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SmartBrief on Leadership’s 2019 in review — editor’s picks

You probably didn't read everything SmartBrief on Leadership published in 2019. Here are some gems you should revisit.

5 min read


SmartBrief on Leadership's 2019 in review -- editor's picks


I read hundreds of pitches each year (and don’t read hundreds more), and we publish a few hundred posts annually on SmartBrief on Leadership’s Originals blog. That’s a lot to keep track of, and so as the year winds down, I wanted to highlight a handful of posts that were among my favorites this year.

Why were they my favorites?

They’re smartly written, they touch on a particularly thorny and/or important problem for leaders, and they offer guidance rather than absolutes. These posts are also ones I expect to return to in my own work. Your mileage may vary, but if nothing else, think about where you can find reliable advice and how you can store it away for reference. You might absorb information best through books, audio or video instead of website articles. That’s great! The important thing is having a library of knowledge to support your learning, development and leadership.

These posts also didn’t make our top 15 most popular posts (that list will publish Dec. 27!), and so this is the perfect chance to catch up on writing you might have missed.

Here’s an incomplete list of SmartBrief on Leadership posts that stuck with me this year.

“Why ‘no thanks’ is an unacceptable response to development” by Julie Winkle Giulioni, Dec. 12

Julie writes frequently for SmartBrief about developing your people, and this post empathetically but firmly delves into this problem: How do you reach people who (seemingly) don’t want to grow?

Those people are probably not lazy. Instead, they might have apprehensions about what “development” means for their job and role. They could be confused about what development means or wonder how they can fit that commitment into their day to day. Julie guides leaders and managers into having a productive conversation about development, rather than making it an order or ultimatum.

“How to raise your curiosity quotient,” by Joel Garfinkle, Nov. 18

I’ve worked with hundreds of great people in my career, and maybe the only thing they share is curiosity. Most of these co-workers are/were not necessarily trained in their field or have 20 years of experience in the role. They are hard-working, detail-oriented and always wondering how things work, how things could be better and how they could help.

Joel, whose writing is full of examples of helping people — especially women — discover their potential, offers straightforward and effective advice for expanding your worldview, observing more and learning from others. As he writes:

“You never know whether your next big idea will be sparked by the CFO, your office mate, or a clerk. Get used to talking to everyone and anyone, and you’ll see your CQ rise dramatically.”

“The perilous pursuit of leadership,” by Steve McKee, Sept. 4

Why do we want to lead? Maybe the better question is “Why do we want to be in charge?” That’s just one of the dangers of leadership — you get acquainted with power, and not everyone will wield that responsibility for the betterment of others.

Steve distinguishes between the pursuit of power and the pursuit of influence. As always, the details matter, but it’s worth asking “what is it we’re really seeking? Is our aim to influence or to control?”

See also: “Why keeping your promises could be the biggest disruption of all”

“Practicing the no-surprises rule,” by Diana Peterson-More, Oct. 15

“5 priceless leadership communication lessons learned the hard way,” by Art Petty, Aug. 22

I’m pairing these together because they are each focused on a specific, vital part of communication: Thoughtful, empathetic communication that’s improved by critically examining yourself.

Communication is a two-way street, but what do you control? You control what you do and say, how you act and react. Diana shares stories of where she fell short, what she learned and how we can avoid her difficulties. Art similarly shares lessons learned while offering a path forward for leaders who want to be inquisitive and productive communicators.

We’ll never achieve perfection in how we communicate. So we must always be asking, “Is what we’re doing working?” and “How can I better connect with others?”

See also: 

“Men mentoring women in the era of #MeToo,” part 1 and part 2, by John Baldoni, June 14 and June 28

One reaction to the #MeToo movement has been corporate men avoiding women, particularly on Wall Street. There has to be a better way, and John interviews experts about this phenomenon of avoidance and why we need to move past it.

As with most situations, clarity and ground rules will help a mentorship function better, even before considering any ill intentions. As Grit Institute CEO Shannon Polsen told John, “If men and women treat each other with professionalism and respect, there should be no concern about a mentoring relationship.”

See also: “Not sure how to promote inclusion? Go all in”


James daSilva is the longtime editor of SmartBrief’s leadership newsletter and blog content. Contact him at @James_daSilva or by email.

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