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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

The leadership contract by Vince Molinaro

I finished this book in May 2022. I recommend this book 9/10.

(I read the book and the field guide—both links below.)

The 4 leadership terms in this book are the most practical I've encountered. After reading the book, I also purchased the Workbook (Field Guide) that follows the book.

The 4 leadership terms are:

  • Make leadership a decision

  • Step up and decide to lead

  • Leadership is hard work—Get tough

  • Create a leadership community

Get the book here.

Get the Workbook (field guide) here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • As a leader, you will need to take accountability to:

    • Align and engage. You need to understand your company's strategy and your role in executing it.

    • Take an enterprise-wide perspective. You must define success at the company level.

    • Build relationships. In our interconnected and interdependent world, relationships matter more than ever.

    • Master uncertainty. Today's increasingly complicated business environment creates a lot of challenging situations and risks.

    • Develop other leaders. You must leave a legacy of strong leadership within your organization that goes beyond yourself.

    • Model the values. You cannot be focused exclusively on your own personal agenda or team goals.

  • Real leadership accountability is demonstrated when you:

    • Take complete ownership of your entire role—both the technical, people and cultural aspects of the job.

    • Lead in a deliberate and decisive manner and always be clear of your obligations.

    • Bring a sense of urgency to tackle tough issues when they arise, which helps your organization to move forward and get stronger every single day.

  • The behaviors of accountable leaders:

    • Holding others accountable for high standards of performance.

    • Tackling tough issues and making difficult decisions.

    • Effective communicating the strategy throughout the organization.

    • Expressing optimism about the company and its future.

    • Displaying clarity about external trends in the business environment.

  • To be effective, sometimes, you will need to separate your personal feelings from your obligations as a leader. Let me explain. You need an ability to separate yourself as a person from you as a leader. It takes a strong person to be able to have this level of personal insights, but it's going to be crucial to your success as a leader, especially as you move into more senior-level roles.

  • As I listened to the discussion. I realized that I was pushing hard to get my own idea across. Then I stopped myself and asked, "What's my obligation right now as a leader?" The answer immediately came to me. My obligation was not to sell or push my own idea on my team. In fact, as the leader, I could have easily dictated what I wanted, and everyone would have accepted it. They would not have been happy, but they would have followed my orders. But I knew that wasn't what was the best for our business. My obligation at that moment was to create the best possible conditions for my management team to think through our strategy. That was my obligation as the leader. It was my obligation to the CEO, my board, my clients, and my shareholders. This ability to separate the person (what you are personally vested in) from your professional leadership obligation is critical for you to master.

  • A participant in one of our leadership contract workshops shared that her single most important obligation was to take care of her health: "If I am not healthy, I won't be able to lead effectively."

  • Leadership advice: "Run toward problems."

  • Leadership is hard work. Here are 10 ways leaders make hard work harder:

    • Getting in over your head

    • Confusing rough with tough

    • Mistaking effort for result

    • Feeling like the victim

    • Being insecure

    • Needing good news

    • Winning at all costs

    • Waiting for permission

    • Being driven to distraction

    • Losing perspective

  • Stephen Covey once said, "The way we see the problem is the problem." You need to start looking at the hard work of leadership in a different way. Instead of looking at it as something to avoid, start looking at it as a sign of progress. You need to be able to look at your role and your emerging environment and see all the hard work ahead of you with a sense of optimism, not pessimism.

  • How resilient are you? Reflect on the following questions:

    • Do I remain optimistic in the face of adversity?

    • Do I tend to have a thick skin that helps me deal with scrutiny and criticism?

    • Do I manage my emotions and reactions to stressful events?

    • Do I get myself back on my feet after a setback or disappointment?

  • So how do you build your sense of personal resolve? Here are a few ideas:

    • First, it helps to have a compelling leadership obligation that helps anchor your leadership.

    • Second, recall past experiences when you have successfully demonstrated resolve.

    • Third, manage your personal energy to maintain your optimal level of performance.

    • Fourth, draw on your community of leaders for support and encouragement.

    • Finally, it helps to have what I call a good reset button—one that enables you to reframe, refocus, and move on in any given situation.

      • Calm yourself.

      • Reframe the situation.

      • Learn from it.

      • Inspire yourself.

  • Sam Ewing once said, "Hard work spotlights the character of people: some turn up their sleeves, some turn up their noses, and some don't turn up at all."

  • You can start wherever you are—by staying in your department or by bringing together a few leaders at your own level. As you share the idea of a community of leaders, you will find many like-minded individuals—those like you who yearn for a different and much more positive experience of leadership. So don't wait. Start today.

  • Are you a selfish or selfless leader:

    • Is it all about you?

    • Do you abuse your power for personal gain?

    • Do you spend all your energy protecting your turf?

  • Top ten soft skills that companies were seeking in their job candidates:

    • Communication

    • Organization

    • Teamwork

    • Consistent punctuality

    • Critical thinking

    • Social skills

    • Creativity

    • Interpersonal communication

    • Adaptability

    • Friendly personality

  • You will also need to master the leadership essentials that you will count on for the rest of your career—key skills such as coaching, listening, delegating, setting clear expectations and managing performance, holding people accountable, and confronting conflict. Again, it is best that you learn to master these skills now because if you don't, your effectiveness will suffer if and when you take on a more senior leadership role later. You will find your day will become consumed by people issues. In fact, you'll be surprised how much time they will take and how much personal energy they will sap from you.

  • Your core obligation at this level is to have an organizational impact. This means not looking to your executives for permission or approval to do things. You must be able to effectively work across your organization with other leaders to drive change and create high performance. It will no longer be about your own team or department. For probably the first time, you'll start realizing that your obligation is to be an ambassador inside and outside. You will start thinking much more about your obligation to the communities in which you do business. Depending on your role, you may be the face of your company to your local community.

  • This is the world of big project implementation. You may not be a sponsor of these big projects, but you will own their successful execution. And although you will live in one department or line of business, you will also need to start having an enterprise-wide perspective.

  • I've developed a set of six questions that I use in my own leadership role. These questions help me determine my values as a leader through the perspective of my customers, employees, and internal and external stakeholders:

    • What is the primary value that I provide as a leader?

    • What are my personal strengths as a leader?

    • Where do I need to be stronger as a leader that has a greater impact on the organization?

    • What blond spots must I pay attention to?

    • How am I living up to the four terms of the leadership contract?

    • What is the one action that I must implement to increase my value and impact as a leader?

  • I've seen this play out many times. The courage to have a tough conversation comes from the degree to which you care about a person, about the success of your company, and about positive outcomes for your stakeholders. If you didn't care, everything would be so easy. If you didn't care, you wouldn't bother having the tough conversations; you would just go on managing your own affairs and minding your own business.

  • In my experience, the first step is actually to focus on how much you care about the person, your company, and your collective success. When you begin from this starting point, having the conversation is easier because, at the end of the day, the person will know you have his or her back. The person may still not like what he or she hears but will appreciate your courage and the fact that you're looking out for his or her best interest. You will actually strengthen the level of trust between you and that person.

  • It's time we create organizations where we can have candid, frank, and adult conversations about our business, each other, and our collective performance. Our inability to do so wastes time and creates roadblocks that slow down our progress and interferes with our success.

  • Here is your challenge: To be a leader who commits to doing the hard work and having tough conversations in your organization. Be that leader.

  • Connect people to one another. Be the person who helps others build a network of relationships. Make introductions. Bring colleagues together. Many leaders excel at this externally. I've known some to be really well connected within their industry, yet they rarely think to apply those same skills within their organization. Be the person who helps others connect to others within your company. Be the connector.

  • 4 questions before starting work in the morning:

    • What leadership decision do I have to make today? Is there a Big D or small d leadership decision that I will face?

    • What leadership obligation do I have to live up to today?

    • What hard work do I have to tackle today as a leader?

    • Which relationship with a colleague do I need to make stronger today to continue to build a community of leaders?

  • Question to assess your own leadership accountability:

    • Leadership is a decision—Make it:

      • In what specific ways did you demonstrate your decisiveness as a leader?

      • Describe how you fully embraced the challenges and difficulties that come with being a leader?

      • Are you still excited about your leadership role, and do the people you lead to know it?

      • How did you pay attention to how you showed up as a leader each and every day?

    • Leadership is an obligation—Step-up:

      • Do the people you lead know you are fully committed to being the best leader you can be?

      • In what ways did you put what is best for your organization ahead of what is best for you personally?

      • How did you actively work to leave your organization in better shape than you found it?

      • Do you remain clear on what your personal obligation is as a leader?

    • Leadership is hard work—Get tough:

      • In what ways did you effectively handle the pressure and scrutiny of your leadership role?

      • Did you consistently tackle the tough conversations with the people you work with?

      • What difficult decisions did you make, even if they were unpopular with those you lead?

      • How did you demonstrate resilience and resolve in the face of adversity?

    • Leadership is a community—Connect:

      • How did you lead with a one-company mindset?

      • What relationships with direct reports, peers, and colleagues did you make stronger?

      • How did you look for ways to collaborate with your peers and colleagues?

      • How did you support them so that they could become better and more accountable leaders?

  • When signing the leadership contract at each turning point, as yourself:

    • What's the role really about?

    • What are the expectations?

    • What will success look like?

    • What value must I bring as a leader?

    • What impact must I have?

    • What temptations might I need to manage?

  • Accountable leaders:

    • Hold others, including their team (or direct reports), accountable for high standards of performance.

    • Tackle tough issues and make difficult decisions.

    • Effectively communicate the business strategy throughout the organization.

    • Express optimism about the company and its future.

    • Express clarity about external trends in the business environment.

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