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The Leadership Maker - From The Author

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Writing and then publishing The Leader Maker was a labor of love. Love of the work we do each day and love of the privilege we have. I’m never sure what I did in a previous life to deserve all the talented and amazing people that come to see us but I’m sure not going to waste it overthinking it. Here is the first installation of what will eventually be the entire Leader Maker book.

We have broken the book down into small portions in the hope that you would enjoy a quick read and get something of value for your leadership life.

Success in life and in business is the product of feedback and I hope you will provide us with lots of it as you read. What follows can only get better with your thoughts.

Please enjoy the Leader Maker...


fluff and stuff in leadership


Beware lest you lose the substance by grasping at the shadow.


Why the title Fluff and Stuff? 

Long ago it was customary in my world of young managers and leaders to refer to colleagues as fluff or stuff. Fluff, referred to colleagues who talked a good game but didn’t deliver when the going got tough. Stuff referred to colleagues who got lots done without fanfare and seemed to quietly produce results. The Fluff crowd got a lot of attention, while the Stuff crowd made the needle move. 

All accomplished leaders/managers are some combination of Stuff and Fluff by virtue of the confidence that it takes to lead and manage. And followers may follow certain types based on what they prefer. There is an audience who likes the big talker with grand plans and who exudes confidence having the ability to get people excited about an idea or an outcome. At the end of the day, we all want leaders who can be successful in the art and science of execution. The Stuff followers like action and the whole ‘roll up your sleeves’ approach to successful outcomes. Additionally, we expect that leaders will be able to communicate an idea and advocate for us to their leadership and in general share the good work we do with others.

Think about making sausage without a recipe 

As I was preparing to write about Fluff and Stuff, all I could hear in my head was a line from a song in the Alexander Hamilton Broadway Musical that talks about the agreement between Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison called “The Room Where It Happened.” One of the lines speaks to, “How the sausage is made, we just assume that it happens,” regarding something that tastes good, but no one wants to see the product and its messy production. Leadership and Management are much like this. We get consumed with big ideas and we can be equally consumed with people who simply execute. My job became clear. Tell the story of how “the sausage is made” metaphorically so managers, leaders or aspiring managers can at least have a formula to provide success.   

Moving the needle

The FLUFF crowd gets a lot of attention.    The STUFF crowd makes the needle move.  

There is no such thing as an expert at this and, there are no novel approaches or unique tricks. This world of leadership or management is simply hard work and, from time to time, I find myself wondering if I could have chosen something simpler while I’m immersed up to my neck in dealing with the related chaos and challenges. During the sections ahead, you will hear my reasons for choosing to write this and ask that you make your own choices because this is not easy stuff and requires that ‘dark of the night’ courage thing. You know, that whole idea about doing the right thing when no one is looking.  

I asked a good friend years ago, “Why does it seem to be easier to understand leadership and management as I get older?”  He had a response that hangs with me today, “You’re not any smarter”, he said, “You’re wiser.”  During the journey ahead, I will leave it to you to determine if this is wisdom or just another effort to capsulize what is hard to describe. I will give it all I have and do my best to bring you something easy to understand and use. Something that you can hold onto that will do for you what many of you have done for me, which is to give me a useful toolkit for the journey ahead. Kind of the Swiss Army Knife of Leadership and Management. I hope you will find a balance between the chaotic world of day-to-day leadership angst and management struggles. 

rules to follow

The Rules are as follows: 

  • Vision
  • Tools That Work
  • Communication
  • Networking
  • Change


Make it easy 

Over the years, I have battled with the words Leadership and Management and have waffled and wavered based on the arguments presented to me by workshop participants in support of either word. Usually, folks agree that Leadership refers to something less tangible, e.g., vision, inspiration, energy, warmth and so on.

Management generally refers to something more concrete like getting results, hitting deadlines, and executing the goals. In the world of people’s leadership and management, I’m convinced that it doesn’t matter which word you choose and how to get to where you want to go. To that end, each section will use the terms leadership or management alternately by section. I can make a case for either and so can you. For simplicity, let’s agree that leading people is the foundation for both.  

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Ralph Twombly
Priority Learning

In the 20 years since starting Priority Learning, Ralph has facilitated countless learning experiences and has conducted training for thousands of managers and leaders. With over 30 years of leadership development and organizational development background and work, Ralph continues to build relationships with client companies all over the U.S.



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So proud of this book, RT!!


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Tools That Work

The Lessons of 2020

October's Note From the Author

Follow the Leader

September's Note from the Author - Values

How Your Personal Brand Drives Leadership Success

Being Sustainable Helps the Bottom Line

August's note from the Author

The Leadership Maker - From The Author

Lessons from Covid-19

Leading Through Uncertainty

Are You a Wilbury?

Beyond the Pale