This article gives an overview of a new book by Jason Jennings, 'Hit the Ground Running' about the secrets of winning CEOs. He didn't find the most successful CEOs any smarter; they were 'smart enough'. This similar to Gladwell's view in his latest book 'Outliers'. Jennings describes these successful leaders:
what differentiates them from their peers is their authenticity, humility, their determination to never make a decision without contemplating it’s long term consequences and their genuine affection for their workers, customers, vendors and suppliers and shareholders...these leaders are incredible listeners who never tire of asking questions.
The author rails against conventional business wisdom, the Gerry Maguire style "show me the money" approach that brought us the GFC and many corporate and leadership disasters. The book has 10 'rules' for successful leaders, a few of which are listed:
- Practice the golden rule in everything you do - you will reap exactly what you sow
- Gain the belief of everyone around you instead of demanding of expecting respect.
- Ask everyone around for help; don’t pretend to have all the answers or the plan. Remember what happened to Carly Fiorina at HP. On her first day she announced to the company that she had the plan and strategy for HP. Everyone felt left out, came to hate her and her regal ways and during her reign she halved the companies value.
- Work ruthlessly to simplify everything instead of making it more complicated.
- Make sure that everyone in the company knows the strategy and their role in its achievement.
- Cultivate a fierce sense of urgency in everyone because either things aren’t going well and you need to fix them fast or things are going well but the world (and your circumstances) are going to change and you need to be ready.
Why do so many leaders and organisations behave counter to these concepts? They all seem pretty logical. For me, its a good example of the 'knowing-doing' gap: we know this stuff is important but we just don't do it.
It sounds like organisations that apply the rules above would be pretty good places to work. Shawn and I are fortunate in that our narrative insight approaches are about bringing the 'rules' above to life in organisations. As a result we get to work in some pretty good organisations on projects that make a difference. Pretty cool huh?