Leading Blog


Who Will Succeed or Fail in the Corner Office?

Carol Hymowitz asked in Monday’s Wall Street Journal, “which CEOs have the skills to survive the New Year’s challenges?” In her article she writes:

The true test of enduring leadership success is how well business leaders handle setbacks and failures. They can advance by outperforming others, but they can't always be in control.

"Given the collision of pressures and challenges in business today, you'll never be on top all the time," says Jeffrey Sonnenfeld, senior associate dean of the Yale School of Management. The real test, he adds, is who survives a challenge to a chief's business model or reputation.

Executives have a better chance of survival if they address problems directly, admit their mistakes and build alliances to make changes. They must seek advice from others but also feel secure enough to make decisive plans.

A leader’s communication flexibility and consistency is important in this regard. Leaders are not only expected to influence their direct reports, Gene Klan writes in his new book, Building Character, but “are also expected to influence their superiors, board members, peer, customers, clients, suppliers, the news media, community officials, political leaders, government regulators, negotiators, environmental authorities, special interest groups, Wall Street Analysts, and any number of other stakeholders…. [E]ach group requires different tactics to be influenced and led both effectively and positively. Leaders need flexibility and many different skills to communicate credibly and interact with all these parties for maximum results.”


Consistency is a matter of character. “For leaders,” Klan continues, “consistency means always reflecting the same basic principles in practice. It means that one’s behaviors conform and agree with one’s past words and actions regardless of pressure, criticism, and advice to do otherwise. It means maintaining the habitual positive behaviors that are key to winning trust and respect and achieving effectiveness overall. It means being seen and known as a pillar of dependability and reliability, not changing or wavering based on opinion polls, internal disapprovals, or external condemnations."

"Consistency also implies that a leader’s behaviors and character are not compartmentalized between work and personal life. You are who you are, and that doesn’t change when you arrive at the office or at your own front door. Your character is such that you find consistent standards for behavior in any context. Responsibilities, stresses, and personalities may vary, but your character does not. All the politically correct arguments to the contrary do not change that reality. Behaviors reflect a leader’s character regardless of the context. In every context, your character will be noticed and judged.” It is these leaders that have to best chance of surviving the challenges that lie ahead in the coming year.

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Posted by Michael McKinney at 08:52 AM
| Comments (0) | This post is about Communication , Leadership



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