Mary Barra Faces A Question Of Loyalty

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

Is there such a thing as too much loyalty?

That is a question that Mary Barra may be considering after her latest appearance before a Senate committee investigating the faulty ignition switch problem that resulted in 11 deaths. While GM has cleaned house of engineers and lawyers accused of culpability, Michael Millikin, its chief counsel, has remained in place.


General Motors: The Problem Is Greater Than A Faulty Ignition Switch

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

What keeps CEOs up at night? It’s not what they know, but what they don’t know.

Such is the case in which General Motors newly appointed CEO Mary Barra finds herself. According to reporting by New York Times reporter Bill Vlasic, Barra did not learn of the ignition problem that has led to the recall of over 1.6 GM vehicles until January 31st. The problem with the faulty ignition, which causes engine shutdowns, has been linked to at least 13 deaths stretching back to 2003.


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Why Your CEO Just Doesn’t Get It

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth

* This column was originally published on

Quality leadership or a lack thereof is easy to spot if you know what to look for. The problem is most people don’t know what to look for in a leader, and according to a recent study by Chief Executive magazine many CEOs don’t seem to know what to look for either.

While I probably shouldn’t have been surprised, I will admit to being absolutely stunned as I reviewed the results of a survey published in the January/February 2014 edition of Chief Executive in which respondents (sitting CEOs) ranked the top 10 skills needed for effective leadership.  Following are the results in descending order of importance:

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Mary Barra: The Right Engineer At The Right Time

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2Growth

“I… believe if you have a problem you better solve it. Because if you don’t solve it, you won’t be here or the company won’t be here.”

That’s what Mary Barra told Bill Vlasic of the New York Times about her approach to helping General Motors survive and thrive in the coming years. While much attention as been rightly paid to Ms. Barra because of her gender – she’s the first woman to head a major automaker – too many commentators have overlooked her background. She’s an engineer by education – a graduate of GM’s Kettering Institute – as well as experience, growing up in manufacturing before attracting the attention of senior management. Barra recently headed HR as well as product development.


Read Full Column on Forbes

Ford Motor Company: How Leadership Takes Risks

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

Roll the dice!

That’s what leaders must do from time to time. And it is what Ford Motor Company  (for whom I have consulted) has experience in doing. In 2006, it hocked itself, including its logo, to raise funding to keep the company going. The ploy succeeded, and today Ford is registering record profits and so it is rolling the dice again with the pending launch of an all-new Ford F-150 pickup. F-Series is truck that has kept the company afloat for decades, particularly when its car sales were flagging. Today the F-Series is the number one selling vehicle in America and has been for more than thirty years. The new truck will feature many new features as well as one big loss – 700 pounds worth. The new F-Series will feature an aluminum body panels that will be stronger and lighter, but will face a perception test with consumers. Truck buyers are traditionalists and whether they will opt for a truck made of aluminum will be a big decision.


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Bob Lutz: ‘Straight Talk On Leadership’

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

Usually if the title of a business book contains the word “idiot” in the title I assume the book is a screed on the perils of working for bosses who are not as smart as the author and therefore deserve belittlement. Such books I avoid like the plague because like subjects of these fevered rants, the authors – often disgruntled employees or self-important consultants – offer little of merit other than an ability to rail against the system.

But should the title also contain “icon” and is authored by one Robert Lutz who could veritably be called that himself, it is worth a read. Lutz’s newest book, Icons and Idiots: Straight Talk on Leadership is not only entertaining, if you like larger than life stories about auto magnates, it is also illuminating.


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Infographic: DNA of a Fortune 100 CEO

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

What does it take to be a successful CEO? Of all the questions I’m asked, this is far and away the most frequent. While I could answer the question by offering anecdotal evidence or experiential commentary, I thought I’d try something a bit different… I asked my research team to examine the biographical information of all current Fortune 100 CEOs and render the data in the form of an infographic so you can draw your own conclusions. I’d be curious as to your thoughts and observations.


Read Full Column on Forbes

Google vs Apple

Leadership Lesson: The Difference Between Google and Apple

Google vs Apple

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Google and Apple are both highly esteemed brands. Both companies share many common traits which have contributed to their success, but there is one very big difference between the two  – Google plays offense while Apple has recently settled for playing defense. Apple is struggling to maintain its position in the market, while Google is expanding its position.

Where J.C. Penney And Ron Johnson Went Wrong

Ron Johnson_2

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

It’s not hard to lead talented people with an aligned vision who fall under the umbrella of an iconic brand that has a cult-like consumer following. This describes Ron Johnson’s role as head of Apple’s retail operation prior to assuming the CEO role at J.C. Penney. Johnson was fired today by JCP as his efforts to rebrand and turnaround the struggling retailer failed to get traction. In June of 2012 I predicted Johnson’s failure as I warned of cookie cutter leadership practices in a Forbes column entitled Culture: Don’t Copy – Create.

While the aforementioned Forbes column offers an insight into why the turnaround failed under Johnson’s leadership, it points to a much bigger issue – another example of a board of directors tapping the wrong CEO for the job. Penney’s opted for star power, when what they should have done was hire a CEO with proven turnaround experience.  Penney’s didn’t need cool – they needed someone who understood the JCP culture, the JCP consumer, and the JCP business, all of which varied radically from Johnson’s Apple experience.

Penney’s board opted for a silver bullet that didn’t exist. Rather than do the hard work and heavy lifting necessary to turnaround a brand that had been mismanaged for years, they wanted a quick fix – they bought smoke and mirrors rather than sound business practice. You can’t lead with cool – cool must be earned. The label of cool comes as a result of great business decisions and outstanding leadership.

While JCP was broken long before Johnson took the helm, the retailer’s performance clearly declined under his leadership. The thing is, it didn’t have to happen, and oddly enough, I blame Penney’s board and their search firm just as much as Johnson. There were a dozen candidates who would have been a better selection, but they just had a demonstrable track of turning around businesses – they weren’t considered cool. Here’s the thing – had they made the right choice, for the right reasons, everyone would be looking cool right now.  Succession matters – especially CEO successions.

Let me give credit where credit is due – Johnson didn’t do everything wrong, in fact, he made some long overdue changes. That said, he misfired on the big ones of culture, business model and understanding the consumer. Most importantly, he failed to produce results. A lesson for all would-be turnaround CEOs.


Next Generation of CEOs

The Next Generation of CEOs: 10 CEO Ready Leaders

Next Generation of CEOs

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Disclosure: My company, N2growth has worked with many of the organizations represented on this list.

Lots of executives aspire to become a CEO, but few actually possess the leadership chops to pull it off. As someone who earns their living as a leadership advisor to Fortune 500 CEOs, I always keep a sharp eye peeled for up and coming leaders. The 10 leaders profiled below represent different industries, different disciplines, and even a few different countries, but they all share one thing in common – they’re all CEO ready. Meet my predictions (in no particular order) for the next crop of chief executives…

Leadership Interview – James Quigley

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

I’ve always said that if you want to learn about leadership talk to someone who has actually led something. James (Jim) Quigley, Global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited is just such a leader, and the “something” he leads is a global professional services juggernaut with more than $26 Billion in revenue, and 170,000 people located in more than 150 countries worldwide. What I most appreciate about Jim is his almost evangelistic zeal in championing the Deloitte brand. Jim is a fully engaged CEO who leads by example. You’ll also find Jim to be among the most transparent CEOs you’ll encounter. If you don’t believe me just go looking for him – he’s not that hard to find. Jim has a new book out (“As One“), you can find him on Twitter @DeloitteCEO and Jim is a frequent presenter at conferences such as World Business Forum and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Enough with the background – on with the interview…

Mike Myatt: What does it take to be a CEO of a global professional services firm, and why should anyone be led by you?

Jim Quigley: CEOs today need to model and advocate mutual trust between employees and leadership. I believe that successful CEOs will be judged on long-term sustainable performance and the stewardship of their organization’s mission, rather than on short-term performance and results.

One of my main focus areas is to increase my leadership team’s ability to be effective. One way to achieve that is by respecting your people, helping them find their authentic voice and leadership style, and demonstrating a genuine advocacy of their professional development.

It is absolutely critical for leaders to lead by example and foster a culture of values and respect. If I empower my leadership team and instill the organization’s values in them, they in return will do the same with their teams. That’s why I spend a lot of time talking to my partners about culture and our values, and the importance of articulating a clear vision and strategy.

Mike Myatt: Your new book ‘As One’ is receiving rave reviews. What inspired you to author a book at this time?

Jim Quigley: I’ve been fascinated by leadership for a long time, and I’ve had the privilege to be in a leadership position for much of my career. Over the years, through my many conversations with C-level executives, it became clear to me that galvanizing large groups of people to work together toward a common purpose was not just a challenge for me, but it was a prevailing challenge for executive leaders.

The actual idea to write a book evolved from a conversation with Mehrdad Baghai, my co-author, where we realized that although we were thinking similarly about leadership, we were coming at it from two very different perspectives. Yet we both shared the belief that leaders from all walks of life are searching for a pragmatic and tested approach to help them realize the full potential of their people. That’s when we agreed that it was time to take a new look at collective leadership.

Mike Myatt: You say that ‘As One’ challenges conventional thinking with regard to leadership styles. Can you share your thoughts on this?

Jim Quigley: ‘As One’ is unconventional in that it has brought about a much-needed depth to the way we classify different approaches to collective leadership. Historically, management theory has tended to present a binary view of leadership—command-and-control vs. collaborative. In reality, we discovered that there are multiple styles of leadership, some or all of which may lead to more effective collaboration, depending on the situation. As One provides a leadership discourse with a rich taxonomy that captures the distinguishing features of different leader-follower models. It is also an approach that is robust in its measurement elements and both actionable and adaptable to a wide range of leadership scenarios.

Mike Myatt: You talk a lot about collective leadership – why is this important?

Jim Quigley: Collective leadership is important because in a rapidly globalizing world where technological advancements are continually redefining how we do our jobs and how we interact with each other, it is no longer possible to assume that you have the full commitment and loyalty of your people. Today, more than ever, leaders need the full commitment and engagement of their people if they are to succeed in an intensely competitive world.

Collective leadership defines how individuals, leaders, and organizations need to interact to achieve common goals. By establishing a common framework for how to work together, leaders can achieve a productive and sustainable form of engagement, creating a culture where members choose to participate in and contribute to the organization’s performance.

Mike Myatt: How has social media affected you as a CEO?

Jim Quigley: Social media has created a number of opportunities and challenges for the business community, changing the way they communicate with their customers, suppliers, and employees.

As CEO, it is incumbent on me to understand and support the new and emerging ways our teams collaborate and communicate with potential talent, each other, thought leaders, business leaders, and all of our stakeholders. It starts with awareness—for example, Deloitte has the second largest corporate presence on LinkedIn—and then moves deeper, into strategy, execution, and measuring results.

Personally, my experience with social media took a step forward this year when I started my Twitter handle (@deloitteceo) to share some thoughts on topics that are important to me and our organization.

Mike Myatt: What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?

Jim Quigley: One of the most difficult decisions the leadership team had to make was the decision to keep consulting as a service line at Deloitte when I was the CEO of the U.S. firm. The Enron scandal and the ensuing passage of Sarbanes-Oxley opened a new chapter in the accounting profession. One after another, our competitors began shedding their consulting arms due to limits placed on accounting firms’ providing consulting services to audit clients. For us, too, all signs pointed to a separation. But after a lengthy consideration, we made the difficult, strategic decision to keep consulting as part of Deloitte.

Looking back, we realize that we made the right decision. Today, consulting is a critical part of our business. Having a strong consulting practice enables us to recruit and retain diverse talent with varied expertise, which ultimately benefits all our business lines and enhances the value we deliver to clients.

Mike Myatt: What do you see as the primary role of a leader?

Jim Quigley: Leadership is an evolving discipline. Some believe leadership is about people, and leaders must develop people’s sense of belonging to their group and cultivate a strong shared identity among members of their group. Many think leadership is connected to productivity, and leaders must effectively coordinate activity so members of a group have a common interpretation about how to work together. Others think leadership is about purpose, and leaders should inspire commitment to drive people’s dedication to achieving defined goals with directional intensity.

I believe the primary role of a leader is to bring these three components together to help unleash the full potential of their people.

Mike Myatt: How has ‘As One’ affected you personally?

Jim Quigley: I’ve become an even stronger advocate of measurable data and actionable information. As One’s diagnostic provides specific metrics that leaders and organizations can assess, and the insight from this can be extremely valuable.

For example, ‘As One’ retaught me the dangers of making assumptions. In environments that appear to have common roles and large numbers of employees in common tasks, individual needs for how to be led differ. When leading large groups of people, leaders have to see the various ways their people are experiencing the environment today and understand how, given the opportunity, they would change that environment to make it be more conducive to their choosing to collaborate. Sometimes, this will involve epiphanies that can be summed up as “I was wrong about what I thought” or “my assumptions were incorrect.”

Mike Myatt: What are the biggest challenges you are facing as a leader today?

Jim Quigley: One of the key challenges I face today is maintaining our leadership position in the market. For example, to support our growth we are looking to hire 250,000 people to join our workforce over the next five years. I believe creating a uniform culture and aligning our people across borders, functions, and disciplines will be a critical component of our long-term success. That’s why I chose to invest in ‘As One’. I think through our ‘As One’ strategy, we will be able to further strengthen the commitment of our people to our brand and, most importantly, to our clients, in every single one of the 150 countries where we have a presence.

Mike Myatt: If you could give our readers advice on leadership, what would that be? Any parting thoughts?

Jim Quigley: 1) Believe in your people, 2) give them ownership and empower them to realize their full potential, 3) have a genuine interest in them and respect their ideas and how they want to be led, and 4) model the accountability and values you expect of the organization.

In the long run, these are the attributes that will enable leaders to increase employee engagement and create an environment where their people are proud to be a part of the organization and are fully and wholeheartedly committed to its goals and success.

Final Thoughts: After reading this interview, it should come as no surprise why Deloitte is so successful. Jim is a great leader with a strong vision. He values his people and is committed to fulflling Deloitte’s brand promise. Please leave your questions/comments for Jim below – He’s a social media guy so I’m sure he’ll respond…

Disclosure: Deloitte is a client.

CEO Profile: Brad Smith, Intuit

By Mike Myatt, Chief Strategy Officer, N2growth

Brad Smith, CEO, IntuitBrad Smith is the President and CEO of Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU). Intuit is a leading provider of financial management, tax, and online banking solutions with more than $3 billion in annual revenue, and more than 8,000 employees.  While Brad is well known for his strong commitment to innovation, and is worthy of praise for his leadership and stellar performance alone (Intuit has consistently produced double-digit organic growth with expenses growing slower than revenue), it was my personal interaction with him that prompted me to author today’s post…In an era where CEOs seem to be column-fodder for media rants and public scorn, Brad Smith is a true breath of fresh air.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know that I am a strong proponent of CEOs taking a personal interest in their business and its customers, and Brad Smith certainly fits this definition. My interaction with Brad started as a result of my sending an email to him in order to bring to his attention an unsatisfactory customer service interaction I experienced when dealing with his company. In less than 24 hours, I had a personal exchange with Brad, a senior member of his executive team (kudos to Anthony Marino), and a member of his management team as well. Not only was the issue in question resolved to my complete satisfaction, but what amazed me even more, was that Brad and his team used their interaction with me to gain insight into how they could improve their customer service and their business process…This is a CEO who doesn’t just throw around customer-centricity as a buzzword, Brad Smith is a CEO who actually walks the walk.  

Prior to Brad and his team responding to me in the manner in which they did, I was going to take my business elsewhere. However after my interaction with Intuit leadership and management, not only will my business remain with them, but they have earned my respect and endorsement as well.

Here’s the take-away: If the CEO of a $3 billion dollar company can make a rapid response to a customer need by taking a personal interest in doing the right thing, then so can all other CEOs. The difference between Brad Smith and other CEOs is that he actually does what others talk about, but fail to follow through on. Brad Smith is a CEO who stands behind his word, does the right thing, and brilliantly represents the Intuit brand promise.   

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