Three Lessons From Frances Hesselbein

In keeping with a standard that somebody in our industry set long ago (and everyone has followed since), I would like to share three key takeaways from a cherished opportunity to chat about leadership with Frances Hesselbein. And, for the record, I believe this tradition was established because two clearly isn’t enough and four is just plain unwieldly! Regardless, consider the wisdom of these quotes from a leader that has spent a lifetime “walking what she talks”:

  1. “Leadership is a matter of how to be, not how to do.” Effectively influencing others is easy to think about, or judge (when somebody else is trying to do it), but it remains a very difficult thing to actually do. It’s difficult because it is anything but an exact science. And, even though most are actively aware of that reality, there are still many approaches to teaching leadership that resemble Arthur Murray Dance Lessons:“You say this to me (one – two) … I say this to you (one – two) … etc.No matter how many dance steps you commit to memory, leading people is a function of connecting. Connecting is a function of transparent interaction. Transparent interaction is a function of listening and “putting yourself out there.” And, putting yourself out there is a function of reflecting upon thoughtful questions (answering those questions) then acting in a manner that is consistent with those answers.
  1. “Respect for all people.”Who do you “invite to the party?” Whose counsel do you seek when you make a difficult decision? How aware are you (in your sphere of influence) of the voices that are different from your own? What actions do you take to give those voices a platform to be heard and understood? How concerned are you about the input you are not receiving compared to the input you are? Simply stated, respect is not a passive pursuit. Respect is behavioral. You can point to it, identify and describe it. It’s something people feel because of actions others took. When you ask just about anybody if they have respect for all people, what do they say? They say “Of course!” usually in an impassioned tone. Many will expand by pointing to a track record that includes no documented violations that would suggest otherwise which is really the essence of the point. Respect for others is not defined by a leader’s good intentions. Respect for others is defined (in its entirety) by “the others.”
  2. “Results without a mission are meaningless.” – Frances Hesselbein and Peter Drucker have a well-documented history of partnership that has benefited countless leaders around the world. As such, there are many points of convergence that can be referenced where the two were undeniably in lockstep. No aspect of that alignment is stronger than the role of a well-crafted mission as a barometer for determining the true impact of a leader. By design, a well-crafted mission defines results as a function of both thewhat and the how.” In that regard, it is measured not only by the analytics dedicated to productivity, but also by the impact of the leader on engagement, retention and the degree of connectivity each employee has to the fundamental reason the organization exists.


  1. Google Frances Hesselbein. Pick any book she has authored or any article that has been written about her many contributions. Then read it!
  2. Identify one thing Frances did that you think you could do as well. Then do it!