42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role Book Summary



“Be a yardstick of quality. Some people aren’t used to an environment where excellence is expected.” — Steve Jobs

Leadership is hot.

Anywhere you go, there is a need for people who inspire, make things happen, respond to a changing landscape, provide a vision for a brighter future, and bring out the best in people.

42 Rules Help Leaders Rise and Shine

There is always a need for leadership, whether you are leading yourself, a team, a group, or more.

But what are the rules for leading at a higher-level?

In 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role, Pam Fox Rollin shares the rules that help leaders rise and shine.  She shares her leadership rules in a compact way, that’s fast to read, easy to absorb, and practical to apply.

Here are some of the ideas that Rollin shares with us to light our inner-leader on fire …

Learn the Rules, Then Bend or Break Them

”As you read this book, take what I say as a starting point for your own good thinking. Adjust what you find here to serve your team’s needs, the market conditions, the cultural context, your goals, and your personal leadership approach.”

I’m glad Rollin starts this way.  That’s my take on anything you read.  It’s along the lines of Bruce Lee, where you should “absorb what is useful”, but ignore the stuff that’s not, and tailor it so it works for you, not against you.   It’s a great way to stay open to new ideas and take your game to next level.

Why Leaders Succeed or Fail

“Leaders at all levels succeed or fail for a surprisingly common set of reasons: meeting business objectives, succeeding in interpersonal relationships, building a great team, and adapting to change.

These reasons hold true across industries, time, and market conditions.”

There are lots of reasons why leaders succeed or fail, but I liked the way that Rollin put this so precisely.   There’s a reason why emotional intelligence is a key leadership skill, given how much of leadership is the ability to connect with others.

Driving and responding to change is another great point.   If you’ve ever seen somebody out of their element, or if you’ve seen change turn a high-achiever into a lackluster performer, you’ve seen the potential downside of change.   What great leaders do is use change as a catalyst and find ways to adapt, learn, and respond.   Leaders embrace change.

Organize Your Priorities

“Let’s start by considering what leaders do: 1) Set direction (strategizing, planning), 2)  Engage and mobilize people (developing, communicating), 3) Enable execution (hiring, budgeting, coordinating) … Other stuff only you do.”

Rollin wrote this with thanks to Sharon Richmond, now Director of Cisco’s Change Leadership Center of Excellence, and her co-author on leadership research. It’s a simple, but powerful model for identifying what leaders do.    You can use this as a self-check.   Are you shaping direction, mobilizing people, and enabling execution?   It’s a tall-order, but that’s why leadership is such a valuable ability, especially when times get tough.

Brains Like Wins

”Research in progress from my colleague Dr. Dario Nardi of UCLA shows that brains go into ‘flow’
pattern when people ‘win’ something. This is true even if the win is in a kid’s card game based mostly
on luck. Brains like wins.”

That’s music to my ears, although it’s no surprise.   People like to win, and the trick is to find ways to win in work and life.   A simple little habit that I build here is asking colleagues to identify their wins for the day, the week, the month, and the year.  It’s a simple little habit, but changing the language, changes focus, and changing the focus changes everything.

Build the Body of a Leader

“Have you ever noticed the arms of a waitress? Strong. The torso of a mountain climber? Flexible. The legs of a surgeon? Steady. The neck of a pianist? Relaxed.

We seldom think about it, but leaders have bodies, too. What their bodies do becomes amplified across their teams. When a leader has tense, irregular breathing that often transmits stress to a team. When a leader has stiff posture, people form an impression of interpersonal rigidity. When a leader fidgets, others wonder whether he or she is confident and committed.”

The point Rollin makes here is that we can shape and model our presence after leaders we admire, in a way that projects leadership.  If you want to be a leader, then look like one.

When you think of the leaders you admire, how do they carry themselves?   How do they breathe?  Are they ready for anything?

I think we spend so much time focused on what we say and how we say it, that it’s easy for forget that the non-verbal and the body language play a way bigger role in how people experience us, than the words coming out of our mouths.   Effective leaders walk, talk, think, and act in a way that inspires, empowers, and changes their world, from the inside out.  Sometimes you “see” leadership, before you hear it.

All in all, 42 Rules for Your New Leadership Role, is a great little book add to your leadership repertoire.    It’s a beautiful distillation of the leadership space and it serves as a compact reminder of proven practices for effective leadership, as well as good ideas you can use everyday.

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  1. @ Frederick — It truly is the difference that makes the difference.

    Once you have the lens and know to look for emotional intelligence, it shows up everywhere. You can easily see how it limits or enables people.

    Some people have learned emotional intelligence easier than others, but the good news is that there are great books, teachers, and mentors available to master emotional intelligence.

  2. Excellent article, and the book sounds like one I need to add to my “to-read” list.

    I think one of the keys to leadership that many people ignore is: *true leaders keep learning*.
    I feel that true leaders would read a book like the one linked here, are aware of topics like emotional intelligence as @Fredrik mentioned in his earlier comment, and spend time studying how to motivate and inspire others.

    Unfortunately, it is (relatively) easy for people to get into management positions based solely on technical abilities rather than leadership abilities. Perhaps these new managers take their positions as implied endorsement of their ability to lead a team and assume they are “done” becoming a leader.

    In any case, I think leadership will continue to be a “hot” topic in the business world until the culture of the business world starts to change – prizing and developing leadership skills along with technical skills.

  3. @ Mark — I was very much surprised by the usefulness of the book. I think the writing style actually made it fun to flip through.

    You reminded me of a point that I heard an effective leader say:

    “Growth hides weakness.”

    His point was that when you are riding a wave, you might climb faster than you’re ready for, or that you might mis-attribute your success. He said the key is to keep learning, dig deeper, and ask the tough questions.

  4. @JD – Another excellent point! “Growth hides weakness” would apply equally to the financial side of a business as to its leadership… a doubly useful quote for any business-person to remember.

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