The Five Most Important Questions for BRAVE Leaders

Anyone who thinks the next 100 days are going to be anything like the last 100 days is in for a surprise. This is why we’re all new leaders all the time and must continually inspire and enable others to do their absolute best, together, to realize a meaningful and rewarding shared purpose, leveraging five questions across Behaviors, Relationships, Attitudes, Values, and Environment (BRAVE leadership) from the outside in:

  1. Where to play? (Environment - context)

  2. What matters and why? (Values - purpose)

  3. How to win? (Attitude - strategy)

  4. How to connect? (Relationships - communication)

  5. What impact? (Behaviors - implementation)


One of the most important choices you make as a leader is deciding where and when to accept a position, and many do not conduct the appropriate due-diligence before accepting an offer. Zappos’ Tony Hsieh likened this process to playing at a poker tournament. According to Hsieh, “My big ‘ah-ha!’ moment came when I finally learned that the game started even before I sat down in a seat.”

As a leader, you must also understand the business context in which you’re operating – as did Toll Brothers’ Doug Yearley – and interpret and create context for others. Today’s environment is fraught with danger, so make sure you understand all the risks and opportunities both outside and inside your organization.


CEO Connection has been running CEO “Boot Camps” since 2005. Virtually every long-serving CEO who has addressed the group agree that the number one job of a CEO is to own and drive the company’s vision and values. Remember, happiness is good. For most people this involves a combination of doing good for others, doing good for themselves and doing things they are good at.

It is imperative for you as a leader to define the value you will create and the principles you will follow to get there. Consider how A&P’s Sam Martin led the organization through a substantial turnaround and how True Value’s Lyle Heidemann changed the organization’s culture.


Strategy is about choices. You must decide how you are going to win, where you are going to focus your efforts, and where you are not going to focus. Marry that with the appropriate posture and culture. Domination a la Jeff Immelt and GE requires a long-term view and ongoing discipline. Success in a niche like Tony McDowell and Finch Paper requires flexibility. Innovating like Steve Jobs and Apple requires a relentless passion to keep one step ahead of everyone – on a continual basis.

This is one of the big choices IBM’s Virginia Rometty made as she moved into the CEO role.


Everything you do or don’t say, act on, listen to and observe communicates, 24/7, forever. Like WNET’s Neal Shapiro, you can choose a single, simplifying message purposefully and leverage it in all your communication, strengthening relationships along the way. Or you can let people interpret and misinterpret things as they see fit. The Red Cross’s Charley Shimanski does this as well as any, striving to make people feel proud through his words and his actions.


Environment, values, attitude and relationships all inform behaviors. Like P&G’s John Pepper, you lead with your feet, with what you do, more than with what you say.

Leaders are defined by their followers. The only way to achieve your vision, in line with your values, in the context you choose, is through the attitude, relationships, and behaviors you model and engender in your followers. It’s not about you. It’s about your cause. It’s not enough to have compliant followers, doing what they must. It’s not even enough to have contributing followers. You need followers committed to a deserving cause. Be BRAVE yourself and help them be BRAVE individually and together in a winning BRAVE culture.


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