Thursday, March 23, 2006

Leaders leading leaders

Business Times, p.B2
Thursday, March 23, 2006

“Success is not counted by how high you have climbed, but by how many you have brought with you.” Will Rose

Many times we find ourselves in a position where we lead other leaders—in our family, business, civic, church, social organizations. A ticklish and very challenging situation, indeed.

Author Jeswald Salacuse wrote in his book Leading Leaders, “The leaders you are called upon to lead may be other executives, highly educated experts, investors, board members, government officials, doctors, lawyers, or other professionals. The potential contributions of these elites to any organization are vital, but the likelihood of friction is also high you don’t manage relationships carefully. In any case, they are people with significant resources—and strong opinions. How do you leverage the assets of the talented and powerful while making sure that egos remain unbruised?”

Of course, we have read about Morgan Stanley’s Philip Purcell, Hewlett-Packard’s Carly Fiorina, and Disney’s Michael Eisner who were put out to the curb by their boards—ostensibly because of failed strategies, shareholder lawsuits, and missed earnings. However, according to Linda Tischler (Fast Company September 2005), on close scrutiny, it was really their management styles that tripped them up.

Tischler writes, “Purcell was an autocrat who treated his own employees with contempt. Eisner was smart and creative, but also paranoid and unwilling to share power. And while Fiorina was great on the hustings—the queen of keynote—she was so inept at minding business back at the mothership that her successor, the consummately hands-on Mark Hurd, is being heralded as the ‘anti-Carly said.’

“Fiorina and her ilk certainly didn’t lack management style. It’s just that their styles have fallen out of fashion. Boards have been burned too often by self-proclaimed titans whose personalities so dominate an organization that they shut out alternative challenging points of view. So charisma is out. Imperiousness is so five minutes ago. Autumn’s hot look for bosses is the ability to rally the troops behind the organization’s mission and objectives. Heard of it? It’s called leadership.”

The new model, says Sydney Finkelstein, professor of strategy and leadership at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business and an expert on why leaders fail, is someone with “the highest ethical standards, who can lead by example, and who can build a strong effective team around him or her. Those are the hot buttons now, rather than the cowboy riding in to provide the magic answer for the company.”

I say that the true leader is not the leader who goes around saying, “We started with a big bang, and we’ll finish with the loudest bang.” In the case of Purcell, Fiorina and Eisner, the big bang finish was the sound of their fall. Leaders who are led are not amused of the bang, bang, bang and are not a bit afraid of it. Leaders of leaders need to give equal importance to bottom-line results, customer satisfaction, internal process and human satisfaction indicators. Balanced Scorecard, remember? People in the organization—leaders and those who are led—are the enablers of any organizational success. In moments of truth, people can make or unmake your organization.

Successful organizations have leaders of leaders who inspire respect, loyalty and even affection, rather than fear according to Tishcler. “They are the CEOs who are farsighted, tolerant, humane, and practical. And they have the courage of their idealistic convictions. And if these too-good-to-be-true paragons can also deliver the goods, it’ll be the best change in management style since casual Friday.”

ASTD 2006. We are forming a delegation to the American Society for Training & Development International Conference & Exposition this May 7 to 10, 2006 at the Dallas Convention Center in Dallas, Texas. Former President and CEO of General Electric and author of the inspiring book Winning, Jack Welch; best-selling authors of Freakonomics, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner; and retired US Army Brig. Gen. Clara Adams-Ender are keynote speakers. For other details on the conference and travel package, please log on to or send an email to

Moje is president of Paradigms & Paradoxes Corp. Her email addy is

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