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Jeffrey Pfeffer
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Jeffrey Pfeffer

Jeffrey Pfeffer is the Thomas D. Dee II Professor of Organizational Behavior at the Graduate School of Business, Stanford University, and author of the Sept. 2010 book, POWER: Why Some People Have it and Others Don’t.

Santa for CEO

Santa Claus has many characteristics of a great leader. First of all, he is happy. Research shows that emotions are contagious. In a time of fear and stress because of economic conditions, and when employee disengagement and distrust are at horrific levels, having an upbeat, positive leader is a great thing. The growing positive psychology movement shows how important it is for leaders to praise and boost others' spirits.

Second, his two-level evaluation system is wonderful. Performance evaluations have gotten way too complicated, and provide only specious precision. In interdependent systems, can you really evaluate people's performance precisely on a fiive or seven-point scale? Santa figures there is basically one decision to be made -- in or out (naughty or nice). He doesn't overcomplicate things and focuses on the most important distinction: Are you helping or hurting the place?

Third, Santa actually does something that few companies seem to do today--he fills positions based on job-relevant qualifications, not on the ability to curry favor with the boss or on other, irrelevant characteristics such as race, gender, or sexual orientation. Rudolph gets to guide the sleigh because he can light the way, not because of appearance or seniority.

And finally, Santa recognizes something that Mattel, among others failed to: He delivers toys to children, who may put them in their mouths, chew on them, and so forth. Therefore he is actually concerned about the integrity of his supply chain and the quality of his products. No lead paint, toxic plastics, and who knows what else for him. In the trade-off between cost and quality, Santa has recognized that one child's death or illness is one too many, not just for the poor kid but also for Santa's brand image.

All in all, Santa is seems to be a lot smarter than the overpaid CEOs who are delivering products, even pharmaceuticals and food, with unknown and possibly toxic ingredients and who think that good management is "mean" or "tough" management.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer

 |  December 22, 2008; 10:12 AM ET
Category:  Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Santa Claus is YOU!

Posted by: demtse | December 23, 2008 7:05 AM
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