The best leadership book I have read is “Leadership Land Mines; 8 management catastrophes and how to avoid them” by Marty Clarke.  In my opinion, anyone interested in leadership should read this book.  It’s not about leadership theories; it’s practical applications with real stories as examples.

As I have grown in my career and as a person I have watched others to learn what to do and what not to do.  I have seen the littlest thing make a positive difference or cause destruction that spreads like wild fire.  As I watch leaders around me it’s easy to judge them based on their actions and see where they need to grow, but do I do the same thing internally?  The only answer I have is, I try and I pull others in to help me.  Almost daily I am confronted with a situation that puts a land mine in front of me and I have to choose a path.  I don’t always choose the right one, but I learn from my mistakes and move forward.  It’s not always easy or comfortable to choose the right path, but when I do I learn something and I feel good about the direction I chose even if it makes me very unpopular with others, “they can yell at me, but they can’t eat me!”


The 8 Land Mines (all are quotes from the book):

  1. It’s All About Me
    1. Beware of being obsessed with personal recognition or the need to have your personal agenda served
    2. If you are ever unclear about how to respond to a situation, ask yourself, “Is this a you thing, or is it a company thing?”
  2. Managing to the Exception
    1. Most people manage to the exception because:
      1. They are desperate to show how smart they are, or
      2. They have a hidden agenda, or
      3. They genuinely do not understand the big picture
  3. The Super Doer
    1. Ask yourself, “Am I doing it or am I getting it done?’
    2. Make the leap of faith in your people; get out of the way and let your people do their jobs
  4. The Blame Addiction
    1. The time and energy you spend on finding out who is the blame, or what should be done in the future is time and energy you could be using to fix the problem in front of you
    2. To diffuse a blamer on your own team use the following sentence: “Your enthusiasm for what’s wrong is evident.  I’m sure you have applied the same energy to some possible solutions. So let’s move on to those.”
  5. The Popularity Priority
    1. Making decisions based on your own popularity is like eating a slice of vanilla pound cake. It tastes good but if you make a habit of it,  you’re not going to like the results
  6. Cloudy Expectations
    1. Lack of clear expectations often causes massive damage and delays
    2. It is a wise manager who sets very clear expectations on: conduct, reporting and feedback, outcomes and deliverable, consequences, and budget
  7. Confrontation Phobia
    1. Confronting issues properly as they arise is at the very core of effective leadership
    2. Beware the path of least resistance
    3. Remember these three rules of thumb when deliberating whether or not to confront an issue:
      1. What you accept you teach
      2. Now is better than later
      3. Is that the hill you want to die on?
  8. Managing by Committee
    1. Sometimes lonely is part of the job
    2. There’s a difference between a vote and a say.  If you want to emerge as a leader, you must accept that in the end, you are the say
    3. Do not fear the noise.  They can yell at you but they can’t eat you

Tara Spritzer

2015 CAFAA Treasurer

Assistant Director, Pell & Loan Programs

Student Financial Services

Colorado State University