Full Title: This is Day One: A Practical Guide to Leadership That Matters by Drew Dudley

Academics rarely give much thought to their leadership style.

Yet, the art of mentoring plays a critical role in the professional development of graduate students.

For most scholars, their leadership style evolves as they transition out of graduate school and into the work force. Decisions related to leading research  are based on logistics and not guided by any sort of specific strategy.

As a mentor, my job is to motivate, guide, encourage, and prepare graduate students. However, my day-to-day choices have never been based on any specific leadership approach.

This is Day One… seemed like an interesting book. 

I was curious about it because (full disclosure), the author, Drew Dudley and I were undergraduate students at the same small, liberal arts college on the east coast of Canada in the late 1990’s.

This fall I have been thinking critically about how I can improve the leadership that I am offering to my team of graduate students and so I bought the book in the hopes of feeling inspired to try something new.

One of the very best things about this book is that it is full of great stories and storytelling!

From a tour guide in Qatar, to a pair of friends riding a train across Canada, the stories speak to the need to recognize and acknowledge daily leadership in the absence of titles and status.

I found the stories inspiring and thought provoking.

Despite the fact that this book is not specifically targeted to an academic demographic, I found that the ideas discussed applied to my academic role in a very tangible way.

This book made me pause to critically think about whether I have been making conscious decisions to identify and then act on my most important leadership values on a day-to-day basis in both my family and professional life.

The main premise of the book is that there is a form of leadership that everyone can aspire to regardless of their perceived leadership role.

The perception has typically been that leaders do big things and command groups of people and as an academic, that vision of leadership didn’t really line up with my day to day responsibilities to my students, colleagues, and collaborators.

According to Drew, Day One leadership is making a choice to begin consistent behaviours. This form of leadership says that every day needs to start with a non-negotiable choice related to your actions.

The great thing about this book is that it speaks to the fact that leadership is going to look different for each person and as a result, the book actually manages to speak to a highly diverse audience.

This Is Day One speaks more widely to the idea that regardless of your role that there is incredible value in spending time to identify specific concrete values that you as an individual (and leader) want to define you as a person.

A big part of the book is Drew’s assertion that each of us need to have a “personal leadership philosophy”.

The idea is to define your personal core values. Then as you progress through each day, you can evaluate the decisions you are faced with using these values as the criteria for evaluating your options.

One of the key takeaways from this book is the importance of developing your own personal culture of leadership. Identify a value that is important to you, define the value and then do something each day that embodies that value.

It is not an easy task but after reading the book, I have a renewed interest in making daily conscious decisions to lead in a way that makes my students, and colleagues feel better off for having interacted with me.


Amy is a mother, wife, and newly tenured  associate professor at a Canadian university. She has held scientific positions in both government and academia and has published over 50 peer-reviewed journal articles. She is passionate about women in STEM, mentoring early career academics, busting the 80 hour academic work week myth, and lifting heavy stuff over her head. You can find her at www.uncomplicatedprofessor.com or on Instagram.