leaders, review the books they read, and speak with highly influential authors who study them.

How we do this?

#1 We interview great leaders.
#2 We review the books great leaders read and write.
#3 We have fun!

Feb 12, 2020

Tom Kolditz is the founding Director of the Doerr Institute for New Leaders at Rice University. Tom shares the concepts and foundational elements that led to creating an evidence-based, leader development program that has received top recognition from the Associations of Leadership Educators.


Key Takeaways

[2:00] Tom comes from a small town in Southern Illinois. He was a senior instructor on the West Point parachute team for 12 years and had 647 helicopter jumps.

[3:45] Five questions to measure a leader’s effectiveness: 

  1. What are this leader’s strengths?
  2. What are this leader’s challenges?
  3. When is this leader at their best?
  4. When is this leader at their worst?
  5. How can this leader improve?

[7:40] You don’t need to make this process complicated. You can focus on theory all day long, but the real results come from the outcome.

[10:15] Leaning too heavily on ‘the rules’ limits the leader of their responsibility. They can just blame the rule instead of being flexible and adapting to the specific instance.

[10:50] When you take responsibility for what you say or what you do, it can be painful, but it goes away.

[13:10] In our culture, we openly talk about our mistakes, so you’d think people would be open to making mistakes. However, it seems it’s having an opposite effect, where more and more people are taking a more conservative and fearful approach.

[16:10] If someone makes a mistake, social media has the ability to make it go viral and ruin careers.

[18:40] Most ethical transgressions have, at their root, an excessive self-interest. People do not get called out enough for being selfish.

[26:45] When you or a company’s self-interest starts to take away from people in unfair ways, that should not be an acceptable business practice. It is a flashing red light for an ethics violation.

[35:30] One of the best things the military helps us with is that the entire culture is focused on leadership, rewards leadership, and respects leadership. It is a cultural immersion. Soldiers can smell a fake person a mile away.

[37:45] Remember, if there is a problem in the organization, it’s your job to fix it. It’s not your job to lead an organization where there are no problems.

[39:45] Senior leaders have to get comfortable with a lot more ambiguity. They have to think about their guidance in broader, intense, statements. Define what your team’s right and left limits are and let them soar.

[41:30] Leaders can think a lot faster than their larger staff can execute. It can be pretty easy to get sucked into being a micromanager when things aren’t progressing enough.

[45:00] You have poorly developed leaders (their leadership abilities are at the high-school level, even with a 4-year university degree) that have adopted bad leadership habits for the last 15 years in their career, and now they’re working in leadership positions. Industries are just riddled with bad leaders because no one has helped them develop this skill throughout their careers.

[49:05] Leading with ambiguity starts with recognizing your abilities, how long it’s taken you to get this far, and how much other people have helped you.


Quotable Quotes

  • Leading equals Impact.
  • Leaders can’t ‘responsibility-proof’ themselves 
  • “Most ethical transgressions have, at their root, an excessive self-interest.


Resources and Books Mentioned


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