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Your 5 min read leadership cheat sheet


This article consists of my notes from the HardvardX Leadership Principles course converted to a blog post.

Leadership is different from management or coordination, and both have their importance.

It is important to highlight that there can be two kinds of work: technical problems and adaptive challenges.

Technical problems refer to issues that can be solved through existing knowledge, expertise, and established procedures. They are typically well-defined and have clear solutions based on known facts and methodologies. Technical problems are often routine in nature, and their resolution primarily involves applying specialized skills or employing available resources to fix the issue. Examples of technical problems include software bugs, equipment malfunctions, or mathematical calculations.

On the other hand, adaptive challenges are complex problems that do not have clear-cut solutions. They arise from changing environments, conflicting values, or inherent system dynamics. Adaptive challenges involve a range of factors, including social, cultural, political, and psychological aspects. These challenges require adaptive and innovative approaches to navigate through uncertainties, conflicts, and resistance. Addressing adaptive challenges often requires learning, collaboration, and the exploration of new perspectives. Examples of adaptive challenges include organizational change, societal issues like climate change, or addressing social inequalities.

In summary, technical problems are straightforward issues with known solutions that can be resolved using existing knowledge and expertise. Adaptive challenges, however, are complex, multifaceted problems that demand new thinking, learning, and collaboration to address the underlying systemic issues.


Leadership is not the same as authority. Authority can be something you didn't choose, like a government that collects taxes and follows a penal code. A new member of society is subject to this, even if they didn't choose it. However, authority can also be earned through commitment (meritocracy).

The services of authority include direction, protection, and order. There is explicit authority (by position) and implicit authority (through history/morality), with the latter often prevailing. Creating a stakeholder map before each initiative, showcasing the gains and potential losses for each, as well as how they can contribute, is crucial. Different stakeholders view the work differently.

Let's take a problem: creating a CLI aimed at empowering developers. Some questions arise: Who was asked about the relevance of this initiative? Wasn't it supposed to be just a hexagonal template? What happened? Perhaps conducting a poll or quiz to gather the direct opinions of newly identified stakeholders, like junior engineers, can provide insights.

Trust is the fulcrum of professional and personal relationships, resulting from an individual's competencies and values. Authority is never given for free; something is expected in return from those who receive it. Building trust and authority can be facilitated by punctuality, commitment, consistency, developing new technical skills and proofs of concept, among other things. However, authority can be lost over time due to a breakdown from those who serve (have authority) or due to unrealistic expectations from those who trust (give authority).

Forming focus teams or groups with people who share common interests is a way to gain au?thority through the combination of strengths. The success of this new group also depends on a healthy authority relationship. Excessive noise/frustration in an authority relationship can lead the grantor of authority to develop such resistance in giving authority to others that it hinders the creation of healthy social relationships, due to an extremely defensive stance. Self-awareness is crucial to identify this and understand that authority relationships are absolutely necessary for a coordinated routine or innovation within a company.

Strategies for Renewing Trust:

  1. Model the change: Actively engage in new learning and be transparent about the difficulties encountered.
  2. Maintain focus on the context: Remind others of the conditions and goals that led to the need for adaptive work.
  3. Recognize your contribution to the issue: Acknowledge your role in the situation.
  4. Manage expectations with candor: Be honest about potential outcomes and losses, even if uncertain.
  5. Don't conceal or diminish losses: Recognize and address real losses publicly.
  6. Meet anger with patience and understanding: Understand the context and perspective behind anger.
  7. Promote public pearning: Create conditions for people to learn from each other.
  8. Engage your allies: Involve allies and their factions in the work to draw upon trust and strengthen bonds.
  9. Stay close to the opposition: Regularly engage key stakeholders, including all perspectives.
  10. Listen: Seek to understand as many perspectives as possible and value feedback from others.

In large initiatives, conflict cannot be avoided. It requires a lot of work, and that's why few people are willing or have the ability to handle it. Some metrics for evaluating a leader include setting explicit ground rules and norms for participation and engagement, empowering the group to resolve difficult issues themselves, surfacing unspoken conflicts and disagreements, and risking difficult conversations about work issues.

Less ideal ways to resolve conflicts include inaction as action, appeal to authority, and fight or flight responses. By avoiding or evading conflict, we fail to engage all parties and perspectives, leading to a loss of creative tension. Homework, gathering all views, creating and enforcing ground rules, and orchestrating conflict can help manage conflicts effectively. Experimentation can also be beneficial when time allows.

Conflict is necessary, and it needs to be controlled, not ignored or avoided. It is essential for innovation. When the climate is too calm and lacks the discomfort that ignites innovation, attention can be redirected to difficult problems, conflicts can be brought to the surface, and ownership of work can be encouraged. When the climate is too chaotic and approaching the team's limit, strategies like redirecting focus to technical work, assuming responsibility for tough issues, dividing and distributing work, and taking breaks periodically can help regain balance.

Ambitions represent the things you want to achieve, while aspirations reflect what you want to contribute. Having a sanctuary, a place to decompress and relax, is important. Allies are crucial. Forming alliances brings new constituents who can help make your point across the company. Having mentors or confidantes who share your point of view and guide you in making changes can be valuable. Sometimes, the impact of doing good cannot be measured, but it's important to keep doing it nonetheless.

By incorporating these principles into your leadership approach, you can navigate challenges, build trust, and foster a more innovative and inclusive environment.