What’s The Best Leadership Advice You Ever Received?

Wise words on rejecting popularity, seeking advice, inspiring people, and more.

What’s The Best Leadership Advice You Ever Received?
[Illustration: Serge Seidlitz]

We invited attendees of Fast Company’s recent Innovation Festival to share the most essential lessons they’ve learned so far in their careers.


“Leadership comes in many forms. Figure out how your quietness strengthens your leadership style.” —Elaine Mau, senior product designer, Allstate

“Stay focused, and don’t try to win a popularity contest.” —Ruma Samdani, director of strategic initiatives and innovation, AARP

“My first boss told me to look for ways that all parties can win, and try never to leave an exchange where someone feels taken advantage of or devalued.” —Amy Fox, chief brand officer, Box Boulevard

“Learn to follow first.” —Sapar Karyagdyyev, managing director, Gamingtec

“Sometimes you just need to let people discover the next steps by themselves. The only thing you can do is nudge.” —Juliana Proserpio, cofounder and principal, Echos Innovation Lab

“My southern dad always said to ‘get my lessons.’ That was his way of saying to obtain information so you’re equipped to succeed.” —Tameka Mullins, director of social media and marketing, Lyric Fire Social Media Services


“Seek advice at all ages. My 9-year-old is brutally honest, and over-60-year-olds have a wealth of knowledge and wisdom.” —Kate Burgess, president and CEO, Elevate97

“Keep good people. The rest will fall into place.” —Liz Carlton, director of marketing and events, NoMa BID

“My father said that leaders do not look for action. Action will always find the leader.” —César Domínguez Márquez, fellow, Global Health Corps

“You have to have big shoulders. You have to take responsibility for your decisions and the actions of your team.” —Michael Voss, marketing and business development strategist

“Do not expect people to be the best they are. Expect them to be the best they can become.” —Janet Nelson, business school professor, University of Southern Maine

“Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the emir of Dubai, says that the word impossible is not in a leader’s dictionary. No matter how big the challenges, strong faith, determination, and resolve will overcome them.” —Ruba Al Hassan, senior adviser, United Arab Emirates Embassy, Washington, D.C.


“Working in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, I learned from rape survivors to be kind to yourself. When you are well and take care of yourself, you are better able to help [others].” —Judithe Registre, founder and principal, Inclusivus