Book Review: Leadership Lessons From Chris Ruisi, Author Of Step Up And Play Big

Rob Wright

By Rob Wright, Chief Editor, Life Science Leader


The following is an excerpt from a recent review of my book, “Step Up and Play Big – Unlock Your Potential to be Exceptional in 8 Simple Steps“, by Bob Wright, Chief Editor at Life Science Leader. His words are more than kind: they provide some additional insight into the message and teachings of my book. 

We’ve all probably encountered the frustrations related to flight delays and cancellations. I recently experienced the latter while on my way to the 35th Annual J. P. Morgan Healthcare Conference (commonly referred to as JPM) in San Francisco. Although, one positive did come out of my unplanned delay — it afforded me the opportunity to get through a leadership book I had been meaning to read, Step Up And Play Big by Chris Ruisi.

As I began my review I found myself highlighting concepts in the book, putting stars next to comments I found insightful, as well as bending over page corners I might want to revisit. In his book, Ruisi provides a quick common-sense approach to some best leadership practices. And while I’d encourage you to read the book, I’d like to share a few of his thoughts.

Schedule An Appointment With Yourself

One of my favorite financial concepts is to always pay yourself first. This simply means: before you pay any of your bills, you first set aside a portion of your income to save. Such a disciplined approach to saving and investing is one of the best ways to set yourself up for financial success. Why can’t we take a similar approach toward developing our own leadership skills? According to Ruisi, when you find yourself pulled in multiple directions with little or no time, one of the best things to do is to schedule an appointment with yourself. At first this might sound silly, but is it? Think about it. How many times can we find excuses for being too busy to be bothered with exercise, personal development, and the like? But we know that by making the time to exercise (for example), we will be healthier, happier, and mentally sharper in the long run. Ruisi suggests not only scheduling an appointment with yourself, but being sure to put it in your calendar, and in Outlook, and to set it up as a recurring event that takes place the same time every week. “During this scheduled appointment work on yourself and a strategic issue that will move your business or your career one step closer to your goals,” he advises. While this seems so commonsensical, I wonder how many of us will make such a commitment, or if we do, routinely cancel such an appointment to take on other more pressing responsibilities. Look, if you wouldn’t routinely cancel a scheduled appointment with your boss, then you should not routinely cancel an appointment with yourself. For the only true boss of you — is you.

7 Steps To Make Effective Leadership Simple

Prior to becoming a nationally recognized executive leadership expert, Ruisi spent 30+ years as a senior-level executive. During his lengthy business career, which included serving as president and COO for USLIFE Corp. (a U.S. life insurance company), Ruisi took the time to compile a list of seven characteristics that make for an effective leader. But unlike many leadership books that might take seven chapters to get through such a list, Ruisi accomplishes this task in a mere three pages. His approach of being concise is in keeping with one of former U.S. Army General Colin Powell’s philosophies on leadership: “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers who can cut through argument, debate, and doubt to offer a solution everybody can understand.” So in this spirit, here is Ruisi’s list of seven steps to make effective leadership simple:

  1. Leaders know they are judged not just by what they say, but more importantly, by what they do.
  2. Leaders define reality and responsibilities.
  3. Leaders set performance expectations and hold people accountable to get the job done.
  4. Leaders find ways to challenge their team members to help them grow and stretch their capabilities. Rudyard Kipling put it best this way, “For the strength of the pack is the wolf, and the strength of the wolf is the pack.”
  5. Leader reward the right actions.
  6. Leaders never accept below-average performance and act quickly when poor performance has been identified.
  7. Leaders know how important it is to listen to what their team members have to say.

5 Great Ways To Run Yourself And Your Business Into The Ground

While Ruisi has tons of other advice worth sharing, I found myself laughing out loud when I came across the section in chapter seven titled, “Five Great Ways to Run Yourself and Maybe Your Business into the Ground.” While Ruisi might be writing these a bit tongue in cheek, he says that if you are guilty of having any of these five traits, you should be striving to get rid of them as soon as you can.

  1. Don’t plan each day.
  2. Don’t train anyone else to do the tasks that you should not be performing.
  3. Don’t have any clue as to the description of your ideal client.
  4. Don’t deal with your poor performing employees.
  5. Don’t tackle the tasks you must do on a timely basis.

While you too might find yourself laughing, the one that really hit home with me as no laughing matter is point number two, and here’s why. Earlier in the book Ruisi asks the question, “Do you delegate, or do you collect other people’s problems?” While delegation is defined as the assignment of authority and responsibility to another person to carry out specific activities, the reality is that the person who delegated the work remains ultimately accountable. As a result, delegation is often a delicate balancing act. Sometimes when the “delegatee” finds themselves struggling to accomplish an assigned task, they come back to the delegator and attempt to delegate the task back up. Knowing that you (the delegator) are ultimately accountable, you might be tempted to apply the following mantra — “If you want something done right, do it yourself.” However, by taking such an approach you are really not training others to do the task you should not be doing (i.e., point number two). Ruisi learned to fight such upward delegation by qualifying his open-door management policy by asking those that came to him with a problem the following:

  • “Tell me what you tried and why it did not work.”
  • “Tell me what you are thinking of trying, and we’ll brainstorm before you take action.”

According to Ruisi, taking such a simple approach encouraged his team to think about solutions before raising red flags, and not to be fearful of either taking action or offering up workable suggestions. However, before you begin applying these questions to those coming to you with problems surrounding tasks you have delegated, take a moment to reflect on how you are going about delegating in the first place. Because after all, delegation, done right, is hard work. Here is a simple six-step process you might consider applying to future tasks you intend to delegate.

  1. Define the task, describing clearly what the output needs to be.
  2. Delegate to a person with proven competence.
  3. Explain the task clearly, in writing if necessary.
  4. Invite/encourage questions and feedback.
  5. Give a schedule and deadline for completion.
  6. Periodically inspect what you expect.

Bob did a great job of laying some of the key principles of Step Up and Play Big, yet there’s much more for you to learn. Click here to buy the book now on Amazon, or visit my store for this and other tools to help you become exceptional.


Productivity Book Chris Ruisi

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