leadership is worthless but leading is priceless cover

Leadership is Worthless But Leading is Priceless

We are pleased to share a book review while celebrating decorated Emergency Medicine Physician Dr Thom Mayer, MD, who has been leading groups of people all over the world for decades. Dr Mayer has recently released his book “Leadership Is Worthless…But Leading Is Priceless: What I Learned from 9/11, the NFL, and Ukraine”. The book is a compelling journey of leading all over the world through a lifetime of anecdotal experiences.

Dr Mayer starts the book with an anecdote from September 11th. “American Airlines flight 77 struck the southwest wall of the Pentagon… I was asked to respond… to assist in the ongoing rescue and recovery operation, rotating with other emergency medicine physicians responsible for operational medical direction”.

An accomplished physician who has experiences leading:
– All health and safety efforts for the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) for more than 22 years
– As incident commander of the response to the first bioterrorism attack on US soil – the inhalation anthrax attack on the nation’s capital in October 2001
– The NFL concussion crisis
– The NFLPA response to the COVID-19 crisis
– The medical response to the DC sniper domestic terror attacks
– The DNA analysis during the Duke Lacrosse hoax
– A mobile emergency team deployment to Ukraine
– The NFLPA’s demand for all NFL teams to create Emergency Action Plans (EAP)

“Leadership is worthless… because it’s a noun, the things you say- just words. But leading is priceless… because it’s a verb, the things you do- actions, not just words”

When discussing an interaction with Gene Upshaw, former executive director of the NFLPA, he reflects on the trust implied by Gene after their conversation. “Just go be yourself, guided by your deep joy and trusting that if you open your heart and lead by serving others, you will prevail in the long run”

When reflecting on failure as a motivator, he brings up Tom Brady and Coach K who both view failure as a motivator, not as a detractor. “Failure is not the opposite of success – failure is part of success”

One of the book’s greatest strengths lies in Mayer’s ability to distill complex concepts into practical wisdom that readers can apply in their own lives and careers. Whether discussing crisis management, NFL dynamics, or the importance of moral integrity, each chapter offers invaluable lessons that resonate far beyond the pages of the book.

Dr Mayer discusses the friction of change and human nature’s resistance to change. “How do we lead effectively while dealing with friction? Relying on the We-suite reduces the friction of change and is an antidote for anxiety and uncertainty, lubricating the development of better systems and processes. Further, the culture we create by leading in the active voice is the oil lubricating innovation in as frictionless an environment as possible”.

“Sucking down” is a concept favored by Dr Mayer. Loosely, it is the opposite of sucking up to the C-suite. “Sucking down is the belief that the locus of power, knowledge and meaning in an organization is throughout and within the organization, including our peers and those who rank below us in position or seniority. It is important to note that sucking down doesn’t preclude looking above in the organization, only in doing so exclusively. Sucking down is essential for any organization that values diversity and inclusion since it draws on all perspectives”
Moreover, Mayer’s writing style is engaging and accessible, effortlessly guiding readers through thought-provoking reflections and empowering them to embrace their own leadership potential. His passion for empowering others shines through every page, leaving a lasting impression that encourages readers to strive for excellence in all their endeavors.

Perhaps his greatest strength, Dr Mayer is a master storyteller. He uses this as one of his key tenants of leading. “One of the most powerful lessons I have learned during the course of my career is that it is stories, not simply the words comprising them, that allow us to take meaning in the world around us to guide our actions as they illuminate the way. The redemptive, healing power of stories can not be overstated. The healing process sets off a balletic cascade of strengthening and renewing. The same is true for stories… “

In a world inundated with superficial definitions of leadership, ‘Leadership Is Worthless…But Leading Is Priceless’ serves as a beacon of clarity and inspiration. It is a must-read for anyone seeking to cultivate genuine leadership skills and make a meaningful impact in their communities and beyond.”