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ATD Blog

How to Create Your Leader Operating System

Friday, May 24, 2024

Every leader we’ve ever encountered is an amalgamation of their previous managers. They identify things they like in a leader and focus on developing those traits. The same is true on the flip side with things they did not like. When you ask a manager what makes a leader, they’ll likely spout off a list based on their experience. These things typically include trustworthiness, honesty, the ability to deliver results, approachability, and more. While these traits are important, they’re typically not written out or listed in any particular order of importance.

This is where the Leader Operating System, or Leader OS, comes in.

What Is Leader OS?

Leader OS is a scalable framework that helps leaders prioritize the core competencies necessary for effective leadership. It provides a clear roadmap for leadership success, ensuring you stay focused on what truly matters. Essentially, Leader OS helps streamline the approach to leadership. It helps leaders stay organized, focused, and effective in their roles.

Why We Created Leader OS

Without a system in place, leaders can be quickly overwhelmed by the long list of dos and don’ts for managers. We wanted to provide a more structured framework for successful management. We wanted something easy to memorize so it could always remain top of mind without becoming convoluted.
Parts of Leader OS

Leader OS is made up of three core competencies:


Identify your key metrics or objectives (TKRs). Create a moniker that is easy to remember and keep it front of mind for yourself and everyone on your team. These need to be repeatable, purposeful, and measurable.

Don’t confuse awareness with alignment. Alignment is an all-encompassing understanding of how each task directly or indirectly affects the organization’s overall goals. Foster a culture of open communication and honesty with your employees. Alignment is a messy process that happens out loud—if you’re the one doing most of the talking, you’re not doing it right.

Understand that while your brain has natural biases, overcoming them is part of the path to real success. Help your team (and yourself!) find ways to overcome bias and rewrite the social scripts undermining their TKRs.

The real change happens once you prioritize these competencies in your leadership style. No matter what your title is, what field you work in, or where you are in the world, Leader OS works.


Leader OS in Real Life

Take Susan, for example. When we met Susan, she had just been made CEO of one of the oldest hospitals in the Washington, D.C., area. Her two main goals were to improve patient satisfaction ratings and find a way to improve their revenue problems. Shortly after her promotion, she learned the truth—the hospital had HORRIBLE safety ratings.

The first thing she did was create clarity on what the most important goal in the organization was, improving safety. Second, Susan created alignment on what it would take to improve these problems. She didn’t blame people for the problems the hospital was experiencing; she enlisted those with the knowledge to fix it. Third, she addressed the mindset of every single person who worked in that hospital. She worked to understand the mindset that was contributing to the lack of patient safety. Then, she identified what needed to change and worked to do just that.

So, what happened next? Patient safety improved exponentially. After a few months, patient satisfaction ratings skyrocketed. After a year, their financials were looking amazing; they’d turned a corner. Susan ended up getting promoted to the executive level of the hospital system and she’ll tell you the core of her operating system is creating clarity, building alignment, and generating movement.

Leader OS isn’t a gimmick. It’s a tried-and-true system built to drive results and help you become the best leader you can be.

Ready to create a leadership operating system? Learn more at

About the Author

Russ Hill is co-founder and senior partner at Lead In 30. His passion is to help build leaders. For more than 2 decades Russ has coached and consulted executives at some of the world’s biggest companies. His clients include Amazon, Walmart, General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Cigna, and Hormel. He hosts The Culture Hacks Podcast on Apple Podcasts and Spotify and is the author of three books: The Great Resignation, Remoteability, and Decide to Lead available on Amazon and at all major book retailers.

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