Language & Leadership

Socrates_Shortest and Surest

I love Bill Belichick’s attitude on teamwork

The main point to me is that [the players] have to be coordinated, and the 10 people have to support what that 11th guy is doing, and vice versa. . . .

The only way that can happen is for there to be discipline, for everyone to be disciplined enough to do their job, knowing the guy beside him is doing his, too, so that you can count on him and he can count on you, and go right down the line. . . .

Understand the impact of your action or inaction on others . . .

That’s pure gold — along with everything else in the Ingredients below. It’s like they looked at all the ridiculous behavior and totally unnecessary waste I have witnessed over the years, and said . . .

Let’s not do that — and here’s how:

Honest in the little things, honest in the big things

— Kit Crawford (co-owner of Clif Bar)

Socrates also said, “Wisdom Begins In Wonder” — and lo and behold, curiosity is linked to everything I advocate.

I’ve been writing a book on the subject for years, so I’m always delighted to discover that I’m in good company with concepts that I came up with through my own experiences — a journey with a long line of immeasurable influences.

I’m no scholar on Socrates — I found that “wisdom” quote on a bookmark. 

But you need not be even an armchair philosopher to adopt a philosophy of fundamentals — and a breach of the basics is at the root of most problems in the first place.

I’ve worked for some pretty amazing people over the years, and in each case what comes to mind the most is the caliber of their character. They weren’t quoting Greek philosophers, but their actions were most certainly in sync with what Socrates said about “strengthening virtues through practice and experience.”


While a formalized set of values is a good guideline, in the absence of accountability — good intentions will only get you so far. All the more reason Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s quote from Multipliers is so fitting:

Or as The Man in Black put it:

Johnny Cash - Rough Cut King - Album cover - combined with quote_REVG.jpg

In Ford: Rebuilding an American Icon, the documentary tells of the company’s comeback after its largest-ever loss of $12.7 billion in 2006. At the helm of its turnaround was Alan Mulally — who faced quality concerns by embracing criticism from Consumer Reports. When he says the following, it’s not some fancy quote to float — it’s a mindset that can make all the difference in the world:

We’re gonna seek to understand before we seek to be understood

This 2:20 scene shows what serious-minded leaders look like (and not just Mulally). Ya gotta hand it to the great-grandson of Henry Ford for having the humility to see what was best for the company by putting the right person in place:

Mulally didn’t invent the phrase — but his version flows a bit better than Stephen Covey’s from The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. The synopsis for the “seek to understand” tenet is as follows:

Use empathetic listening to be genuinely influenced by a person, which compels them to reciprocate the listening and take an open mind to being influenced by you. This creates an atmosphere of caring, and positive problem solving.