Governor Christie: Leadership Begins With A Look In The Mirror

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

Will no one rid me of this meddlesome priest?

Legend – as well as Shakespeare — has it that Henry II said something to this effect in fit of pique directed toward his one-time good friend and loyal civil servant Thomas a Becket, the archbishop of Canterbury. The King was vexed over Becket’s refusal to subjugate church authority to the state and Henry sought to limit Becket’s influence. In time, Henry’s henchmen travel to Canterbury thinking they are doing the King a favor and slay Becket in the cathedral.

I cite Henry’s behavior frequently in my coaching with senior executives as a means of cautioning them to watch their words. Its theme resonates today in the unfolding drama of Governor Chris Christie and traffic jams near the Fort Lee entrance to the George Washington Bridge. At the moment it appears as if loyal aides conjured up the traffic jam as a means of getting back at the mayor of Fort Lee who was not a supporter of the governor in his re-election bid last fall. One of whom, Bridget Anne Kelly, his deputy, has been axed.

 

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Give the Gift of Time

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

Marissa Mayer is in trouble.  Information recently spilled through the Yahoo firewall that she is habitually late.  Evidently she has the tardy gene, a degenerative marker that becomes symptomatic with a little authority and can become chronic with a lot.

She is not alone; many bosses do things they shouldn’t when they can. In fact, more authority makes many people less responsible.  But to be fair, managing time is a difficult task that increases exponentially with each promotion.  Regardless, senior executives who cannot manage themselves are incredibly disruptive to their organizations and the best leaders work hard to get it right.

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What the NFL can learn from a Civil War Soldier

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

“Beware how you take away hope from another human being.”Oliver Wendell Holmes

This week, the Miami Dolphins stole headlines from their NFL competitors.  Unfortunately for the league, the Dolphins, and the rest of us, the way their players talk and not the way they play invited the scrutiny. Words are unique to the human condition and the thread that connects us to this quilt of humanity.  The right words strengthen; the wrong words fray.

The problem became public when a player left the team after a more experienced player and designated leader spoke, wrote, and broadcasted words that were both demeaning and threatening.  A handful of players and observers have reminded those who sit outside the lines that theirs is a warrior’s world where toughness matters and where words like those are just part of the language of toughness.

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8 Ways To Spot Great Leadership

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

If you ever wonder why we’re in a crisis of leadership all you have to do is to watch and listen to those in positions of leadership. While there are clearly many aspects of leadership that must work together in harmony in order for leaders to be effective, everything breaks down when leaders don’t understand how to engage effectively.

Let’s start with what leadership is not: Leadership is not a monologue, a speech, a lecture or a filibuster. Leadership is not talking at or over people. Leadership is not sequestered, does not live in a bubble or operate in a vacuum. Leadership is not exclusive or arrogant. Leadership is not about the leader.

 

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The Silent CEO Addiction Killing Productivity And Talent Development

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

Corporate America’s dependency on consulting firms is nothing short of substance abuse in the purest form. The fact is most CEOs suffer from this very dangerous addiction and they don’t even know it – they are clearly in need of an intervention.

Addicts don’t often admit they have a problem. They tend to rationalize and justify their behavior as normal. Here’s the thing – normal doesn’t always mean admirable or correct. In fact, normal most often means mediocre. Just as addicts are in constant search of a quick fix, misguided CEOs are in search of a perceived easy solution. It’s easier to throw money at the symptom rather than do the work to solve the problem. Don’t look for the easy solution – look for the correct solution.

 

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Hey Congress! 4 Ways To Break A Stalemate

By John Baldoni
Chair, Leadership Development, N2growth

“Creating an undesired stalemate is the height of stupidity.”

This anonymous quote sums up how many feel about the political stalemate that has shut down the federal government.  The American people are frustrated, and even downright angry, that representatives they elected – and pay for through their taxes – act more like middle-school brats than responsible adults. Anger aside, the real question is: what do we do next?

 

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A Crisis Of Leadership – What’s Next?

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

* This column was originally published on Forbes.com

While today’s column could focus solely on the government shutdown or various components thereof, a lack of leadership isn’t just a problem in the United States; it’s a global problem. It’s also much more than an indictment on global politics; it’s a systemic problem that pervades every level of society. I don’t think there’s much debate the world is ensnarled in a crisis of leadership. The question becomes what do we do about it?

 

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If it’s Stupid, It’s not our Policy!

By Brian Layer
Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

When I’d consider following someone down a dangerous path in my formative years, my Mother would ask: “Would you jump off a cliff just because he did?” More than once, I earned a lecture about thinking for myself and leading others up the high road.  As a young leader, I translated that lesson into a phrase I picked up in the Army: “If it’s stupid, it’s not our policy!”

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CEO Term Limits: Good Soundbite — Bad Idea

By Mike Myatt
Chairman, N2growth 

The noise around CEO term limits is loud enough, and the debate contentious enough, I felt the topic worthy of practical examination. There’s no denying every chief executive has an expiration date. There should also be no argument that prudent planning should take place around the inevitable. But never should said date of expiry be arbitrarily defined – it should be made in the moment based on the facts at hand.

 

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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.

Thoughts?

Flattery and Manipulation

Flattery and Manipulation

Flattery and Manipulation

By Mike Myatt, Chief Executive Officer, N2growth

All leaders have blind spots, and blind spots simply pose potential areas of vulnerability. However not all blind spots are created equal. Few things create areas of risk for leaders like their own sense of pride and ego. Here’s the thing –  a leader’s desire to have their ego stroked makes them vulnerable to a very seductive form of manipulation – flattery.

The most common form of manipulation comes packaged in the form of flattery – it’s also the most dangerous. The veil of most “hidden” agendas are also typically cloaked in flattery. The insidious nature of flattery is that it becomes most powerful when it is served to those who thirst for it. Leaders who place their need for adoration and acclaim above serving the needs of others are high value targets for those who would abuse the misplaced trust given to them. If you take one thing away from this post it should be this – the power that comes with a leader’s ability to positively influence others is only trumped by the power given away as they are adversely influenced by others. In the text that follows I’ll share my thoughts on what has been the silent assassin of many a leader – flattery.

The problem with the old saying that “flattery will get you everywhere” is that those with less than pure intentions not only believe it, they act on it. The lazy, the power hungry, the greedy, the gravy-trainers, the psychopaths and sociopaths all understand that flattery is not harmless. Quite to the contrary, these soothsayers understand that flattery has the power to influence, corrupt, undermine and deceive – they wield flattery as a lethal weapon against the undiscerning. Manipulation in the form of flattery is little more than a covert form of aggression.

Before I go any further it is important to understand that praise and flattery, while often used interchangeably, are not synonymous. “Praise” is most commonly defined as: the expression of favorable judgment or sincere appreciation. “Flattery” is most commonly defined as: excessive and insincere praise. The naïve, the needy, the impressionable or the ego-centric view flattery as genuine praise. Discerning people understand flattery to be disingenuous, false praise motivated by an agenda.

Here’s the thing – In times past it was a bit easier to discern authentic praise from false praise because the methods by which relationships were constructed was different. We used to build our relationships slowly and carefully based upon personal history and experience. Trust was earned over time through personal observations of a person’s character, actions and decisions. Ah, the good ole days…

In today’s digital world speed has influenced every aspect of our lives – perhaps most notably how we build our relationships and who we grant access to. If you examine the speed at which people build their friends, fans, followers, and connections on social networks, and how they market themselves and their companies using social media, you’ll find many seem to be in a race to include as many people into their spheres of influence as possible. The only barrier to entry for inclusion in most people’s networks today seems to be that they are polite. Let me be clear – I have nothing against polite behavior so long as it’s not accompanied by a hidden agenda…

How often have you received adulation from the overly effusive in the form of an email, blog comment, tweet or Facebook message from someone you hardly know, and how does that make you feel? Do you trust them? Do you trust their motives? It’s as if the currency of social networking is rapidly becoming flattery – it should be trust. I’m not interested in flattery, but sincerity. It was Socrates who said, “Think not those faithful who praise thy words & actions but those who kindly reprove thy faults.” What leaders need to become cognizant of is that flattery comes with the territory. The more influence you have, the more you’ll be prone to attract flattery. The question is, can you discern fact from fiction and can you handle it?

I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Martin Luther: “The ears of our generation have been made so delicate by the senseless multitude of flatterers that, as soon as we perceive anything of ours in not approved of, we cry out that we are being bitterly assailed; and when we can repel the truth by no other pretence, we escape by attributing bitterness, impatience, intemperance, to our adversaries.” Things really haven’t changed too much have they?

Now it’s your turn to shower me with praise, flatter my ego, rebuke my thinking or challenge my logic – leave your comments below…

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