Take the Lead

Motivate, Inspire, and Bring Out the Best in Yourself and Everyone Around You

  • Washington Post “Best Leadership Book of 2011”

“Why is it that some people challenge us and motivate us to rise to our best abilities, while others seem to drain our energy and spirit? What is that particular quality certain people have that causes those around them to engage fully and feel connected?”

The opportunity for leadership is everywhere. You do not need to be in a boardroom, on a battlefield, or on a ballot to have a profound impact on everyone around you. In this life-changing book, Betsy Myers—senior adviser to two US presidents and former executive director of Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership—demonstrates how each of us has opportunities to take the lead every day and shares seven core principles that enable us to be more productive, engaged, and successful.

From the Oval Office to the playground, cabinet meetings to kitchen tables, in public life and private, Betsy Myers has seen firsthand the emergence of a new leadership model where having all the answers up front is less important than asking the right questions, where strength is derived less from the power you wield than from how you make the people around you feel.

With personal stories from her time in government, in academia, and on the campaign trail, as well as her experiences as a wife, daughter, and mother, Myers’s keen insights help us learn to set the right priorities for ourselves; to connect on a deeper level with the people around us; to uncover problems early when they are still easy to fix; to collaborate with those whose points of view are different from our own; and to push through our fears and live our most authentic lives. Myers demonstrates that more than simply making people feel good, this kind of leadership can have a profound effect on the results achieved: it is how initiatives are launched, profits are made, and work gets done.

Personal, practical, and profoundly inspiring, Take the Lead is a book for anyone who wonders where all the great leaders have gone. Betsy Myers helps us see that true leadership is all around us—and within us.

Take the Lead Reviews

“Best leadership book of 2011.”
— Tom Peters, In Search of Excellence

“Myers hits a home run with this first work that takes a fresh look at characteristics and traits that enable individuals to motivate, inspire, and influence individuals and groups. … Written in an intelligent but conversational and approachable tone, this inspirational primer is a perfect read for anyone to understand, develop, or unleash his or her genuine leadership potential.”
Publishers Weekly

“A modern, holistic approach to leadership, framed around a commitment to authenticity, the ability to listen and an awareness of the feelings of employees and constituencies. Myers offers a cogent, articulate addition to modern leadership theory. Her easy-to-digest volume is filled with anecdotes that illustrate the importance of a feelings-based approach to achieving major policy goals. … An enjoyable and insightful read for anyone interested in increasing their personal and professional effectiveness.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Myers, advisor to US presidents and long-time advocate for women, shares her considerable experience and wisdom with everyone who cares about high-level and everyday leadership. This charming, engrossing book will particularly excite and empower women, who will treat this book as their personal mentor and apply Myers’s principles to enrich their lives.”
— Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Ph.D., Professor at Harvard Business School

“After forty-three years of designing and forty years of being a boss, I’ve found Betsy Myers’s Take the Lead the most inspirational new tool, not only for leadership but for life.”
— Kay Unger, cofounder of Phoebe Couture and Kay Unger New York

“One of the most topical and well-written business books ever. This book will be given to all leaders in my department, as I believe the concepts Myers discusses are absolutely critical for success in any business.”
— Brian Hirshman, Senior Vice President at Southwest Airlines

“A principled yet practical guide to twenty-first-century leadership. Written in her unique voice, Betsy Myers’s candid, courageous stories offer convincing evidence of what it takes to be an authentic leader.”
— Bill George, True North, former CEO of Medtronics

“Filled with insight and wisdom, as well as some seriously entertaining anecdotes about leadership.”
— Steve Belkin, Chairman of Trans National Group

Excerpt from Take the Lead

When my little sister JoJo was in first grade, her teacher was so mean to the kids that it often made her cry. This teacher ruled her classroom by fear and intimidation. She asked me once, “Why does your sister cry all the time?” I replied, “Because she’s afraid of you!” No matter how I try, I cannot recall her name.

I have no trouble remembering my fifth-grade teacher’s name. Hugh Beaton loved kids and loved teaching. Where JoJo’s teacher would hover like a hawk, waiting to catch her pupils doing something wrong, Mr. Beaton always managed to catch us doing something right. He let us know he believed in us, and being in his presence brought out the best in us.

As the years passed and I encountered other teachers and mentors like Mr. Beaton, I have been fascinated by this mysterious quality these people seem to have in common.

What exactly is this thing we call leadership?

Why is it that some people challenge us and motivate us to rise to our best abilities, while others seem to drain our energy and spirit? What is that particular quality certain people have that causes those around them to engage fully and feel connected?

All my life I have been curious about this. What is leadership all about? How and when does it work?

Why are some places such great places to work, while others feel grueling? Why does one department head or business executive inspire her people to greatness, while another evokes only apathy and disinterest from the ranks? Why is it that one teacher is beloved by students, while another is loathed and feared? What is that magical quality that brings out the best in people, and is it a secret known by only a precious few or something available to us all?

From what I’ve observed, genuine leadership is not something that magically happens because we’ve been handed a certain position or role to play. It is a quality we nurture in ourselves, regardless of our job or station in life. It is a function not of title, academic degrees, or access to power, but of how we treat and connect with the people around us.

I believe this magical quality is available to all of us, although it is often counterintuitive and quite different from what we may have been taught, or come to believe, true leadership looks like.

Many of us don’t see ourselves as leaders, but the truth is that we are all confronted constantly with opportunities to take the lead. Whether we are managing a division of a company, interacting in our community, participating in a PTO or church organization, or raising our children, the way we feel about ourselves and treat others has an impact that adds or detracts, inspires or deflates. That takes the lead, or fails to do so.

From the Oval Office to the playground, whether in private life or public, in the home or workplace, in our communities and organizations, friendships and relationships, it’s exactly the same principles at play. Leadership doesn’t happen only on mountaintops and in summit meetings—leadership is everywhere.

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