Swanson’s ‘unwritten rules’ for leaders

Coming to light after decades in the making, Bill Swanson’s flashes of executive wisdom—compiled first on scraps of paper, then in PowerPoint and finally in a booklet last year— have become an underground hit.

Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management, by Raytheon’s CEO, offers these gems, with elaborations here by Swanson himself:
  • You can’t polish a sneaker. “When I was growing up,” says Swanson, “we used white Kiwi polish to make our sneakers look new. But no matter how hard we tried, an ugly sneaker remained an ugly sneaker.”

  • Learn to say “I don’t know.” “If used when appropriate,” says Swanson, “it will be used often. Confident people … don’t try to BS you.”

  • You remember a third of what you read, half of what people tell you, but 100 percent of what you feel.

    A leader needs to communicate in a way that makes people feel what they need to do.

  • Look for what’s missing. Many know how to improve what’s there; few can see what isn’t there.

  • Treat your organization’s name as if it were your own.

  • View decisions as if you were one level up in the organization. Your perspective will change quickly.

  • If you’re never criticized, you may not be doing much.

  • A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter—or to others—is not a nice person.
— Adapted from “The CEO’s Secret Handbook,” Paul Kaihla, Business 2.0.