Adapt, Adjust, Overcome: 10 Stories About Leaders Who Constantly Learn To Be Better with Michael Useem

by | Nov 16, 2021 | 0 comments

6 min read

About Michael Useem

Michael Useem is Professor of Management and Faculty Director of the Center for Leadership and Change Management and McNulty Leadership Program at the Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania.  His university teaching includes MBA and executive-MBA courses on management and leadership, and he offers programs on leadership and governance for managers in the United States, Asia, Europe, and Latin America. 

He works on leadership development with many companies and organizations in the private, public and non-profit sectors.  He is the author of The Leader’s Checklist, The Leadership Moment, Executive Defense, Investor Capitalism, Leading Up, and The Go Point.  

He is also co-author and co-editor of Learning from Catastrophes; co-author of The India Way, Leadership Dispatches, Boards That Lead, and The Strategic Leader’s Roadmap, Fortune Makers: The Leaders Creating China’s Great Global Companies (2017), Go Long: Why Long-Term Thinking Is Your Best Short-Term Strategy (2018), and Mastering Catastrophic Risk: How Companies Are Coping with Disruption (2018). His latest book, The Edge, is what we will be digging into today. 

Mike is co-anchor for a weekly program “Leadership in Action” on SiriusXM Radio Channel 132, Business Radio Powered by the Wharton School.

What You’ll Find In This Episode with Michael Useem 

Michael pours his wealth of knowledge into this transformative episode on how leaders continually learn to ensure that they rise to meet the demands of the job. Leaders know that the job description is about the only thing regarding the position that fits nicely onto a sheet of paper. Many roles evolve as demands emerge and arise from multiple avenues. 

Michael pointed out the irony in the subtitle of The Edge, which is about CEOs learning to lead. He acknowledged that we might assume that CEOs know how to lead, but that’s not always true.They need to learn how to lead provided the circumstances they find themselves within.


Michael talked about the fact that for many leaders, what got you here won’t get you there. Although not mentioned in the show, check out Marshall Goldsmith’s book, What Got You Here, Won’t Get You There, which we love.


Don’t miss what Michael says about Mark Turner and his learning tour. 

Michael says that leaders need to recognize their responsibility in leading the people they serve. This is what brings them to a point of wanting to learn more about learning to lead. 

Three avenues for committing to learning to be the leader who you want to be:

  1. You need to make your life  a classroom. We can all learn from leaders in history. Read it, watch it. Just learn it.
  2. Gather around yourself really great mentors and coaches, even if it’s informal. 
  3. Get out of your office and start doing it. 

You have to hear why Michael takes students to Antarctica and the Marine Corp.

Michael mentioned Herminia Ibarra’s book on reinventing identity.  Check it out.

Michael says that the single most important thing that a leader can do to grow is to get out of their comfort zone. 

Dr. Useem follows many sources for leadership, but often comes back to the Chief Executive of Progressive Insurance, Tricia Griffith. Learn about how she redefines what it means to be the Big Boss.

Michael talked about looking at leadership as 360 but in reverse. We ought to think about leading our peers and the people above us, not just our subordinates. 

Don’t miss what he says about having more impact. Oh, and yeah, wishing he could climb Mt. Everest.

Michael talked about learning to lead by seeing others do it poorly. There’s a lot to learn from setbacks and catastrophes. Don’t miss how he describes the CEO of Tyco.

Joe was reminded about leading to grow and thrive versus just to get by. 

Michael liked our last question and recalls asking CEOs what they find to be true that they didn’t realize before.  

Lastly, Michael reminds us that leadership never really comes down to one thing, but a mission critical checklist. 

As always, let us know what you think of this with a like, a follow, or a comment. Find us on Twitter, YouTube, iTunes, Facebook, & SoundCloud. And, again, if you want one simple model for leading better and growing faster per month, follow this blog by entering your email at the top right of the screen.


TheSchoolHouse302 is about getting to simple by maximizing effective research-based strategies that empower individuals to lead better and grow faster.


Joe & T.J. 

This episode was brought to you by GhostBed, a family-owned business of sleep experts with 20+ years of experience. With 30K+ 5-star reviews, you can’t go wrong with GhostBed. Their mattresses are handcrafted, and they come with a 101-night-at-home-sleep trial. For a limited time, you can get 30% by using our code — SH302 — at checkout. And, even if you tell someone about GhostBed, you can earn a $100 referral reward. Go to today and use SH302 at checkout. 


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

More Resources for You

Grab a Copy of One of Our Books:

Invest in Your Best: 9 Strategies to Grow, Support, and Celebrate Your Most Valuable Teachers
Click to pre-order it on Amazon

7 Mindshifts for School Leaders: Finding New Ways to Think About Old Problems.
Order it Here

Retention for a Change is an Amazon Best Seller and our Latest Book: Order it Here
Have you read Candid and Compassionate Feedback? Click here to order from Amazon.
Passionate Leadership is an Amazon Best Seller. Click here to order today.
Click here to order from Amazon.