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A Lifeline for Those Drowning in Leadership Advice

Most leadership advice fails to hit its mark

It's sad, but true: Most leadership advice fails to hit its mark. There are many reasons. Two stand out — one obvious, one less. One: Today, there is an excess of information to absorb. Two, and, unfortunately: We humans have very short attention spans to dedicate to absorbing it all. While you likely believe the first point, research suggests you shouldn't discount the second — including research about goldfish.

Goldfish, scientists tell us, have an average attention span of nine seconds. It's a paltry length of time, and a fact you may care little about, until you hear that humans today have an even shorteraverage attention span. And it's not improving. When clocked in 2000, our average attention span was 12 seconds. After a screen-addicted, volatile and frantically uncertain decade and a half, by 2015 researchers say we'd fallen to eight measly, worse-than-a-goldfish seconds before our minds race off to something else.

Before you get discouraged, here's something else that's true about us: We humans thrive on novelty. That is good news, because when it comes to making leadership advice work, most leaders would agree we're ready for something new. To improve your leadership effectiveness, consider something I'll call "a mantra a day."

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