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Karin’s Leadership Articles

My mother loved to read us the story of  The Little Red Hen. In fact, I’m pretty convinced she read it to us in the womb.

If you’re a parent and don’t know this book, stop reading now, run to the store buy it. Pick up your kids early from school and read it. It will transform your life.

If you don’t have time for that, here’s the shortcut.

A little red hen asks and asks her little chicks to help her bake.
They refuse.
She enjoys the bread all to herself.
They are surprised.
She reminds them.
They learn.
Momma hen grows more leaders.
She goes to her yoga class feeling satiated in many ways
(okay I added that part).
The end.

It got to the point that my parents could utter a single cluck and we’d get to work. So I came to leadership fully armed and prepared to deal with work-shirking chickens. No one warned me about the roosters. Leadership roosters are far more noisy and annoyingly powerful.

Signs You’re Dealing with A Rooster

  • They’re no where around when the project is being scoped or the heavy lifting is done
  • They require constant readouts
  • This takes a lot of beautiful powerpoints and careful explaning.
  • His name is on the deck (you’re on standby via text message to answer any questions).
  • The key players names all morph into an occassional “the team” only when something is unclear
  • When real disaster strikes Monday morning quarter-backing comes in
  • And the questions and deep sighs start… “Why didn’t you? You should have.”
  • If the project is a success it’s all about him. If it’s a disaster, it’s all about you.

Never be a leadership rooster. You’ll lose instant credibility and engagement. If you are a leader of leaders, be sure you’re not accidently encouraging such, err, cock-y behavior.

How to Survive Working with a Cocky Rooster

If you’ve got a rooster in your life, take it offline and share the impact. They may not even know how they’re being perceived.

I’ve seen many a rooster turned into helping, supportive chicks after a bit of candid feedback and whats-in-it-for-them persuasion.

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today!

Want more human-centered leaders in the workplace? Share this today?


  1. Phil May

    Great article. My wife and I have 3 and a half year old. She loves The Little Red Hen. And yes, we read it regularly. I don’t recall the book as a child, but I do love reading it to my daughter.

    I just spoke to a classroom of college seniors about leadership and one of the big points I made is you can learn more about leadership from poor leaders than great leaders. I credit much of my leadership success and favorbale team member feedback to the lessons I learned from poor leadership. For example, I had a boss who always jumped to blame before understanding a situation. When you fully understand a less than desirable situation you will often find it may be something wrong with a process more than someone not following a process. Fix the holes in the process, don’t blame the person.

    Likewise, I learned from a great leader to take full accountability for your team and everything they do. If you follow this advice and learn from poor leaders you will surely be less likely to be a rooster. Oh and yes, I actually own chickens and a rooster. My leadership skills haven’t yet convinced my rooster I am his friend! Still working on him!

    • Karin Hurt

      Phil, Thanks so much. So great to have you join the conversation. Ahh yes, I’m a big believer in learning all you can from an imperfect boss.. that way at least your pain is worth something 😉 P.s. Owning chickens is on my bucket list…

  2. Terri Klass

    Had to laugh as I read your post, Karin because I kept thinking about all the cocky roosters I’ve met along the way.

    Like so many others, I am so turned off to leaders who think it is only about them and can’t see the strengths and values in those around them. I recently worked with a cocky rooster and the thing is once you delve deeper, there is more to them. Not that it is our job to delve. The big downside of this particular “full-of-himself” leader was that his team began withholding important information from him. Sharing went out the door and so did a good outcome of their project.

    Thanks Karin and have a great weekend!!

    • Karin Hurt

      Terri, So agree… it’s always worth delving further.

  3. LaRae Quy

    I had to laugh with you on this one, Karin…you must have had a GREAT time writing it!

    I’ve known and worked with many roosters in my time…I often called them peacocks because they liked to strut around looking, sounding, and acting tough.

    There is perhaps no larger personal joy that taking one of them down 🙂 BUT, I always made sure I remained friends with my peacocks because they often thought they “still” ruled the roost…..

    • Karin Hurt

      LaRae, Indeeed, it was a lot of fun! Keep you peacocks close.

  4. Alex Sandro Alves Miranda

    Morning, Karin! Excellent article,such we are lefting the reflection it. Congratulations and such have you much success.


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Karin Hurt

Karin Hurt helps human-centered leaders find clarity in uncertainty, drive innovation, and achieve breakthrough results.  She’s the founder and CEO of Let’s Grow Leaders, an international leadership development and training firm known for practical tools and leadership development programs that stick. She’s the award-winning author of four books including Courageous Cultures: How to Build Teams of Micro-Innovators, Problem Solvers, and Customer Advocates and Winning Well: A Manager’s Guide to Getting Results-Without Losing Your Soul and a hosts the popular Asking For a Friend Vlog on LinkedIn. A former Verizon Wireless executive, Karin was named to Inc. Magazine’s list of great leadership speakers. Karin and her husband and business partner, David Dye, are committed to their philanthropic initiative, Winning Wells – building clean water wells for the people of Cambodia.

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7 Practical Ways to be a Bit More Daring

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