10 articles to help you become a better leader overnight

Currently, I’m focusing on managerial and sound leadership frameworks. Some time ago I shared with you my list of the 10 books that all manager-leaders should read immediately to become instantly more efficient, which was a big hit on social media. There are also a handful of articles out there that are worth gold, but in the ocean of articles available, it’s really difficult to find ones that stick and really impact your management style. 

So, I want to share some of my secrets with you: the top 10 of the articles I’ve used repeatedly to coach managers and senior executives over the years. My goal is to impact their posture first and then complete their management toolbox. I want to make the latter as powerful as possible. Most of these articles are not free; you’ll need to buy them from Harvard Business Review or search for a free version online.

The first 3 articles are about creating time immediately and creating focus above and below. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of those first 3 articles. 


Management Time: Who’s Got The Monkey?

by W. Oncken and D. Wass, Harvard Business Review - www.hbr.org

This article is my clients’ all-time favorite. Why is it that managers typically run out of time while their subordinates typically run out of work? Here we explore the meaning of management time as it relates to the interaction between managers and their bosses, peers, and subordinates. This is a must-read.

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Managing Your Boss

by J. Gabarro and J. Kotter, Harvard Business Review - www.hbr.org

As I work with managers to find out why they’re appreciated by their staff but poorly evaluated by their superiors, I suggest they consider reinventing the way they relate with their boss. This article has saved many jobs—and may save yours!

In this article, first published in 1980, Gabarro and Kotter advise readers to devote time and energy to managing their relationships with their bosses. The authors aren’t talking about showering supervisors with flattery; rather, they ask readers to understand that the manager–boss relationship is one of mutual dependence.

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A Personal Approach To Organizational Time Management

by P. Bregman, McKinsey Quarterly - www.mckinsey.com/quarterly

The biggest and most destructive myth in time management is that you can get everything done if only you follow the right system, use the right to-do list, or process your tasks in the right way. That’s a mistake.

We live in a time when the uninterrupted stream of information and communication, combined with our unceasing accessibility, means that we could work every single hour of the day and night and still not keep up. For that reason, choosing what to ignore may well represent the most important, most strategic time-management decision of all.

The next 3 articles are very insightful when it comes to understanding the key elements of a leader’s posture and how to develop it. 

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Why You Didn’t Get That Promotion

by J. Beeson, Harvard Business Review -  www.hbr.org

You’ve been passed over for a key promotion despite stellar results and glowing reviews. You’ve asked where you’re falling short, but the responses have been vague and unsatisfying, leaving you angry, frustrated, and unsure of how to get ahead. Promotion decisions seem arbitrary and political. What’s going on?

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What Makes A Leader?

by D. Goleman, Harvard Business Review -  www.hbr.org

Goleman’s article remains the definitive reference on emotional intelligence, with a detailed discussion of each of its components, how to recognize it in potential leaders, how and why it connects to performance, and how it can be learned.


Why Should Anyone Be Led By You?

by R. Goffee and G. Jones, Harvard Business Review - www.hbr.org

Great leaders share 4 unexpected qualities. The first is that they selectively reveal their weaknesses (weaknesses—not fatal flaws). It builds an atmosphere of trust and helps galvanize commitment. The second quality is that exceptional leaders are good “situation sensors”—they can sense what’s going on. 

Managing employees with “tough empathy” is the third quality. Tough empathy means giving people what they need, not what they want. Leaders must empathize passionately and realistically with employees, care intensely about the work they do and be straightforward with them. The fourth quality of top-notch leaders is that they capitalize on their differences. They use what’s unique about themselves to create a social distance and to signal separateness.

The last 4 articles are about creating a sound leadership framework. 


Ferguson’s Formula

by A. Elberse, Harvard Business Review - www.hbr.org

This article lists Sir Alex's eight core concepts when building Manchester United into a world powerhouse.

When he became manager in 1986, Man U hadn't won the league in 20 years. He spent six seasons building the team from scratch, and won his first title in 1993. By the time he retired in 2013, he had won 13 league titles and built a club that's now worth $3.1 billion. It’s much more than a list of things to do; it presents a fundamental posture to long-term success: focus on building a club, not winning games. Here are his 8 secrets to success.

1. Start with the foundation
2. Dare to rebuild your team
3. Set high standards — and hold everyone to them
4. Never, ever cede control
5. Match the message to the moment
6. Prepare to win
7. Rely on the power of observation
8. Never stop adapting

The Enemies Of Trust

by R. Galford and A. S. Drapeau, Harvard Business Review - www.hbr.org

Trust is a key element of creating a high-performance organization, putting creating and sustaining trust at the center of any leadership strategy. 

Ask a group of managers in your company whether they and their closest managerial colleagues are trustworthy, and if so, how they know. Most will claim that they, themselves, are trustworthy. However, a sizable percentage will say they have little or no confidence in the group’s capacity to build and maintain trust. 

Read this article and enhance your ability to develop and sustain trust.


Leading Change: Why Transformation Efforts Fail

by John P. Kotter, Harvard Business Review - www.hbr.org

In 1995, Kotter had just completed a 10-year study of more than 100 companies that attempted to transform themselves. Here, he shares the results of his observations, outlining the 8 largest errors that can doom these efforts and explains the general lessons that encourage success. From these errors, this article proposes a bulletproof framework for implementing change.


The Ergonomics of Innovation

by H. Rao and R. Sutton, McKinsey Quarterly - www.mckinsey.com/quarterly

This particular article is one of my all-time favorites, packed with highly effective implementation tactics that you’ll want to consider when you launch a change initiative and want to stimulate engagement or commitment. 

A successful campaign to save 100,000 lives shows that efforts to make it easier for organizations to innovate can yield remarkable results. The basic theme is that physical and cognitive “affordances” (possible functions or actions) can help people think about, know, and use something more easily and make fewer errors. The business school’s professors believe that any organization can adopt these principles, especially in influencing networks, where there might be little if any, formal authority. The components of the ergonomics of innovation consist of: 

  • creating something new from a blend of old ideas

  • setting goals that encourage action

  • starting with small steps, and

  • developing tools that make it easier for people to promote change.


There is far more to accelerate your ability to become an amazing manager-leader than in these 10 articles, but this is an excellent start. If you find great value in reading any of these articles, the natural next step is to invest time in reading my book   “What Color Is Your Sky?”—if your desire is to radically change not just your career but your entire life. Welcome to the Club.

Are you facing serious transformational challenges in your company? If you are, why not take a look at this case study, or contact me to arrange a quick, no-cost, no-obligation chat about how we can team up. Simply drop me a line at [email protected].