Articles, Insights, and Book Excerpts from Dr. Lee Thayer

There is no better place to be introduced to the singular thinking of Dr. Lee Thayer than through his own voice, his own words. Following are quotes and book excerpts to inspire you to new understandings and new heights.

Lee Thayer

On vision and knowledge:

Any way of seeing is a way of not seeing.

What you know is always an obstacle to what you could know. Or, even more critically, to what you NEED to know.

Leaders can be certain of one thing: what they need to know always outpaces what they already know.

Lee Thayer

On people:

In any contest between reason and emotion, bet on emotion.

You move people by their imaginations—their hopes, their dreams—because that’s where they live. They are not moved by logic or facts.

True caring means refusing to let people DEFAULT themselves.

Most people don’t want what they NEED. They want what they WANT, whether that is good for them or not.

If you want to know what kind of people you deserve, look at the ones you have.

Lee Thayer

On systems:

Every system you are embedded in becomes, over time, a dumb system. If you are embedded in DUMB systems, you lose.

Smart systems elevate the performance of competent people. Smart systems provide its users with the overall feelings of a good experience that comes from having their expectations met or exceeded.

Lee Thayer

On knowledge and knowing:

Make possible what’s necessary and necessary what’s possible.

Knowing-about is not the same as knowing-how.

You can’t have any knowledge of the future. You have to imagine it. You can’t have any knowledge of it, because it hasn’t happened yet. 

Knowledge reaches only to the edges of the known and the expected. To go further requires imagination…  

What you cannot imagine, you cannot do.

Lee Thayer

On leaders and leadership:

Leaders are incorrigibly curious about how others think and believe.

The leader must tell the story of the organization compellingly and as frequently as necessary to displace alternative stories. Why are we here? Why does this organization exist – what is it for? Where is it going? What is my role in that journey? Why should I care?

Whatever your other tasks may be, the fundamental one is always that of managing meaning. There is no necessary relationship between what is going on and what people interpret it to mean. Enter the leader. Leaders intervene between the object of conversation and what people interpret it to mean.

Book Excerpts

The following links are to excerpts from a curated collection of Dr. Thayer’s books. All books are available for download or hard copy via The Thayer Institute store. Just click the link in the title.


Following are shorter essays and thoughts recorded by Dr. Thayer.