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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

THE QUESTION

Over the Hill or Just Overlooked?

The perennially mediocre Arizona Cardinals made this year's Super Bowl in large part because its coach, Ken Whisenhunt, picked 37-year-old Kurt Warner -- a former superstar widely considered to be washed up -- to be the team's quarterback.

Do leaders too often ignore experienced but under-performing talent in their organizations and, if so, why? How do you identify the good comeback prospects and help them to pick up their game?

Posted by Ben Bradlee and Steve Pearlstein on January 25, 2009 8:37 PM
FROM THE PANEL
Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.)

Reconnecting Lost Talent

Leaders need to encourage experienced but underperforming talent to "rejoin" the team. In some cases, all that is required is an invitation, or simply asking, " What do you think?"

Posted by Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.), on January 29, 2009 12:26 PM
Norm R. Augustine

Warner the Exception

When it comes to aging under-performers, my experience is that such individuals, unlike fine wines, rarely improve with age.

Posted by Norm R. Augustine, on January 29, 2009 12:21 PM

How the Army Does It

The U.S. Army offers an example of how to motivate older, experienced workers by appealing to their ideals, offering them meaningful work, and communicating that their work is valued.

Posted by Col. Charles D. Allen, on January 27, 2009 12:41 PM

Keen Eye, Good Choices

On paper, the Cardinals have no business being in the Super Bowl, but many more gifted squads and athletes in the NFL will be sitting home watching them on Sunday. The credit goes to Whisenhunt, and leaders can learn from his playbook.

Posted by John R. Ryan, on January 27, 2009 11:13 AM
Michael Useem

Listen to the Team

Who can best evaluate leadershhip potential? According to research, it is a person's subordinates -- not the boss.

Posted by Michael Useem, on January 27, 2009 8:41 AM

Coaching Up Underperformers

Think of the 57-year-old pilot who saved almost 160 lives by his careful maneuvering of his aircraft into the Hudson River. Before last week, most aviation experts would have doubted that a rookie pilot was capable of such an accomplishment.

Posted by Warren Bennis, on January 26, 2009 4:47 PM
Clarence Otis

Talent Management

Most people go through cycles of performance during their careers, with periods of high performance followed by periods of average or even below average performance.

Posted by Clarence Otis, on January 26, 2009 4:12 PM

Recycling Employees

American business leaders have tended to think of employees as disposable, not recyclable, commodities. If an employee stops "working right," they throw him or her out and get a new person.

Posted by Joanne B. Ciulla, on January 26, 2009 3:50 PM
Yash Gupta

Defining Life Experiences

Don't be fooled by a person's short resume: He or she still might have made many career and life choices that show commitment, understanding and a capacity to learn, grow and lead.

Posted by Yash Gupta, on January 26, 2009 2:16 PM
Ed Ruggero

Age-Defying Quarterback

Choosing 37-year-old Kurt Warner as the Cardinals quarterback demonstrates Coach Whisenhunt's ability see far beyond age in sports.

Posted by Ed Ruggero, on January 26, 2009 1:50 PM
Michael Maccoby

Losers and Winners

It is all in the context-- a person can seem inept in one situation and brilliant in another.

Posted by Michael Maccoby, on January 26, 2009 11:34 AM
Bill Shore

True Team Player

For the Steelers, success has been less about elevating any one player to team leader and more about forging individuals into a selfless, seamless unit that shuns the notion of individual recognition.

Posted by Bill Shore, on January 26, 2009 11:22 AM

A Coach's Instinct

Choosing the best quarterback is only one of the many things an NFL coach must do well if he wants to dream of bringing his team to the Super Bowl.

Posted by Gen. Monty Meigs (Ret.), on January 26, 2009 10:57 AM

When Newer Isn't Better

When Apple launched its first personal digital assistant in 1993, it saw the future -- but just a little too soon. Warner shows the "bright young thing" is not always the best choice.

Posted by Roger Martin, on January 25, 2009 11:38 PM
William C. Taylor

Elbow Grease

Coach Whisenhunt chose substance over sizzle, hard-won experience over youthful exuberance, discipline over star power. That choice led the Cardinals to the big game--and I hope it leads CEOs to rethink some of their decisions about whom they rely on in tough times.

Posted by William C. Taylor, on January 25, 2009 11:29 PM
Marty Linsky

Hard To Say Good-bye

In most professional realms, non-succession plans seem to be a bigger problem than failing to recognize that there is still some life in the old folks.

Posted by Marty Linsky, on January 25, 2009 11:21 PM
Howard Gardner

Tricky Equation

Derek Bok, Charles de Gaulle, An Wang, Kurt Warner -- sometimes it's your moment to shine, and sometimes its not. The tricky part is figuring out when.

Posted by Howard Gardner, on January 25, 2009 9:30 PM

Why Stars Are Hard to Pick

Finding talent is harder than you think, in part because we pay too much attention to how people present themselves, rather than how they actually perform.

Posted by Jeffrey Pfeffer, on January 25, 2009 9:09 PM
Andy Stern

Holistic Success

Talent is not always about top performance; it's also about team work and finding that person who makes the needed difference.

Posted by Andy Stern, on January 25, 2009 9:01 PM
David Walker

Find the Right Fit

Being a leader means matching your people to the needs of your organization, and that's exactly what Coach Whisenhunt did.

Posted by David Walker, on January 25, 2009 8:50 PM
Walter F. Ulmer, Jr.

Think Long-Term

Overlooking talent is easy. Sorting the really solid performers from those who deliver a few spectacular results for brief while is tough.

Posted by Walter F. Ulmer, Jr., on January 25, 2009 8:45 PM

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FEATURED COMMENTS

steve_j: As a displaced washington suburbanite I remember George Allen's Over-The-Hill gang. Talk about the use of under performing experienced talen...

ptewell: All these opinions are good for what value you may place in them. Has anyone noticed the authors' backgrounds who are offering an angle?? So...

knjon353: Okay, remember the movie the Blues Brother? Jake and Elwood has the same thing in common with Kurt Warner, "They are on a Mission from God"!...

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