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The Leader's Checklist

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The Leader's Checklist

16 Mission-Critical Principles

Wharton School Press,

15 min read
5 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

Effective leaders rely on checklists to structure their time, their teamwork and their goals.

Editorial Rating



  • Applicable
  • Well Structured
  • Concrete Examples


American International Group (AIG) was a major corporation until the 2007 financial crisis.  By 2008, it faced the “largest annual shortfall in corporate history.” But, AIG’s dramatic collapse didn’t have to happen. Author Michael Useem believes that if its leaders had relied on comprehensive checklists, they would’ve been on top of AIG’s plight, and the government probably wouldn’t have needed to rescue it. In his bestseller’s 10th-anniversary edition, he offers excellent stories and helpful insights for preparing for the future while staying focused and organized. Useem advocates using checklists, so you know what you need to do, and he warns that both action and inaction have consequences.


Leadership checklists help you become a better leader.

The most useful leadership checklists reflect established managerial principles, hard-earned experience and reliable evidence. Following checklists that you’ve created – or adapted to fit your needs – will help you become a better leader. With checklists, you can prioritize your most important leadership actions and make mission-critical choices. 

Never participate in a board meeting, engage in a brainstorming session, or conduct an employee or customer gathering without first reviewing your most relevant checklists – either existing guidelines or personal lists you’ve developed or amended. 

With the correct checklists, you can identify important issues, generate appropriate questions and reach revelatory answers that help you refine your thinking. To tackle the challenges leaders must confront and overcome, check your lists. 

Base your checklists on 16 core leadership principles.

These 16 leadership principles should be at the heart of your executive checklists, whether you use a published list or design...

About the Author

Michael Useem is a professor of management and the faculty director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management and the McNulty Leadership Program at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is also the author of The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us All, Leading Up: Managing Your Boss So You Both Win,  The Edge: How Ten CEOs Learned to Lead – and the Lessons for Us All, and The Go Point: When It’s Time to Decide – Knowing What to Do and When to Do It

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