Bill Campbell’s Leadership Playbook

Your Title Makes You a Manager. Your People Make You a Leader.

Bill Campbell

I just finished reading Trillion Dollar Coach: The Leadership Playbook of Silicon Valley’s Bill Campbell.

Bill Campbell played an instrumental role in the growth of several prominent companies, such as Google, Apple, and Intuit, fostering deep relationships with Silicon Valley visionaries, including Steve Jobs, Larry Page, and Eric Schmidt. 

In going through this book, I pulled out takeaways across all the chapters that I will re-read periodically. I give those to you now and highly recommend that you get the book. But if you’ve only 3 minutes, read this instead.


Start With Trip Reports: To Build rapport and better relationships among team members, start team meetings with trip reports, or other types of more personal, non-business topics. 

Decision-Making: The Manager’s job is to run a decision-making process that ensures all perspectives get heard and considered, and if necessary, to break ties and make the decision.

Lead based on First Principles: Define the “first principles” for the situation, the immutable truths that are the foundation for the company or product, and help guide the decision from those principles.

Manage the Aberrant Genius: Aberrant Geniuses — High-performing but difficult team members — Should be tolerated and even protected, as long as their behavior isn’t unethical or abusive and their value outweighs the toll their behavior takes on management, colleagues, and teams.

Money’s is not about Money: Compensating people well demonstrates love and respect and ties them strongly to the goals of the company.

Heads Held High: If you have to let people go, be generous, treat them well, and celebrate their accomplishments.

Only Coach the Coachable: The traits that make a person coachable include honesty and humility, the willingness to persevere and work hard, and a constant openness to learning.

Practice Free-Form Listening: Listen to people with your full and undivided attention — Don’t think ahead to what you’re going to say next — And ask questions to get to the real issue.

No Gap Between Statements and Fact: Be relentlessly honest and candid, couple negative feedback with caring, give feedback as soon as possible, and if the feedback is negative, deliver it privately. 

Don’t Stick in Their Ear: Don’t tell people what to do; Offer stories and help guide them to their best decisions for them.

Be the Evangelist for Courage: Believe in people more than they believe in themselves, and push them to be more courageous. 

Work the Team, Then the Problem: When faced with a problem or opportunity, the first step is to ensure the right team is in place and working on it.

Pair People: Peer relationships are critical and often overlooked, so seek opportunities to pair people up on projects or decisions.

Don’t Let the Bitch Sessions Last: Air all the negative issues, but don’t dwell on them. Move on as fast as possible.

Winning Right: Strive to win, but always win right, with commitment, teamwork, and integrity.

Leaders Lead: When things are going bad, teams are looking for even more loyalty, commitment, and decisiveness from their leaders.

Always Build Communities: Build communities inside and outside of work. A place is much stronger when people are connected.

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