page title icon Leading Through Contradictions

Balancing traits in a complex world

Dive deep into the complexities of leadership with Adam Bryant on the Fast Leader Show! Discover the art of extracting every lesson from life’s experiences, akin to wringing out a wet towel. Adam unpacks the delicate balance leaders must strike between contradictory traits, shrewdly adapting to the uncertainty of our times. Learn why post-2020 leadership demands a keen ability to simplify complexity and ask pivotal questions in a world rife with volatility.

Reflect with Adam on the necessity of pausing for introspection despite the relentless pace of modern leadership. Explore the insightful “due to say” ratio, a testament to a leader’s trustworthiness, and navigate the nuances of managing upwards with brutal honesty. Gain perspective on personal growth as Adam shares his journey from The New York Times reporter to a leadership maven, emphasizing the significance of authentic networking and understanding your unique leadership path.

Adam’s candid discussion reveals the heightened demands on leaders today, urging aspiring managers to embrace the thrill of steering through rapid changes. As he reflects on his personal choices and the nature of ambitious leadership, Bryant challenges us to ponder the fundamental question: “Why do you really want to lead?”

Embark on this thought-provoking episode with Jim Rembach and Adam Bryant – it’s an invaluable session for anyone looking to lead with insight, self-awareness, and authenticity.

Adam Bryant was born in Montreal, and spent many of his years living in both Canada and the United States. He had trouble sitting still as a kid and was always busy – he played a ton of sports, delivered papers, and did other jobs to buy a car the day he turned 16. He’s always liked to work, whatever the job was — washing dishes in a restaurant, working in factories, or on a drilling rig in western Canada.

His father was a journalist, and his mother was an occupational therapist, and he learned from them the importance of selflessness and listening. His father, especially, was a world-class listener, and Adam would watch him draw people out to share their stories.

Adam caught the journalism bug in college while working on his college paper in Toronto. He also met his future wife in that city — they both worked at the same restaurant as a part-time job when they were in school.

He dreamed of one day possibly working for The New York Times, and after working at some smaller papers, he managed to join the paper as an entry-level reporter before he turned 30. He worked there as a reporter and editor for 18 years, with a six-year break in the middle when he worked at Newsweek magazine.

Adam’s interest in leadership grew as he started interviewing CEOs as a business reporter. For years, he followed the established approach of writing about CEOs as strategists — how they planned to win in their industry. But the more time he spent with them, the more he wanted to set aside those questions and ask them how they do their jobs. That led Adam to create his weekly Corner Office series in the New York Times, which was based on a very simple “what if?” question – what if he sat down with CEOs and never asked them about their companies and instead asked them about the most important leadership lessons they had learned over their career?

That led to over 1,000 interviews with CEOs and other senior leaders and four books, including his latest book, “The Leap to Leader: How Ambitious Managers Make The Jump To Leadership,” published by Harvard Business Review Press.

In 2017, Adam left the New York Times to join The ExCo Group, an executive mentoring and leadership development firm, where he is senior managing director. He and his wife now live in New Orleans.

Tweetable Quotes and Mentions

Listen to @AdamBBryant get over the hump on the @FastLeaderShowClick to Tweet

“Extract every drop of insight from life, like wringing a wet towel.” – Click to Tweet

“Leadership is about balancing contradictions and flexing with circumstances.” – Click to Tweet

“Embrace complexity before simplifying it–ask the right questions.” – Click to Tweet

“In leadership, the ‘due to say’ ratio is key for trust and reliability.” – Click to Tweet

“Have stoplight moments for reflection amidst the pressure to be visible.” – Click to Tweet

“Compartmentalization is a critical skill for managing emotions and separation.” – Click to Tweet

“Leadership values are about continuous improvement, teamwork, and authenticity.” – Click to Tweet

“To coach effectively, edit the person, not the words.” – Click to Tweet

“Self-centered or selfless – true leaders prioritize helping others.” – Click to Tweet

“Quiet quitting reflects a need for boundary setting in demanding leadership roles.” – Click to Tweet

Advice for others

Enjoy the ride more in your career. It’s good to plan and be vigilant in spotting patterns and opportunities. However, every strength has its downside, so try to find a balance and remember to savor the journey as well.

Holding him back from being an even better leader

To just live in the present more.

Best Leadership Advice

Focus on ‘editing the person, not the words,’ meaning to prioritize enhancing an individual’s skills and development over simply correcting their work.

Secret to Success / Tools

Pattern matching.

Recommended Reading

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex

The Leap to Leader: How Ambitious Managers Make the Jump to Leadership

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