Leadership Hacks from The Art of Leadership San Diego Conference

Leadership Hacks from The Art of Leadership San Diego Conference

Leadership Hacks from Today's Thought Leaders

You’ve probably watched videos about “cooking hacks” and “life hacks” but, have you ever heard of Leadership Hacks?

Let’s talk about hacking for a moment. In technology, hackers are the most powerful person in a network. Hackers find the vulnerable spot, make a quick change without trying to change the whole network and leave silently. Think about how hackers are now entering everything from smart homes to phones. Although these hackers could end up landing in jail, they actually have a lot to teach anyone in terms of their strategic approach. 

Today, this approach has led to a flow of “hacking trends” from cooking hacks to life hacks. Now, thanks to the first Art of Leadership Conference in San Diego, we’re here to present you with leadership hacks. These following three hacks will help you get better results in the shortest amount of time as a leader. So we have to ask,

 If you were a hacker, and you looked at your company like a network, where are the vulnerabilities in that network?

If you are drawing a blank, we’ve thought of three of the most common vulnerabilities:

  1. Meetings
  2. Lack of Self-Awareness
  3. A centralized command

These three areas are most likely vulnerabilities in your company that YOU can hack. With these hacks, you can make a quick change and get better results than what you’re currently getting.

Leadership Hack #1: HACK your Meetings

“Do your meetings start and end on time?

Meetings that start on time benchmark of strong culture”

Robert Richman, co-founder Zappos Insights, says if you want to demonstrate respect to your employees, ensure that all of your meetings start on time.. The benchmark is if your meetings start and end on time. 

Can you say that about your meetings? 

If your meetings could use some improvement, try this four-step hack.

4 Steps to Hacking Meetings

1. Opt-In: No More Mandatory Meetings

Yep, he said it. Stop forcing people to go to meetings. 

2. Clear Goals

The goals of the meeting need to be clear & simple with deadlines.

3. Gamify Meetings

Give the meeting a clear and simple goal with a deadline. Ensure everyone knows and follows the rules for that meeting, and give everyone feedback on how they’re doing. Get things done in meetings through this simple post-it note process of three columns, TO DO, DOING, DONE.

4. Share Meeting Notes With Everyone, (Seriously, Everyone)

At Zappos, any employee can look at any moment in time to a dashboard that has a meeting report for every single meeting (executive meetings included.) Imagine what kind of transparency that would bring to your company?

Leadership Hack #2: Hack Self-Awareness

Identify & Seek Feedback from Loving Critics

Vulnerability number two in your company is most likely self-awareness. The self-awareness of your teammates and (spoiler alert) your own self-awareness. Dr. Tasha Eurich, Organizational Psychologist and author of the book, Insight, gave a powerful speech about her research on self-awareness. Tasha points out strikingly scary statistics about how 85% of us think we are self-aware yet only about 10-15% of us are actually highly self-aware. Her work has helped create a path towards increasing self-awareness and her hack is simple:

Regularly identify and seek feedback from loving critics

Step 1: Identify Loving Critics

Who are your loving critics? Your loving critics are the people in your life who really care about you getting better and are willing to point out what you are not seeing about yourself. 

Step 2: Ask the Miracle Question

Take some time today to write down a list of your loving critics and then commit to asking them this question: 

“In the future, what can I do to be a better _____________?”

Step 3: Say, “Thank You for the Feedback”

Make sure you are open to the feedback that you get in that answer to encourage more feedback and to help you become a more self-aware leader, parent, team member, etc.!

Leadership Hack #3: Decentralize Your Command

Implement a decentralized command: Everybody Leads

Your company’s last vulnerability: centralized commands. Centralized command is still the most common way of how power, decision making and execution works.  Centralized command also creates rigidity and the inability to innovate. Centralized command certainly precludes a company’s ability to stay competitive in its industry.

Centralized Command From Medium.com

Historically known as a centrally controlled command, today’s military, and in particular Navy Seals advocate for a decentralized structure.

Jocko Willink, retired U.S. Navy Seal, shared a powerful speech about his experience with Navy Seal Teams. He asserts that no senior leader can be expected to manage dozens or hundreds of individuals (human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people). 


In the SEAL teams, Jocko talked about how in decentralized structures, everyone leads. As you see in the model above, in a centralized structure, there is one leader, whereas the decentralized structure, everyone is leading everyone. This empowers frontline people to be able to make better, faster and more effective decisions, offer ideas or valuable information to correct the problems they see. Everyone leads is treated as and spoken to as a leader. With decentralized command, you get a TEAM of leaders who can mobilize, strategize and execute at a much more rapid pace.

To HACK centralized command you don’t need to try and re-arrange your org chart. For the quickest hack, start to treat everyone you talk to as a leader.

This hack gives each person more power, decision making authority, credibility in their position and autonomy instantly just by how you listen to what they say, and help mobilize ideas faster. Also, it allows you to come up with AND execute innovative ideas as quickly as a lean startup, even in a large company.

Have You Tried These Hacks?

Let us know in the comments below. Share which leadership hack you want to focus on or have focused on and how the results have been so far. Also, share with your team so you all can implement all these hacks.

Most of all 

Happy Hacking


Want more hacks? Contact me for a day of hacking.

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