Leading with Character (James Loehr)


The Book in Summary

  • Moral character and performance character are different things. We tend to be remembered by moral character long after we die but we tend to focus performance character while we are alive.
  • Moral character is at the heart of heroes and great leaders. It is a trainable quality, just like a muscle.
  • The book give awareness to moral inputs, which are often flawed, and great tools to build moral character.


I loved this book. It is written so well and really reinforced my core beliefs in business and why I love corporate governance and leadership. I am still going through the 12 week credo exercises, but it is providing some great thinking time

How I discovered it

This Podcast:  Podcast: "#490: Dr. Jim Loehr on Mental Toughness, Energy Management, the Power of Journaling, and Olympic Gold Medals" from The Tim Ferriss Show . Dr Loehr is really animated and a great storyteller. It's worth a listen.

My Top Quotes

  • It's interesting, isn't it, that as all these people describe your legacy, not a single one, from any part of your life, spends significant time referencing your intelligence, titles, competence, wealth, power, achievements, academic credentials, or celebrity
  • Acting morally is not a sometime goal. It is an all-the time goal
  • As the Dalai Lama expressed so eloquently, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion; if you want to be happy, practice compassion.
  • When you expect others to view you as an elite, you unknowingly reveal your character deficit in humility.


  1. Me first: That's precisely what the morality system we all inherited is programmed to consider. Becoming a leader where morality – in short, our treatment of others – is afforded the highest priority demands a trained response, one that requires dedicated energy investment throughout our lives. I link this to extreme sports, where not acting on your mind's initial response is the whole game.
  2. According to the June 2017 issue of Harvard Business Review, the five-year period from 2012 to 2016 saw a 36% increase in the number of CEOs dismissed for ethical lapses, compared to 2007–2011. This conduct included fraud, bribery, sexual indiscretion, insider trading, and more. In 2018, CEO dismissals for ethical lapses exceeded dismissals for financial performance or board struggles for the first time in history.
  3. Leaders actually have incredible power to prevent catastrophes like the financial meltdown of 2007–2008 from occurring in the first place. Whether they exercise that power, individually or collectively, is of course a very different matter
  4. Do you know people who feel just as strongly as you do about such issues but in the exact opposite direction? What makes you sure that your judgment is right and theirs wrong? Do you respect their intellect, experience, and character, though you strongly disagree with them?
  5. Performance character drives what we achieve, moral character drives how we achieve it.
  6. “Firms of Endearment,” returned 1,026% for investors over the 10 years ending June 30, 2006, compared to 122% for the S&P 500 over the same time period”
  7. evidence mounts that companies that expanded their purpose to include improving the well-being of those that work for them – termed “Deliberately Developmental Organizations” by Harvard researchers Lisa Lahey and Robert Kegan – create a win/win proposition, a win both for shareholders and employees.
  8. When a leader fully embraces a purpose that includes taking care of his or her people, when the “how we do it” of a business is given priority equal to or greater than the “what we do,” we see positive trends in talent attraction and retention, employee engagement, and profitability.
  9. Re-reading excerpt form the 1961 Yale psychology experiment from Stanley Milgram reminded me of what can happen to morality when confronted with authority. In the experiment, 2/3 participants were willing to administer what they thought were potentially lethal electric shocks when told to do so by an authority figure.