One Of The Best Leadership Lessons Ever…..In Just 29 Words

It was 1987, and I had just started my first big executive job at a Cable TV company in Los Angeles. At that stage of my career, I was hungry for guidance on what it took to be a great leader.

As fate would have it,  I was sitting in my boss’s office one morning, and my eyes happened to wander towards a poster hanging on the wall. The title of it caught my attention:  “A Short Course in Human Relations”.


Here’s what was on the poster:

A Short Course in Human Relations

The 6 most important words:
“I admit I made a mistake.”
The 5 most important words:
“You did a great job!”
The 4 most important words:
“What do you think?”
The 3 most important words:
“If you please …”
The 2 most important words:
“Thank you.”
The 1 most important word:
The 1 least important word:

I stared at it for several minutes, my concentration only broken by the sound of my boss’s voice.  “That’s not the whole course, you know”

“I’m sorry, what do you mean?”, I said.

“There are the 7 most important words too – I don’t know, but I’ll find out.  NOW you have the complete short course in human relations!

I quickly wrote the “complete” short course down on my notepad.  When I got back to my office, I read them once again.

The words sang to me.  I absorbed the essence of the “course” – the keys to being a selfless, human, caring, trustworthy, humble, and effective leader.

And person.

My boss was also right about adding the “7 most important words” – knowing what you don’t know (and admitting it) is an essential part of the character of a great leader.

I’ve never forgotten this lesson – because of it’s utter simplicity, and directness.

In just 29 words.

But one of the best leadership lessons I ever got.

And I bet, if you print out this slide and study it for just a few minutes, it will have the same effect on you.One of the Best Leadership Lessons Just 29 Words

Lead well!






  1. says

    I wonder if “I admit I made a mistake” will always resonate positively with the team members. As a project manager, I’m sure that many team members will slowly lose trust when they see that their leader is making a lot of mistakes (each one of us makes many mistakes a day, and we can’t admit each and every one of them).

  2. says

    Thanks PM Hut and Laura for your comments!
    PM Hut, I certainly agree that constant admission of mistakes isn’t a good thing; but if that’s happening there’s a larger issue of whether that person is fit to be a leader in the first place. I’m also not inclined to “hide” mistakes either, unless they are inconsequential to the rest of the team.

    Laura, these lessons are truly timeless, and worthy of passing down to a few more generations, at least. And yes, see you in Chicago soon!

    Thanks again to you both,

  3. says

    “I don’t know, but I’ll find out…” is right, and right on, because a lot of times we don’t know, and many try to cover up the fact that; they don’t know, making things worse for everybody involved usually. Anyway, great stuff, and I shared it with my social media lists, friends and contacts.


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