Two leadership thoughts:

“The best leader is the one that can be replaced. When that leader disappears for a time, the team continues on successfully. That leader created a team of leaders, who’s long term goals and team dynamics supersede any leader”.  (Me: Reflecting on the fact that the truly strong leader should not look at this fact as ‘I can be replaced easily’, but as ‘I built an amazing team’.

“He was not a bad leader because of the decisions he made. He was a bad leader because he did not make decisions”  1st Sgt. commenting on Lt. Dike, Band of Brothers, Episode 6.

Band of Brothers is one of the greatest war movies (It is actually a 10 part series) ever made for so many reasons. It shows the sacrifice that these men made, the people speaking in the episodes are actual survivors and it is based on facts. These are true heroes and when my boys are old enough, I will sit down with them and watch this end to end. Our youth should know from where their freedom came.

It also provides very interesting perspectives on leadership. There are many leaders in the series, really bad ones and many ‘quiet’ leaders. The most notable is the leader who moves from platoon, to company to battalion leader through humility, strength of character and a clear belief that he would not send men to do that which he would not do himself – he lead by example.

The concept of quiet leadership is tackled in a Best of HBR collection: Stealth Leadership. In every article they focus on the perseverance of the quiet leader who leads continued change and growth. This is a marked shift from the towers of industry and ‘heroic’ nature of leadership that business articles and the media industry often shove upon us. As they state in the preface:

“What comes to mind when you think of inspiring leaders? Heroes taking action amid heart stopping crisis? Towering figures on a white horse … If so, get ready to adjust your sights. Too many charismatic CEOs eventually fail to sustain their organizations greatness …  the model for quiet, modest leadership is just as rigorous – if not more so. These heroes give people the respect and freedom they need to excel, within a highly disciplined code of conduct. They motivate people through exacting standards, not charisma. They are “tempered radicals” who lead through example and seek power through collaboration, not confrontation”

One of the articles (We Don’t Need Another Hero: Joseph L. Badaracco, Jr.) provides four rules to handle ethical challenges and make decisions:

1. Put things off tomorrow: When dilemmas escalate, buy time. It can spell the difference between success and failure. Temperatures lower, and time is made to make the right decision.

2. Pick your battles: Protect your political capital – Before taking a stand quiet leaders calculate the risk and returns to that political capital.

3. Bend the rules: Find ways to maneuver within the rules’ boundaries.

4. Find a compromise: An unwillingness to compromise may be morally principled – but it is unrealistic in most situations. Craft responsible, workable compromises.

I personally found these articles very interesting. I know that a week ago I made a mistake, I took a morale high ground when I simply should have found a compromise, despite the other person being wrong. My actions did not further my cause. As it would happen, as I reflected on these articles, the Globe&Mail published an article comparing the heroic ‘type’ leadership of Carly Fiorina and the quiet operational leadership of HP’s new CEO, Hurd. Some interesting facts to ponder, as they relate to leadership:

Reputation: Fiorina: Celebrity CEO. Hurd: Boring ops guy

Claim to fame: Fiorina: Lead the acquisition of Compaq (Which many still wonder about).   Hurd: Drove efficiency at NCR, growing profits 5X.

Leadership style: Fiorina: Jetsetter who bought 2 corporate jets while in the middle of corporate layoffs. Showed up at CES (Consumer Electronics Show) with Matt Damon and Gwen Stefani; big spotlight seeker.  Hurd is laser focused, having cut 15K HP jobs within months of taking the job. He did not go to CES and shares the spotlight with senior managers to demonstrate new accountability. Hurd’s trademark quote: “You want to go to where the puck is going, not where it has been”.

Accolades: Fiorina: Fortune’s most powerful woman in business, for 6 years. Track record at HP is questionable.   Hurd: When he left NCR to go to HP, NCR shares fell 13%.

An interesting quote on Fiorina from Winners and Losers 2005 : Fiorina (Loser):   “For much of her career, Carly Fiorina’s fans were singing “nobody does it better.” But by the end, they were drowned out by the critics singing “you’re so vain,” accusing the former CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co. of spending too much time in front of the cameras instead of executing the board’s strategy. She was ousted in February, while HP’s stock was down two-thirds from its peak in 2000.”

It would appear that the glory seeking leader is bound to fail while the truly great leader builds a great team, puts them up high and succeeds with the group.

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