Summary: No Bullsh*t Leadership By Chris Hirst
Summary: No Bullsh*t Leadership By Chris Hirst

Summary: No Bullsh*t Leadership By Chris Hirst

Are you a leader?

Anybody who has people who depend on them is a leader.

Our societies, businesses and communities need more and better leaders from all walks of life.

Top-down, hierarchical leadership doesn’t work any more: we need a new way for new people.

The bullshit that surrounds the subject of leadership both inhibits people from fulfilling their potential and excludes people from believing they too could lead.

No one is born a leader. There is no leadership type.

We can all lead if we choose to, and what follows is how


Leading to where?

Leadership is difficult but not complicated.

Leadership is the activity concerned with the navigation of a group of people from a defined starting point in the present to a different and simply defined state that exists in the future.

step 1: Define your starting point. Keep it simple and be honest (even if it’s painful).

step 2: Define your end point. Don’t be seduced into intellectual and complicated answers. But don’t be afraid to be ambitious.

Leadership is the journey between these two points


How to get there: being decisive

Leadership is the art of getting stuff done.

Leadership Impact = (objectives + strategy + team + values + motivation) x (action). Nothing to the left of the x makes any difference if action = 0.

Strategy is nothing without the courage to implement it.

Stay true to Colin Powell’s 40/70 rule: Don’t take action if you have only enough information to give you a less than 40 per cent chance of being right, but if you have waited until you’re more than 70 per cent certain then you have waited too long.

Decision-making must be reframed from a fear of making mistakes to a fear of not making enough decisions quickly enough.

Embrace the inevitability of error.

Use checklists to protect your teams against needless errors and improve baseline performance.

Effective meetings encourage effective decision-making.

The most wrong you can be is to not take enough decisions



Culture is the most powerful and defining characteristic of most organisations, but it often has little in common with the ‘values’ found on the website.

Culture is the environment the leader creates in order for her team to outperform. It’s the ultimate super-weapon and nearly impossible to copy.

A parent–child culture will underperform, as it disincentivises people to use their best judgement or think for themselves.

Create a decision-making culture. The key is a simple question: what do you recommend?

‘Nimbleness’ is the result of a culture that’s good at making decisions.

‘Ceasars’ create ineffective cultures and lead to underperformance.

Organisational culture is like concrete; to change it you have to take highly impactful and physical actions.

Use the team’s physical environment to help shape the culture you want.

Most exercises to determine ‘values’ are a waste of time. Defining behaviours is more effective and useful.

Totems can be a powerful shorthand for your culture.

Culture is the behaviour of management: if you don’t walk the walk it’s all just bullshit


Being followed

Most organisations are just buildings full of people. What makes one better than the other? Talent and culture.

Great culture alone may make a good team, but without great talent you won’t ever be the best.

We’re all in the talent acquisition business: How good are you for the careers of the people who work for you?

A great team is comprised of great individuals who see the fulfilment of the team’s objectives as wholly aligned with the fulfilment of their own ambitions.

Great teams need stolid professionals and maverick playmakers – and a culture that values both equally.

Diverse teams win.

Equality of opportunity is achieved by asking:

How do we:

  • recruit the most able people?
  • retain our most valuable people?
  • promote our most deserving people?

The leader must act as a shield to give confidence and protection to their team.

Removing the wrong people can be as transformative as hiring the right ones.

Make sure you’re not shirking the difficult conversations (and nor is your team) … nor forgetting the easy ones: saying thank you gets stuff done.


Energy and resilience

Leading is hill-climbing, and it’s persuading others that the climb is worthwhile.

Opportunities look a lot like hard work.

The mundanity of excellence:

  • Talent is a story we tell ourselves to explain the performance of others.
  • Learn to love the ‘game’ not the results.
  • Excellence is the consistent performance of multiple mundane actions.

We want our teams to comprise radiators not drains – people who transform a team’s mood when they walk into a room.

The leader must be like the Duracell bunny, still banging the drum long after the others have toppled over.

Failures are inevitable, and you can’t succeed if you don’t find ways to brush these off, pick yourself up and keep going.

Great achievement is impossible without great resilience.


Leading yourself

The successful leader must be a selfish leader: to be consistently effective she must take as much care of herself as she does of others.

For a culture to be healthy it needs to recover from the busy times through downtime – when you get up, walk away and go home.

Learn from the Stoics – your emotions are detached from external events and therefore fully within your control: Choose not to be harmed – and you won’t feel harmed. Don’t feel harmed – and you haven’t been.

Your feelings and emotions do not in any way affect the fundamental skill base of your team. Learn to trust your process.

Accept the inevitability of self-doubt. I’m Chris Hirst and I’m an insecure leader.

Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. It’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a proof of strength, and without it nothing gets done.

Live a whole life – leadership is only one part of our complicated lives. The leader-you can only thrive if the other-yous are given a chance as well.


Leading change

  1. Look, listen and learn – or, the reception test

Define in as simple and clear a manner as possible the position, status or performance of your team today.

  1. Define your objective and find your ‘first five’

You can’t do it on your own – who are your ‘first five’?* (*It doesn’t have to be five.)

  1. Break free and create belief

Create fast, visible change to prove that it is possible (and therefore build belief and confidence in your team).

  1. Make the objective personal – for everybody

Ensure your team understands why change is in their personal interest (and do the same for all other stakeholders – for example, customers or parents).

  1. Tell it how it is and hear it as it is
  2. Schwerpunkt: the point of maximum effort

Define the single point of focus that will most effectively move you towards your ultimate objective – and commit to it fully.

  1. Prioritising means deciding what to stop doing

Focus on what you should be doing (to be most effective), not what leadership books and orthodoxy tell you that you ought to be doing.

  1. Relentless, continuous improvement

Change doesn’t happen in great leaps, but is the continual search for marginal improvements. You must ruthlessly hunt them down.

  1. Be consistent

A consistent narrative gives understanding and context to the multitude of actions you and the team must undertake. Words, actions and totems must dovetail to create a consistent whole.

  1. Prepare yourself for the long haul

Change leadership is a marathon in reverse: begin fast, but prepare yourself for a long and bumpy ride.