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How to Earn the Gift of Discretionary Effort by thought leaders Karla Brandau and Douglas Ross is a deep dive into a comprehensive and novel approach to catapulting your leadership career.

You will discover how to turn your employees into your competitive advantage in an ever-increasingly difficult marketplace.

You are taught what it means to be the leader of one or the leader of none.

This cutting-edge book details how earning the gift of discretionary effort is the distinguishing characteristic of 21st century leaders. 


Any skill requires discipline to become proficient and this book is the training manual for individuals with the perseverance and determination to become the leader people CHOOSE to follow—not HAVE to follow because of their place on the organizational chart.


As you know, management and leadership is about getting work done through others. Being the leader people CHOOSE to follow guarantees you will earn the gift of discretionary effort on a daily basis. As they give you their gifts of discretionary effort, you will move your employees from minimal effort to amazing contributions, resulting in increased profitability and economic sustainability for your company.

Discretionary effort is the difference between what one is capable of bringing to a task, versus the minimum effort required to get by or make do, and still receive a paycheck. 

Each day, when an employee walks in the office door (or logs in remotely) and starts work, that employee makes a choice whether or not to give discretionary effort. It takes a special kind of leader to achieve the environment of exceptional employee experience and workplace optimization where workers naturally give discretionary effort, not just give the stereotypical second mile.

This book teaches you how to be that special kind of leader that gets much more than the second mile from all who work with you. You’ll learn to refine the touchpoints between you and your employees from potential misunderstandings to productive conversations that move projects along to successful conclusions.


Written in a straightforward, personal style with true stories and illustrative examples, Karla Brandau and Douglas Ross provide the tools and techniques for developing your employees into authentic contributors who are emotionally committed to the values, mission, vision, and goals of the organization and who strive for continuous improvement, profitability, and economic sustainability on a regular basis.

A unique feature of the book is the over-all encompassing nature of the material. It does not hit one single concept or key and keep pounding on that key principle but combines information in a way that give you a balanced and complete strategy for company growth.


Book Reviews

Mentor, Chris Cannon, a thoughtful regulator (coal mine reclamation), industrialist (Geneva Steel) and congressman (R. Ut. 1997-2009), said this of the book:

While at the most progressive steel maker in India several years ago the senior engineer gave me a tour of their operations during which we talked about management ideas, including their quality programs.  He mentioned Quality Circles with what I saw as great pride.  I stopped and pointed out that meant that everyone in a circle needed to be heard and respected.  Did that mean destruction of the caste system?

 He smiled beyond the normal confines of a mortal face, pumped his right hand and said “Yes!”

 Since America’s discovery of W. Edwards Deming’s guidance to Japanese industry we have not only improved quality and reduced costs, we have changed society in profound ways.  Through a steady accretion of insights about how to improve the delivery of goods and services we have moved from the human cogs of Henry Ford’s assembly line to adding great value to the role individuals play in our businesses.

This steady advance has brought us to what I think is the next phase: understanding how to capture the immense power of the creative contributions of those who work with us. 

And How to Earn the Gift of Discretionary Effort by Karla Brandau and Douglas Ross is the first big step toward that wonderful corporate condition.

The principles in the book are based on the RossBrandau Discretionary Leadership ModelTM and you’ll uncover strategies on how to:

  • Create a workplace where individuals feel safe, not only physically but safe to surface the truth about work conditions, systems, processes – every aspect of your business. As the truth is surfaced, giant leaps forward in improving products and services can be made.
  • Build a workplace where employees want to come to work and are challenged and supported in their professional growth.
  • Assess and understand the strengths and limitations of individual personalities enabling you to better communicate on an personal basis.
  • Refine the process of rational alignment of all teams and employees when providing vision and direction and a roadmap for achievement of company goals.
  • Free employees to give exceptional customer service

You are not left on your own with just intellectual material. The discipline and practice is real. Every chapter explaining a level of the model is based on the concepts of Praxis or practice and gives you statements to reflect on and Discretionary Effort Practice Steps to reinforce your learning. These statements and exercises help you internalize and implement the principles in your daily interactions.


Steve Lund, Chairman of Nu Skin Products, gave us this comment after reading the book:

Thank you for providing me your book, How to Earn the Gift of Discretionary Effort. It is a very thought-provoking treatise. I particularly appreciate that it is a practical checklist of leadership development practices supplemented with actual activities designed to habituate those practices.

I hope to become a better leader by better engaging these practices, beginning with better expressions of gratitude for the great people I work with who do extend themselves in ways that are often underappreciated and towards whom my appreciation is certainly under expressed.

Thank you again.



A partner at SRS Capital Partners, David L. Parker said this of the book:

Brandau and Ross have raised the bar by clearly articulating the opportunities for principled leadership in corporate America. This is an inspirational and aspirational tome that states the case for opportunistic change while empowering leadership with the necessary tools to secure the gift of discretionary effort from the most important capital resource of any entity, its people.

The fundamental concept of ‘the leadership of one’ discussed by Brandau and Ross in this book is foundational to the core concept of ‘earning the gift of discretionary effort’. The objective of any organization should be harnessing discretionary effort from its most important resource, its people. Brandau and Ross provide the needed tools to achieve such, and express this concept simply and effectively through the RossBrandau Leadership Model.


Micheal Austin, Vice President at BYD adds his thoughts:

A man is judged by the company he keeps. A company is judged by the men (and women) they keep – the tragedy in today’s companies is that half our work-force does not feel valued and what Brandau and Ross astutely recognize is that ‘the first to leave are the productive ones who want to give their heart and head, not just their hands to their employers’.  If you’ve wanted a manual for winning and keeping the hearts and minds of your employees, this is it.


And from another discipline, William W. Maycock, Attorney at Law, Partner at Smith, Gambrell & Russell comments:

Weaving personal examples with dynamic principles, Brandau and Ross’s work blueprints conditions for predictable reactions as influential to organizations as chemical reactions are to physical processes.  Approaching discretionary effort as a gift to be earned injects a thoughtful juxtaposition worthy of a good read.  

From their years of consulting, coaching, and training, Brandau and Ross have developed a twenty-first century leadership model that will push forward-thinking companies ahead of their dinosaur competition.

Let a Discretionary Effort Program Change the Culture of Your Organization

Once you have purchased the book and received the bonuses, you will want to bring a Discretionary Effort Leadership program to your organization. It can transform managers into leaders.

As leaders implement the principles found in How to Earn the Gift of Discretionary Effort, they will enter an elite circle of achievers  and become the leader people CHOOSE to follow, not HAVE to follow. The result? Employees make amazing contributions, not just give minimal effort. 

Contact us today and book a Discretionary Effort Leadership program at your organization. Just fill out the form below.