The best leadership advice is the kind that sticks. You don’t need to look it up, because it’s always with you. When an unexpected opportunity comes your way, it guides you. It grounds you when you lose your bearings and energizes you when your strength is slipping.

How do you find these golden nuggets of wisdom? You could speed-read leadership books (these 7 are a great place to start). You could wait for these learnings to fall into your lap by pure happenstance. Or, you could ask an accomplished leader what guidance they rely on most.

On each episode of Chief’s podcast, The New Rules of Business, we ask our guests to share their favorite piece of leadership advice. Check out the top answers from this season, and subscribe now so you don’t miss the next season.

Know When to Follow the Rulebook, and When to Throw It Out

As the first Latina to travel to space, Dr. Ellen Ochoa, former Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center, knows that there’s a time to follow the rules and a time to break them. The veteran astronaut says, "One of the first pieces of advice I got as a rookie astronaut was: There's only two ways to mess up as an astronaut: #1 Failing to follow the procedures exactly as written and #2 following the procedures exactly as written."

You not only have to have a thorough understanding of the systems, you also need to understand the assumptions that went into all the procedures — because they're not going to be appropriate in every single situation. Understand your business model and challenge your assumptions.
Dr. Ellen Ochoa, veteran astronaut and former Director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center

Be Present Where You Are

Amy Gilliland, President of General Dynamics Information Technology, is a busy woman. She runs a $8.5B company with 28,000 employees across 30 countries, is a sought-after speaker in and beyond her industry, and a mother of three. She says, "Those of us who are mothers, or who have other big things going on outside of work, it’s easy to come to work and worry about what’s going on at home — and it’s easy to be at home and worrying about what’s going on at work."

Be present. Really focus on wherever you are right now.
Amy Gilliand, President of General Dynamics Information Technology

Know Where Your Power Comes From

Dr. Woo-Kyoung Ahn is an award-winning Yale University professor whose signature course, Thinking 101, was so popular she had to turn it into a book to meet the demand. Despite her accomplishments, Dr. Ahn struggles with low self-esteem. The guidance that grounds her is: "The power you have over others isn’t the power you think you have. It’s the power that other people think you have."

Whenever I don't feel confident about doing something, I remind myself, 'It's just me that’s thinking that way. Other people might not see me that way, so let's just get over this.' That's my way of encouraging myself whenever I'm feeling low.
Dr. Woo-Kyoung Ahn, Professor at Yale University

Take the Advice You Get and Make It Your Own

Cotential CEO Erica Dhawan is a bestselling author and award-winning keynote speaker on collaboration, so she knows how important it is to listen. But, that doesn't mean you should internalize or apply everything people tell you. "Someone told me, 'Erica, you’re like the opposite of imposter syndrome. You have too much confidence.' I had to really think about that and realize, that’s awesome. It means I’m on the right track. I'm bold and thinking big," says Dhawan.

We all get lots of advice, but it's based on someone else’s worldview, not our own. I think we have to listen to it, take what's great about it, and then keep pushing forward by listening to our own intuition.
Erica Dhawan, CEO of Cotential

Look for Barriers and Knock them Down

As the Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Executive Search at IBM, it's Jennifer Carpenter's job to find the best candidates — wherever they come from, and whatever they look like. So when widely used hiring criteria (such as years of experience and degree requirements) prevent her from doing that, she does something about it.

If there's one thing organizations are really good at, it's putting up dumb barriers that prevent skilled people from accessing opportunities. It's up to leaders to look for those barriers and knock them down.
Jennifer Carpenter, Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Executive Search at IBM