Four Fingers and a Thumb

September 27, 2011

The good folks at the blog Leadership and Influence have posted a piece by Bob Burg and me called “The Five Keys to Legendary Leadership.” Here’s a brief excerpt:

There have been a thousand good books on leadership, and will be a thousand more. But for all we describe it and study it, it still seems elusive — which is why it so often surprises us when a truly great leader appears in our midst.

Why so elusive? In part, because great leadership is shot through with contradiction…

The piece talks about “the four fingers and thumb of leadership.” That is, the first four principles are strong, they have validity — but trying to implement them without the fifth is like trying to pick up and use a tool with just your fingers, and no thumb.

Like the thumb, that fifth principle is, in a sense, “opposed” to the other four principles. Yet it’s what makes them useful and effective.

What is that thumb, that fifth principle? In a nutshell, or perhaps more aptly, in a thumbnail: it’s not about you.

Here is the heart of the contradiction that is great leadership: great leadership isn’t a place you arrive, it is a place into which you disappear.

Ahh, contradiction and paradox: always a whiff of a clue that you might be onto something.


  1. Ana Gabriel Mann

    Wow, Love this post! 🙂

    • jdmann

      This post loves you back.

  2. Josh Hinds

    John, wise words my friend, wise words 🙂

  3. Peg Duchesne

    John, such a terrific analogy. So poignant!
    I’ll never look at my hands the same ever again 🙂


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