Effective leadership is putting first things first. Effective management is discipline, carrying it out. —Stephen Covey

If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. —John Quincy Adams

In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock. —Thomas Jefferson

It is absurd that a man should rule others who cannot rule himself. —Latin Proverb

Lead and inspire people. Don’t try to manage and manipulate people. Inventories can be managed but people must be led. —Ross Perot



13 Leadership Lessons and Quotes From Bridge Of Spies (A Steven Spielberg movie starring Tom Hanks as my father, James Donovan)

Bridge Of Spies is the true story of one man who went beyond the call of duty.

After being recruited by the US government to be the lawyer for an accused Russian spy during the Cold War, he becomes an unlikely hero. Once he finished his duties with the Russian spy, he was then recruited by the CIA to bring home a captured pilot being detained in the Soviet Union.

In Bridge Of Spies, Tom Hanks plays James B. Donovan, Mark Rylance plays the Russian spy Rudolf Abel, and Amy Ryan is Mary Donovan. The starring cast is an amazing lineup. And the movie follows suit.

But what truly stood out in Bridge Of Spies were the leadership lessons. They came one after the other. I hope you’re ready to learn and be entertained.

Bridge Of Spies spoilers below

Leadership Lessons And Quotes From Bridge Of Spies

Take a closer look: We see right away that Rudolf Abel is a Russian spy. He’s obtaining secret communications and relaying information. He’s also being tracked by US operatives.However, these operatives lose Abel on multiple occasions. During one such instance, we see Abel acquire an object that contained a sheet of paper.

On this paper, there was a secret message. You couldn’t see it with the naked eye but if you magnified the page, you could see the message.

There are times when we miss the mark because we only look at the surface of a situation. Instead, be willing to look closer. Dig a little deeper when you feel there’s more.

You can’t go wrong when you take a closer look.

James B. Donovan –
I’m not sure I want to pick this up

After Rudolf Abel’s capture, the US government decides that he needs to be tried in a court of law and that it needs to be done properly. They put together a list of possible lawyers and Jim Donovan’s name is drawn.

When he’s presented with the possibility of representing a Russian spy in court, he’s justifiably hesitant to agree. Even to the point of picking up the package of paperwork regarding the case.

He didn’t know what he was getting into and he wasn’t sure if he wanted to.

Isn’t that a lot like leadership? We have information or opportunities brought before us. Only we’re not sure these opportunities are a good fit.

We’re hesitant, or should be, to quickly accept what’s been presented to us.

You will have times when you don’t know what to do. You may be hesitant to move forward or quit.

It’s okay. We’re all like that.

Take your time and make a wise decision.

James B. Donovan –
Every person matters.

This line… This line sums up the whole movie. And should sum up our roles as leaders.

People matter.

People matter more than profits. People matter more than our success. People matter more than our needs.

Without people, you can’t lead.

Every person matters – A leadership lesson from Bridge Of Spies

Knowing what playbook is used let’s us know who’s on what side: The Russians and Americans had different ways of conducting war. Their methods differed.As one character put it: The playbook determines who’s on who’s side.

I took this to mean the actions one takes can let you know whether they’re with you or against you.

Look at your team, see what “playbook” they’re using, and see if it’s yours. If not, there may be trouble brewing.

Rudolf Abel –
Well, the boss isn’t always right… But he is always the boss

The Russian spy Abel utters this absolutely brilliant yet frustrating line. He knew he was following orders from someone. That someone was his boss.

While the boss gave the orders, he wasn’t always right. But he had to be okay with that.

As a leader, you have to remember you’re the boss. You’re going to make decisions. Not all of those decisions will be right.

You’re still the boss.

From this point, you have a choice: Do you act like a good leader or a bad leader?

The good leader will own up to his mistakes. He’ll apologize to his team and accept responsibility. The bad leader will do the opposite.

We will have to do things we don’t like because it’s our duty: Jim Donovan didn’t want to defend Rudolf Abel at first. He felt like a traitor and he was betraying his government.Yet he still did it. It was his job, given to him by the same government Abel was trying to spy on.

Leadership requires a lot out of us. One of those requirements is to do things that we don’t like.

Be a leader who does what he must. Be a leader who does it cheerfully.

Great leaders who look unremarkable can do remarkable things: In a meeting, Rudolf Abel recalls a man he once knew. This man was unassuming. Nothing really stood out about him and he never did anything special.That was until one day this unremarkable man did something great. He got back up.

You may think you don’t look like make. You may even think you can’t do much.

But you can. You can do remarkable things and be remarkable.

Stand for what is right. Do what is right. This will be what defines you.

Mary Donovan –
There’s a cost to these things… A cost to your family and to your firm.

Jim’s wife called him on the carpet for continuing to pursue what he saw as his legal duties to his client. Jim believed he must try to exhaust all legal remedies.

His wife, Mary, on the other hand, saw the costs Jim would face. There would be repercussions to his family and to his career.

What about you? Can you see you may have to pay a high price for being a moral leader?

Taking the high road and doing the right things will cost you. They’ll cost you opportunities and friendships and income.

There’s a cost to these things… A cost to your family and to your firm.

Everyone won’t get what you’re doing: Jim’s continued pursuit of justice for Abel caused many people to wonder if he went off the reservation. Even one of the cops responding to a shooting at his home said to him “I don’t know what I’m missing here…”This cop didn’t get it. He didn’t get that Jim felt honor bound to carry out all of his duties to his client. He HAD to do this.

You’ll have experiences where you know what is right or what must be done and others won’t get it. They’ll think you’re crazy.

But push ahead. Do what is right, not what is convenient.

We may be called to complicated places: Jim was put in a tough spot when he was called to defend an enemy of the United States. He took the job.He was then told he needed to go to a crumbling Germany to make a trade for the spy. He went.

He then had to into enemy territory to confirm the trade. He did it.

Leading is messy. It will call us to situations we don’t like and to situations that might not be safe.

As leaders, we must go.

Are you willing?

Jim Donovan –
It doesn’t matter what others think. You know what you did.

A solemn Jim Donovan tells this message to Rudolf Abel as they’re making the exchange. Abel had a slight concern that his country will think he broke.

Jim let him know it didn’t matter. He hadn’t and he knew that. That’s all that matters.

You’ll face opposition that accuses you of wrongdoing if you lead for any amount of time. It hurts.

However, if you’ve done the right thing, you can stand firm in that knowledge. Their belief doesn’t matter. What you did matters.

It doesn’t matter what others think. You know what you did.

Impactful leaders have foresight: Jim pleaded with the judge to spare the life of the Russian spy. He knew the man was only following orders. He also knew something else.One day the United States may need a card in their hand with Russia. This card could be Abel.

Jim had the foresight to see this. And he made the case to keep him alive.

Thankfully, the judge listened.

Are you looking to the future or to the needs of now? If you’re only paying attention to the here and now, you’re missing out on what an impactful leader does.

They look for the possibilities of the future.

The right choice leads to great responsibility: Bridge Of Spies told a great story. But there was a greater story that was shared briefly at the end of the movie.We discover that Jim Donovan did much more than save 2 men. Through the years, Jim Donovan saved close to 10,000 men’s lives.

Because of the choices he made, he was brought into other situations. Situations where he was able to make a difference and where he was given great responsibility.

The road of leadership has many choices you can make. The easy ones will be tempting. The hard ones will be rewarding.

Choose wisely.

The road of leadership has many choices you can make. The easy ones will be tempting. But..

Was Bridge Of Spies Worth The Cost Of Admission?

I’m not one that usually watches biographies or Cold War dramas, but this movie grabbed me and held my attention.

The cast was stellar. Tom Hanks shone as James B. Donovan. Mark Rylance brought a fantastic performance as he portrayed a Russian spy.

The imagery and music used set the tone perfectly.

Be forewarned, there was quite a bit of profanity used throughout the movie. If you can get past that, I thought it was well worth the trip to the theater.

For a different take on Bridge Of Spies, take a look at my friend, Brian Dodd’s leadership lessons from Bridge Of Spies post.

Question: Have you seen Bridge Of Spies? If so, what leadership lessons did you see? If not, what was your favorite leadership lesson from my list or Brian’s? Let’s talk about it in the comment section below.

In a recent debate involving 10 presidential candidates, the television network suddenly switched to a trailer for a Steven Spielberg movie (“Bridge of Spies,” starring Tom Hanks) focused on one man willing to take an unorthodox nongovernmental pass toward obtaining the release of an American POW from the Soviet Union, a prisoner of the Cold War named Gary Powers. That man happens to have been my father, and I’m proud to say that he was willing to move forward courageously on the basis of principle and getting the job done regardless of the cost. If any of those presidential candidates show that kind of leadership, they deserve our support.


At Cairo, Illinois in 1861, Gen. Ulysses Grant had cause to reprimand a young recruit for deserting his post while on guard duty. Rather than punish the lad, he gave him a lesson in handling a gun and warned him,” orders must be strictly and promptly obeyed always. ”Some days later the same recruit was put on guard of a steamboat laden with ammunition. His orders were to prevent anyone with a lighted pipe or cigar from approaching the boat. In due course Gen. Grant appeared and started to board the vessel, one of his beloved cigars between his teeth.” Halt!” cried the recruit, and raised his gun. The general, surprised and annoyed at this apparent impertinence, demanded an explanation.” I have been taught to obey orders strictly and promptly,” replied the soldier, “and my orders are to allow no one to approach this boat with a lighted cigar.” Grant was forced to smile on hearing his own words quoted back at him, and obediently tossed his cigar into the river.”

Covey: Characteristics of Principle-Centered Leaders

Characteristics of Principle-Centered Leaders:

 Characteristic One: Learn continually.

Characteristic Two: Be service-oriented.

Characteristic Three: Radiate positive energy.

Characteristic Four: Believe in other people.

Characteristic Five: Lead a balanced life.

Characteristic Six See life as an adventure.

Characteristic Seven: Be synergistic.

Characteristic Eight: Exercise for self-renewal.

Leadership Quotes — 1

  • Leadership is  the capacity to translate vision into reality. —Warren Bennis
  • My own definition of leadership is this: The capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence. —General Montgomery
  • Leadership is lifting a person’s vision to high sights, the raising of a person’s performance to a higher standard, the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations. —Peter Drucker
  • Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, concerned citizens can change world. Indeed it is the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead
  • Become the kind of leader that people would follow voluntarily; even if you had no title or position. —Brian Tracy

Helping Your Startup Team Develop Character


The Only Way to Win

How Building Character Drives Higher Achievement and Greater Fulfillment in Business and Life

by Jim Loehr

 Helping Others Develop Character: a 12-Step Program

To develop a formal program in your organization for this purpose:

  1. Share the company mission statement – Use it to explain the organization’s goals to your team. Tell them how values and principles govern the firm’s accomplishments.
  1. Discuss the mission statement – Put your goals in the context of your staffers’ values and character strengths. Use hypothetical ethical situations to spark debate.
  1. Ask team members to write “life mission” statements – Have them reflect on their lives and list the values and character qualities that matter most to them.
  1. Review the statements with your team – Connect your team’s purpose with thecompany’s mission.
  1. Have people describe their “best self” – Ask people to write for about 10 minutes on who they are at their finest and how that benefits those people around them at home and at work.
  1. Ask them to build their scorecards – Have them use their purpose statements and best-self descriptions to construct personal scorecards of the top six character traits they each want to work on to become the person they want to be.
  1. Charge them to maintain a “character-based training log” – Have them track their efforts to develop their values and character traits. How often do they thank a colleague, treat someone kindly or humbly share credit with their team?
  1. Urge your team members to seek feedback – For genuine growth, they should solicit real-world opinions about their progress in developing the moral strengths they listed.
  1. Advise people to “script…critical conversations” ahead of time – Documenting what they want to say will help them exercise crucial values and attributes.
  1. Show “your commitment to your personal mission” – You are your team’s model, so make sure your actions always align with your purpose statement and your organization’s values. Consistently demonstrate the behaviors you want to encourage in others.
  1. Recognize achievement – Praise people whose actions support the corporate mission and their own purpose statements.
  1. Remove people who will not grow – Have the courage to dismiss those who you cannot trust to adhere to ethics, personal purpose or your firm’s mission.

Coaching available: Contact johnbdonovan@cs.com

Becoming an Entrepreneurial Leader

Good Thoughts from


by Dave Ramsey

Becoming an Entrepreneurial Leader

A leader is disciplined, visionary, passionate and charismatic. An entrepreneur is driven, determined, creative and courageous. Combine these traits and you have an “EntreLeader,” someone who can ably lead an entrepreneurial endeavor. EntreLeadership is “the process of leading to cause a venture to grow and prosper.” Because start-up businesses are normally small and intimate, they often take on their leaders’ traits. Strong leaders create strong enterprises, but if the leader is weak, the businesses also will be weak.

Strong leaders derive power from who they are, not from their ownership or status. They rely on “persuasional leadership,” not “positional leadership.” They treat employees as trusted, valued team members and see themselves as their staffers’ “servant leaders,” just like parents who both serve and lead their children.EntreLeaders care deeply about their people and lead with passion. They are big dreamers. They think constantly about better ideas and the great things they can accomplish in the future. But EntreLeaders’ dreams are not fanciful meanderings. As focused businesspeople, EntreLeaders turn their dreams into defined visions and then into reality. To take that step, delineate your vision with a written mission statement showing your new company’s identity and purpose. The hidden benefit of such a statement is that it also makes you realize what your firm is not, so focus on your main goals. These objectives are as important as vision. Indeed, vision is meaningless without specific, written, measurable, time-based goals that fulfill it. List objectives that you and your team can share, goals that truly matter to you as the EntreLeader.

Walmart Rules


From the 10 rules of Sam Walton

  • he set aggressive goals
  • he believed that it is important to set high expectations
  • Walton was a big believer in appreciating, celebrating, and recognizing the accomplishments of his employees
  • he listened to others and use their ideas
  • he would ask if everyone else is doing it this way when it we try doing the same thing in an unconventional way

EEE — Entrepreneurs Embracing Ease

A Few Good Thoughts from

Building Your Business the Right-

Brain Way: Sustainable Success for the

Creative Entrepreneur  by Jennifer Lee

Embrace Ease

Too often, achievers neglect their daily needs in pursuit of a long-term dream. Bringing in outside help and streamlining your operations are only the first steps toward easing the pressure. Three other concepts also will help you “embrace ease”:

  1. “Simplicity” – As an achiever, you probably make things harder than they need to be. You take on more than you can handle and never shy away from difficult solutions to complicated problems. But sometimes the best solution is the simplest. An easy solution takes less effort; you’ll spend less time solving problems and more time creating moneymaking opportunities. Applying straightforward solutions builds momentum to carry you through more difficult patches.
  1. “Spaciousness” – Try to let go of tasks that don’t produce immediate results. Block out some “white space” on your calendar: use these time-outs to reflect on your progress, contemplate the big picture or recover from crush times. When you come back to work from a time-out, you’ll have more energy to focus on real priorities.
  1. “Self-care” – Schedule time for pursuing things that replenish your strength and creativity. Reviving your spirit recharges your creative powers. If you think you are too busy to schedule such a break, you need to take time off right away. When you deplete your reserves of creative energy, you accomplish less. Taking care of yourself is taking care of your business.