“What I didn’t do….” – Mario Cuomo

I have fond, vague memories of the late Governor of New York, Mario Cuomo. When he died, I recognized that I had an impression of him as a leader even though I didn’t follow politics closely when I was young and he was in the governor’s mansion.

My impression was that he was avuncular, witty, and wise. He appeared to be someone who felt responsibility for the state and its citizens. I must have taken this from his manner, which was thoughtful without being too self-serious. I may also have sensed that he was a bit of a philosopher. And even he admitted that he thought too long and sometimes did not focus enough on image. Here’s good advice for leaders today in the form of reflective self-examination, another practice I recommend to leaders all the time:

What I didn’t do was pick one thing and keep saying it over and over again, so I could have gotten credit for it.

What makes this wryly humorous is that he recognizes that getting credit is as much about taking action as it is about being remembered for it. What makes is wise is that he also recognizes that leadership communication is about choosing your message and sticking with it, not only for the sake the credit, but as acknowledgement that human beings are forgetful and distractable.

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