The Six Steps to Strong Leadership – Surrounded by Courage

In Adam Bryant’s NY Times interview with G.J. Hart, executive chairman, C.E.O. and president of California Pizza Kitchen, Hart named six steps of leadership he lives by:

I call them the six steps of leadership, surrounded by courage. Courage is an interesting one because any leadership role is about stepping out and having the courage to be different, because you have to be different to be a leader.

The first step is to be the very best that you can be, because you can’t lead anybody if you can’t lead yourself. So you have to be honest with yourself about your good qualities, your bad qualities and the things you need to work on.

The second thing is to dream, and dream big. What’s the world of possibilities for yourself and for your organization? You have to be able to say, “Here’s where I want to get to.” It’s not that you’ll ever necessarily get there, but if you don’t dream, you’ll never even get started.

The third is to lead with your heart first. Let people see that you’re human and that there’s a human side. Show people that you have compassion. It doesn’t mean that you don’t set expectations and standards. But if you lead with your heart, people figure out whether you’re genuine, whether you’re real.

The fourth thing can be the hardest for young leaders: to trust the people you lead. It’s about letting go, and allowing people to grow into leadership roles. At the end of the day, it’s O.K. if they make a mistake or if they fall down. Because as leaders, it’s your job to pick them back up.

The fifth is do the right thing, always. It’s easy to say. But the way I like to describe it is that if the rules say one thing, particularly as it relates to people, and you genuinely believe in that person, sometimes it takes courage to do the right thing and give that person a second chance. Because we’ve all made mistakes and somebody picked us up.

The sixth is that it’s ultimately about serving the people you lead. It’s about putting the cause before yourself, and a willingness to see it through. I developed this list over time because it’s the way I live each day. My job is to lead and to make a difference. I’m a catalyst for change, to create an environment where people can grow and prosper.

A bold agenda for a leader — combining service, courage, trust, empowerment, heartfelt action and authenticity. Apparently, it’s a recipe for good pizza, too — which is the other key to successful business leadership — having a strong idea and a solid business design to lead forward! Hart admits it’s a tall order, but his enthusiasm is infectious. He must be a demanding – and satisfying – collaborative leader, if he succeeds at living the six steps he outlines here.

To read more about Hart’s background, hiring practices and personal development, click here…


  1. Carol, a positive article with several good points. My view has always been one clear trait of a great leader is they create leaders.

    The most effective way to attain strength and leadership in an organization and too oft the least put into practice is employee development and the ongoing inclusion of it into organizational process.

    With technology becoming an equalizer between competitors, it will be people who become the differentiators. Investing in people is also a key factor in employee retention


    1. I see you are a consultant as well — you’re right that empowerment and training offer leadership opportunities for followers, and that good leadership development for managers is key for making leadership initiatives work for organizations. However, as I’ve written before, so much employee development training is bad teaching, geared more to mollify management and make higher-up leaders feel better about themselves, while they convey status-quo messages in trainings that make followers more cynical than inspired! I wonder what you think makes for really excellent leadership/employee development? I know I checked out your website, and there are links in your comment so others can do so, but I wonder in general what you think about developing good leadership practices in employees?


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: