John Baldoni is an internationally recognized leadership consultant, coach, author and speaker. Throughout his career thus far, he has become a highly sought after communications and leadership consultant, having had the privilege of working with senior leaders in virtually every industry from pharmaceutical to real estate, packaged goods to automobiles, and finance to health care. In 2010 for the second consecutive year, he was named one of the world’s top 25 leadership experts by Top Leadership Gurus International. Also in 2010, Leadership Gurus International ranked Baldoni No. 12 on its list of global leadership gurus. His published works include Personal Leadership: Taking Control of Your Work Life, Lead By Example: 50 Ways Great Leaders Inspire Results, a Great Leaders trilogy on communications, motivation and results, and most recently, Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up. Over the years, his many books have been translated into multiple languages including Mandarin, Indonesian, Japanese, and Korean.
Baldoni speaks widely to corporate, professional, military and university audiences. Those who attend his keynotes and workshops find his advice to be practical and his advice inspirations. Mixed with stories of great men and women, and leavened with light-hearted humor, he recommends down-to-earth practical advice that individuals can apply immediately. His presentations blend his passion for leadership with genuine enthusiasm for helping people achieve their leadership ambitions. He is a regular online contributor to Harvard Business Review and his articles have also appeared in the online versions of Blomberg/BusinessWeek, Fast Company, Forbes, Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post as well as Leader to Leader and the Wharton Leadership Digest.
Morris: Before discussing any of your books, a few general questions. The last time I checked, Amazon offers 61,303 books in the general category of “leadership” and 18,465 in the more specific category, “business leadership.” Nonetheless, each year hundreds of new books on business leadership are published? What’s left to be said?
Baldoni: We humans are always open to new and fresh ideas. Leadership principles are timeless but stories of how people lead and why they do what they do are ever changing. Motives are pure and simple, but actions match the situation that is forever changing.
Morris: Which business thinkers and works have had the greatest influence on your own perspectives on leadership? How so?
Baldoni: Of course I would put Peter Drucker at the top of the list. What I learned from Dr. Drucker was the role that individuals have to play in altering their history and perhaps the history of the world. Marshall Goldsmith has taught me to be a deeper thinker and to ask better questions. Dan Denison, co-founder of Denison Consulting and the Denison culture and leadership surveys, opened my mind to the role that culture plays in shaping companies and how leaders create conditions for those cultures and the people in them to succeed. James Macgregor Burns’ insights into leadership, particularly his views of followership, have also shaped my thinking.
Military historians such as Rick Atkinson, Victor Davis Hanson, and Stephen Ambrose have helped deepen my understanding of what it means to serve one’s country in a cause greater than one’s self. Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biographies of Eleanor and Franklin Roosevelt and her study of Lincoln, Team of Rivals, bring the humanity of these characters to life. Roy Jenkins biography of Churchill is another source of leadership insight.
Morris: Opinions are divided as to which is the best source of wisdom, success or failure. What do you think?
Baldoni: Both are relevant. Failure may be a more accessible teacher because all of us have experienced failure. We seek to learn from our mistakes so we can do better the next time. Or perhaps the next time. Or the next time after that. In other words, if we commit to learning, it can be a long process of development. But a fruitful process.
Morris: How do you explain what Jean Lipman-Blumen characterizes as “the allure of toxic leaders”?
Baldoni: I would define a toxic boss (in my vocabulary leader is a positive term) as who destroys more than he creates. He may make the numbers and so the allure arises from perceived accomplishment. But if look behind the numbers you see the terrible toll: absenteeism, high stress, and rapid turnover. No allure in that.
Morris: How important is charisma to effective leadership?
Baldoni: Charisma is really the reflection we want to see in a leader. No question that folks like John F Kennedy and Ronald Reagan possessed. Few of us can aspire to that, but what most people respond to is a reflection of their own hopes and desires as reflected by that person. So charisma is wonderful, but not totally necessary. And keep in mind, charisma comes in all shapes and sizes. Mother Teresa had great charisma. While she was not physically alluring, her inner beauty and the power of her cause gave her a sense of presence, even charisma, that drew people to her.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Rita McGrath for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other
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My colleague Gökçe Sargut and I are doing some work on how executives can improve the way their organizations operate under conditions of complexity. As we did the background research [click here], I was fascinated by counterintuitive thinking from Aaron Wildavsky [click here], a well-known social scientist. He argued that when facing risks, organizations have two basic possible responses. Systems can be designed to stave off risks, or they can be designed to be resilient, so that when terrible things happen the system can respond. Most organizations are heavily biased toward risk prevention: we create systems so risk-averse that we truncate learning, sometimes even increasing the very risks we’re trying to avoid.
Three recent events serve as a reminder that building resilience into organizations — in effect, thinking the unthinkable and preparing to face it — may serve us better than risk avoidance.
The first is the case of volcanic ash from Iceland that shut down significant air corridors between Europe and North America for days, shutdowns which promise to recur at unpredictable intervals. Before the unavoidable ash from the Eyjafjallajökull volcano, standard procedure in the airline business was not to fly through ash — in other words, to avoid it completely. When the unthinkable happened — an ash cloud so large that it couldn’t be avoided — everyone was unprepared. Only now is the industry envisioning a world in which large clouds of ash may be a permanent feature.
The second, of course, is the untamed BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Whatever mistakes were made in the prevention department, it is absolutely clear that little thought went into preparing to respond if something did go wrong.
And the third was described in a recent Wall Street Journal article, “Using Science against Suicide Bombs.” The conventional approach to combating suicide bombings has been to try to prevent them through security and vigilance. A complementary approach is being explored by US-educated Fulbright scholar Zeeshan-ul-hassan Umani, who suggests that systems be designed to minimize the damage bombs can cause. Simulation software he’s developing indicates (among other things) that when bombs go off in mosques, where people sit in rows, fewer deaths occur than when they go off in crowded places, where people randomly move around. His research suggests that, if event organizers in threatened locations used rows rather than circular seating, it could reduce deaths and injuries by up to 25%.
Of course, we would always prefer to avoid negative outcomes if possible, and organizations should certainly invest in prevention. It may be wise to remember, though, that investing in resilience can be a complementary and essential component of preparing to face risks.
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Columbia Business School professor Rita McGrath studies innovation, corporate venturing, and entrepreneurship. Her latest book is Discovery Driven Growth (2009).
To check out her website and the abundance of resources provided, please click here.
Here is an excerpt from an article written by Jeffrey Pfeffer for the Harvard Business Review blog. To read the complete article, check out other
articles, and/or sign up for a free subscription to Harvard Business Review’s Daily Alerts, please click here.
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Forbes has come out with its annual list of the most powerful media celebrities [click here]. But unlike the list of the richest Americans, where the rankings are unambiguous — at least as long as you can get accurate data on wealth — this ranking raises the issue of how to assess power. That’s something I have been writing and teaching about for decades.
Forbes derives its rankings from an equation combining earnings, media mentions, and visibility on various social media sites — a mix of income and “attention.” Certainly, money and power tend to coincide, but the connection between them is not a one-way street. Money can generate power, but it’s also true that power gained through other means can be monetized and produce wealth. (Think of the Clintons in the years following his leaving office.) Forbes’ focus on celebrities also provokes thought about whether people necessarily become powerful by garnering attention. Certainly there are exceptions — among them, I would suggest, Paris Hilton.
Most definitions of power emphasize the ability to influence others, their choices and their actions. Ranking the famous on that basis would require a very different methodology: we would need to determine which celebrities most influence — or could influence — things such as voting behavior and attitudes about important social choices.
By that criterion, Oprah Winfrey would still rate quite high. But Rush Limbaugh would move way up the list, as might Bono of U2. George Clooney has made a number of popular pictures with political, persuasive messages, and author Michael Pollan has profoundly influenced how we think about the food industry. Meanwhile other people also not on the list — such as Rachel Madow, David Brooks and Paul Krugman who write columns for The New York Times, other Fox figures such as Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, and even the over-the-top Jim Cramer (who moves stock prices by his ranting) — have a lot more influence on what people do than Lady Gaga.
Power, for the creators of the Forbes list, might simply mean power to choose the projects you will become involved with, and to command a high price (in cash and/or pampering) for your participation. But truly, you can’t claim power unless you can “have your way” through your influence over others. By that measure, some of the most powerful media figures aren’t any of those on the Forbes list, or mine either. The executives who organize and fund the publicity campaigns that create visibility, that decide which films are made, which stories printed, and what stars to back, possibly have the most power of all — regardless of how many followers they have on Twitter.
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Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University where he has taught since 1979. His newest book, forthcoming in September, is Power: Why Some People Have It–and Others Don’t, published by HarperBusiness.