Paul Graham is founder of Y Combinator. Together with Tim Urban, Seth Godin and Derek Sivers these are true artists of the blog format.

“Second order thinking” is a big part of Paul’s approach. Second order thinking is looking for non-obvious rules that improve decision making, efficiency and quality of life. Check out the Python Paradox for an example 😉

Paul’s Essays that have most Impacted My Approach to Life

  1. How to do what you love?
  2. Good procrastination and bad procrastination
  3. The lies we tell our kids, and the lies that our parents told us… and how important it is once in your life to review this set of accepted lies before they mess up your life
  4. Beating the averages
  5. Money is not Wealth, and How to Create New Wealth (not take money from others…)
  6. Relentlessly resourceful
  7. How to Disagree (a ranking order of methods of refuting the other person’s argument)

Google Based Ranking of Paul Graham Essays

This is an interesting big of research – Colin Wright produced a ranked list of Paul Graham’s essays based on google pagerank.

23.02 Beating the Averages
19.84 Lisp for Web-Based Applications
5.56 What You Can’t Say
3.81 Revenge of the Nerds
3.72 The Roots of Lisp
3.66 The Age of the Essay
3.29 What Made Lisp Different
3.26 Why Nerds are Unpopular
2.81 Taste for Makers
2.77 Great Hackers
2.33 The Other Road Ahead
2.12 How to Make Wealth
1.91 Succinctness is Power
1.74 A Unified Theory of VC Suckage
1.73 The Word “Hacker”
1.67 How to Start a Startup
1.43 Hiring is Obsolete
1.39 Why Startups Condense in America
1.39 Programming Bottom-Up
1.35 Inequality and Risk
1.35 How to Be Silicon Valley
1.21 After the Ladder
1.04 How to Do What You Love
1.00 Good and Bad Procrastination
0.90 After Credentials
0.88 The Equity Equation
0.88 How Not to Die
0.84 What You’ll Wish You’d Known
0.83 A Plan for Spam
0.80 How to Be an Angel Investor
0.76 Why to Start a Startup in a Bad Economy
0.74 The High-Res Society
0.67 The Python Paradox
0.65 Ideas for Startups

0.64 Better Bayesian Filtering
0.64 Filters that Fight Back
0.61 Relentlessly Resourceful
0.61 The Future of Web Startups
0.61 The Hundred-Year Language
0.60 Why Smart People Have Bad Ideas
0.59 The Submarine
0.59 The Power of the Marginal
0.59 How to Fund a Startup
0.56 Why TV Lost
0.56 High Resolution Fundraising 
0.56 Being Popular
0.56 Stuff
0.56 Trolls
0.49 Why There Aren’t More Googles
0.49 The 18 Mistakes That Kill Startups
0.48 The Top Idea in Your Mind 
0.48 Hackers and Painters
0.47 What the Bubble Got Right
0.46 Five Questions about Language Design
0.46 The Venture Capital Squeeze
0.45 Cities and Ambition
0.44 Startups in 13 Sentences
0.44 A Fundraising Survival Guide
0.44 The Hacker’s Guide to Investors
0.43 Design and Research
0.43 Two Kinds of Judgement
0.40 An Alternative Theory of Unions
0.38 Can You Buy a Silicon Valley? Maybe.
0.38 Why to Move to a Startup Hub
0.35 Founder Control
0.35 Why to Not Not Start a Startup
0.34 What Business Can Learn from Open Source

Who are your favourite Bloggers? What are some specific blog posts that have really impacted your views on the world?

Would love to hear in the comments below…

A big part of Vistage group meetings is working through a CEO’s challenges and helping them get clarity about how they can move forward with their business and their life.

We often find that the biggest obstacle to forward progress is not outside of us, but inside of us.

There are 4 fatal fears.

We also call these “Core Self-Limiting Beliefs”. They are learnt. We are not born with these fears. There are only 2 fear that we are born with: fear of falling and fear of loud noises. Every other fear has been learnt. (This does not make them less real or easier to deal with).

These 4 fears will drive a grasping towards something that will never fill me. If I am looking for completion outside of myself, I will never scratch my itch. I need to learn to be able to sit with my fear and anxiety and accept it and accept that I am human and imperfect.

  1. Fear of Failure “I Need Success”
  2. Fear of Rejection “I Need Acceptance”
  3. Fear of Emotional Discomfort “I Need Emotional Comfort”
  4. Fear of Being Wrong “I Need to Be Right”

Each of the fears can be accepted and allowed to exist within me. They will never go away. They will always be there, but I can accept them and not allow them to direct my actions and my words.

This list was put together by my father, Terry Neill, in the 1980’s as a reminder for himself and those around him about the nature of good leadership, and the easy pitfalls of Non-Leadership. He led businesses through good times and through tough times and I can see the positive impact he has had on many who worked with him.

He was recently cleaning out some papers in his office and found this and shared it with me and my siblings. I find it simple and clear. Leadership is not easy, but it is necessary in all areas of our lives.

You don’t need Power to lead

You do not need to wait for power, nor permission nor position to decide to act like a leader. You decide to take responsibility and begin. You realise that each of your actions make a difference. You are connected to many people and your actions have impact. You will affect more than 1,000 people over the course of your life. If you have a positive affect on them, they in turn are connected to more than 1,000 people and your leadership will ripple out and touch over 1,000,000 lives. These 1,000,000 lives are connected out to 1,000 in their turn… and your small daily actions of leading and taking responsibility to make things better will ripple out to a billion people. Your actions matter.

The differences between Leaders and Non-Leaders

by Terry Neill, partly based on “Search for Excellence

LEADERSNON-LEADERS
Carries water for peoplePresides over the mess
A coach appealing to the best in each person; open door; problem solver and advice giver; cheerleaderInvisible – gives orders to staff – expects them to be carried out
Thinks of ways to help people be more productive, more focused on practicval goals and how to reward themThinks of personal awards, status, and how he or she looks to outsiders
Comfortable with people in their workplacesUncomfortable with people
Wants anonymity for self, publicity for practice of othersThe reverse
Often takes the blameLooks for a scapegoat
Gives credit to othersTakes credit. Complains about lack of good people
Gives honest, frequent feedbackInfo flows one way – into his or her office
Knows when and how to deal with non performers or unfair clients’ comments or pressuresDucks unpleasant tasks
Goes where the trouble is – to helpInterrupts people in crisis and calls them to meetings at his or her desk
Has respect for all peopleThinks operators, clerical staff etc are lazy, incompetent ingrates
Knows the business, and the kind of people who make it tickThey’ve never met him or her
Honest under pressureImprovises, equivocates
Looks for controls to abolishLoves new controls
Prefers eyeball to eyeball instead of memosPrefers memos… long reports
StraightforwardTricky, manipulative
Admits own mistakes. Comforts others when they admit themNever makes mistakes. Blames others. Starts witch hunts to identify culprits
OpennessSecrecy
Little paperwork in planningVast paperwork in planning
Arrives early. Stays lateIn late. Usually leaves on time
Common touchStrained with shop or office floor
Good listener‘Good’ talker
Simplistic on organisation valuesGood at demonstrating his/her command of all the complexities
AvailableHard to reach from below
FairFair to the top. Exploits the rest
DecisiveUses committees. Makes accountabilities opaque
ModestArrogant
Tough – confronts nasty problemsElusive – “the artful dodger”
PersistantOnly when his/her goodies are at stake
Simplifies (makes it look ‘easy’)Complicates (Makes it look difficult)
Tolerant of open disagreementIntolerant of open disagreement
Knows people’s namesDoesn’t know people’s names
Has strong convictionsVacillates when a decision is needed
Trusts peopleTrusts words and numbers on paper
Delegates whole important jobsKeeps all final decisions
Keeps promisesDoesn’t – unless it ‘suits’
Thinks there are at least 2 other people who would be better at his/her jobNumber one priority is to make bloody sure no one remotely gets near to being a threat
Focused to the point of monomania on values and ethical principlesUnfocused except on self
Sees mistakes as learning opportunitiesSees mistakes as punishment opportunities
Does ‘dog work’ when necessaryAbove ‘dog work’
Consistent and credible with the troopsUnpredictable. Says what he thinks they want to hear

About Terry Neill

Terry Neill

Father of 4 wonderful children and Grandpa to 9 grandchildren.

In his 30 year career with Accenture/Andersen Consulting he was based in Dublin, Chicago and London. He was Chairperson of Andersen Worldwide and Accenture; and was worldwide managing partner of the Change Management Practice.

He returned to Ireland in 2005 and was a Director of Bank of Ireland Group, UBM (the world’s biggest events company) and CRH plc. He is chairperson of the National Council of Wexford Festival Opera.

He is a maths/physics graduate of Trinity College Dublin. He was for 13 years a Governor of London Business School, where he had also gained his MBA. He is a member of both the Board of Trinity Foundation and the Trinity Arts & Humanities Governance Board.  He was chairperson of Co-operation Ireland (GB) and Camerata Ireland, Barry Douglas’s all island chamber orchestra.

If you enjoyed reading this post, you will also like What is Leadership? and 17 daily habits for a fulfilling life.

This is an interview with John Zimmer, one of the leadership communications coaches who joins me regularly at IESE Business School for various programs. This week we are teaching the Executive MBA program.

John has a wonderful blog: Manner of Speaking. Four of the top posts at his blog are:

About IESE Business School

IESE Business School

IESE Business School is a global business school offering MBA and Executive Education programs. Ranked #1 in world by FT, four years in a row (2014-2018). IESE has locations in Barcelona, Madrid, New York, Munich and Sao Paulo.

The Mission of IESE Business School

The mission of IESE is to develop and inspire business leaders who strive to make a deep, positive and lasting impact on the people, companies and society they serve.

“We want to educate leaders to whom we can entrust the future of business and society. For this reason, we develop the integrity, spirit of service, professional excellence and sense of responsibility of all those who take part in one of our programs.”

IESE Business School

IESE Business School activities are centered around three management axes:

  • global mindset
  • general management approach
  • people-centered vision, with the ethics and social responsibility that entails. We believe that companies are, above all, communities of people who work better in atmospheres of respect and trust.

Here’s a quick analysis (not scientific nor complete) of poor ways of listening. I am guilty of #1 and #2, I can enjoy #3… but I really hate #4. (#2 is my Achilles Heel).

The 4 Categories of Poor Listening

  1. Knows it Already
  2. One Upper
  3. Gossiper
  4. Black Hole

Knows it Already

As you get half-way through your sentence, the Knows it Already already knows what they think you are going to say. They are now preparing their response rather than listening to the rest of your words.

One Upper

Whatever you have done, they have done it… but twice as well, or twice as big or twice as impressive. You share that you went on safari last year and saw 2 elephants. They went on safari 2 years ago and saw 4 elephants, 10 lions and millions of other animals.

  • I give thanks to Florian Mueck for helping me recognise and reduce my tendency towards “One Upping”

Gossiper

Whatever you share, they will share something negative or comparative about other people who are not in the room.

Black Hole

Life is shit.

This is a 30 minute interview I conducted with Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of a 250,000 employee global company. He shared insights about the role of the CEO:

  1. How to get the CEO role
  2. How to be a good CEO
  3. How to end your time as CEO and
  4. What to do next.

Watch the Interview

View on YouTube: The Job of the CEO

About Waldemar Schmidt

Waldemar Schmidt

Waldemar Schmidt, past-CEO of ISS, a 250,000 employee global facilities services business.

Currently on the Boards of 28 companies, London Business School Advisory Board, Professor at Copenhagen Business School, Executive in Residence at IMD.

Author of 4 books including “The Job of the CEO“. Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.

Highlights from the Interview

  • 1:49 What is the Job of the CEO?
  • 3:18 Know Products, Numbers, Customers
  • 4:30 Management and Leadership
  • 5:35 Taking Good Decisions
  • 12:40 The Calendar of the CEO
  • 15:07 What do you do after being a CEO?
  • 16:45 Why did Waldemar step back from the CEO role?
  • 18:10 Advice to a 55 year old ex-CEO
  • 19:55 Networking as a CEO
  • 21:18 How to Build Relationships with top Head Hunters
  • 23:20 130 dilemmas that CEOs will face in life and business
  • 23:50 The worst enemy of great leadership: Arrogance

Further Resources

The Job of the CEO – Book Contents

  1. the Job of the CEO
  2. Characteristics and Skills of Great Leaders
  3. Examples of Successful CEOS’ Education, Nationality and Career Paths
  4. Self-assessment Tests
  5. Reflect, Evaluate and Decide Whether the Job of the CEO Is Right for You
  6. Planning Your Career if a CEO Career Is Not Right for You
  7. the Essence of Career Planning
  8. Career Planning
  9. Your Personal Brand
  10. How to Work With Executive Search Firms
  11. Your Pre-CEO Jobs
  12. How to Manage Your First CEO Job
  13. How to Manage Your Next CEO Jobs
  14. How to Manage Your Dream CEO Job
  15. How to Successfully Exit From Your Final CEO Job
  16. Decline or Revival?
  17. What Do You Do if You Lose Your CEO Job?
  18. Retirement or a New Career?
  19. How to Manage Your Second Career
  20. How to Manage Your Third Career
  21. How to Manage Your Work-life Balance
  22. How to Deal With 130 Critical Career and Job Issues

Buy the Book

Note: all book Royalties are donated to the Waldemar Schmidt Scholarship for (Brazilian) students at the international MBA Programme at Copenhagen Business School.

Jim Collins delivered the Keynote at this year’s Vistage ChairWorld meeting to over 800 participants.

About Jim Collins

Jim Collins is a student and teacher of what makes great companies tick, and a Socratic advisor to leaders in the business and social sectors.  He has authored 6 books that have sold more than 10 million copies worldwide. His books include: 

  • Good to Great which examines why some companies make the leap to superior results,
  • Built to Last, which explores how some leaders build companies that remain visionary for generations; 
  • How the Mighty Fall, which delves into how once-great companies can self-destruct; and 
  • Great by Choice, which is about thriving in chaos—why some do, and others don’t.

Conor’s Video Summary of Jim Collins 12 Questions

Jim Collins shared 12 questions that come out of his work over the last 25 years.

These are my notes and reflections from his Keynote address.

The 4 part video series below gives a short overview of each of the 12 questions.

Video: Summary of Jim Collins’ 12 Questions

#1 strive for excellence

The first step is a conscious decision on the part of leadership to decide for excellence, to decide to build an enduring great company. Often leaders are enduring great individuals, but that doesn’t make for an enduring great company. Leaders must put excellence in the company over “success” in their own individual life. (This doesn’t mean that they give up a good life, but that they are willing to pay the price of leading an Enduring Great Company.)

Differences between level 5 and level 4 leader?

  • Humility. This is key to level 5. Deep genuine personal humility combined with a brutal will, a fierce resolve directed at something that is not about them
  • Leadership: People follow when they have the choice to not follow… otherwise it is just power.
  • Charisma – not necessary for Level 5 leadership (“never confuse personality with leadership”)

The author of this blog with Jim Collins, best selling author of Good to Great and Built to Last, at Vistage ChairWorld, January 2019

#2 First who, then what.

Right people, then trust them to figure out where the bus is going. Great vision without great people is irrelevant. Single most important talent: select great people for the key seats. Nothing is more important that key seats filled with great people.

#3 confront the brutal facts

What brutal facts must we confront? No opinions.

#4 Hedgehog concept

Fox knows many things, hedgehog knows 1 Fox loves complexity, hedgehog loves simple Intersection of Passion, best in world, drives economic engine Big is not equal to great (think restaurants- if it were to disappear it would leave an unfillable hole)

#5 20 mile march

Driving the flywheel  “Which push made the difference?” None… Cumulative effort consistently over long time Flywheel- causal links between, inevitability  “I admire Nike” “what do Nike do? Products so great that pros wear them” great products + social proof Execution 1-10… flywheel accelerator at quality of execution of lowest quality of execution  Best investment strategy “a highly undiversified investment where you are right” “We can make it up on a good day” fallacy.  Be super careful of overextension leading to missing your March Cycle across USA… booked the hotels ahead of time: have to make it, and prepare for tomorrow and the next day
“Part of the task of helping others is to be really hard on them… with love”

#6 bullets, then cannonballs

Innovation small, then massive support of small wins. Scale the right innovation. Scaling innovation is more important than innovation. Fail: Not enough bullets Bullets but no guts to fire cannonball Untargeted cannonballs

#7 don’t die

The first step of moving from good to great to built to last is “don’t die” I am terrified by good times. Complacency! Be properly terrified all the time. Fortune 500 85% carnage rate.

Jim Collins’ shares the 5 Stages of Decline of a Business

Productive paranoia:Prepare for the storms (cash to assets ratio 3-10 times greater)

The only mistakes you can learn from are the ones you survive 

#8 clock building or time telling?

Idea-> biz-> great company = enduring success

“The genius with a thousand helpers model is not building a great company”

Jim Collins

Shift from time telling (individual level) to clock building (at a company level). Every leader can grow to be the leader of a bigger, greater company. Don’t answer questions with answers… help people find their own answers, their own resourcefulness.

Steve Jobs 2.0 – had a yoda who helped him create a culture of geniuses.  What’s your leadership 2.0?

#9 preserve the core, stimulate progress 

Yin & yang Core set of unchanging values and purpose, constant progress towards your north star

#10 What’s our BHAG?

Time frame 10-25 years… anything less is just base camp

“The best people want to do the hard things”

Jim Collins

A Good BHAG frightens mediocrity away. Test of BHAG – does it repel some people?

#11 return on Luck

Luck event:

  1. You didn’t cause
  2. Consequences 
  3. Can’t control

Get good at making the most of when luck happens. How do you handle the unexpected? Use both good luck & bad luck (crisis allows change) to improve.

#12 Stop Doing list

Only doing is not discipline. True discipline is about what not to do first.  What should you not be doing?

Peter Drucker – age 65 had written only 1/3 of his books. Age 86 wrote 10 more books.

“You will survive, you will probably succeed… The question Mr Collins is how to be useful”

Peter Drucker (to young Jim Collins)

More from Jim Collins

Are you a Level 5 leader? How do you address these 12 questions? Where do you struggle? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Are you currently a member of a board of directors, or do you hope one day to take the role as a board member?

I came across this short video from the Irish Institute of Directors sharing 10 common mistakes made by company directors. George Bartlett shares from his 25 years of experience as a board member.

George Bartlett, over 25 years experience as a Corporate Director

The top 10 Errors of Corporate Directors

  1. Acting solely in the interests of shareholders, not in the interests of the company as a whole
  2. Lack of independent judgement – falling into Groupthink – Not having strength in your own convictions, not willing to be a minority of one.
  3. Not seeing the risks facing the business
  4. Failing to stand up to dominant or highly influential board members. As a board members you have “joint and several liability” you are both jointly and individually responsible for all board decision making. If you see risks, bring up those risks.
  5. Making promises you can’t keep – not maintaining integrity in all you do and say
  6. Not empowering employees – forgetting the power of a few encouraging words from you to any individual employee
  7. Not Challenging – challenge everything – assumptions, thinking process, risk analysis… and even your own strong opinions and assumptions. (Video: how to give feedback that is both authentic and respectful of the other)
  8. Losing sight of the big picture – micromanaging details. As most board members spend much of their career in executive roles, it can be hard to let go of details.
  9. Not being a Custodian of the corporate standards – quality of governance, quality of service, quality of discussion, quality of recruitment, quality of people development…
  10. Not Listening – to all voices with a role in the company’s future. (to listen well, you need to learn to ask great questions)

Are you currently a board member? What lessons have you learnt? What tips and guidance would you share with someone who has interest in becoming an effective board member?

More Corporate Governance tips from George

George Bartlett shares some corporate governance tips.

Nothing brings more opportunity into your life than speaking well in public.

I have been teaching for 16 years on many leadership programs at IESE Business School. Today I’m sharing a playlist of a series of videos that we put together as an introduction for participants of future courses.

There are 10 videos in the full playlist with a total duration of about 60 minutes.

There are 4 steps to speaking with impact:

  1. Have something to say
  2. Say it well
  3. Say it with Intensity
  4. Connect with the people in the audience

Here’s the link to the Leadership Communications video playlist

 

Jeff Bezos of Amazon has a very clear view on how to dedicate his time as a leader of his business:

  • Time working on the Future
  • Time working in the Present

How does Jeff allocate his time?

50/50?  80/20?  90/10?…

What do you think is the allocation of time that Jeff aims for himself?  What is the allocation of time in your life as a leader?  Watch the video for Jeff’s answer.

(If you want to skip all the introduction and go straight to Jeff’s answer, go to 3:05 in the video or click Jeff Bezos’ ideal allocation of CEO time)

If you liked this idea from Jeff Bezos, check out Amazon: Why Jeff Bezos banned Powerpoint and Jeff Bezos on High Standards (and why you don’t achieve your goals).