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Exploring Leadership in the News with Steven Pearlstein and Raju Narisetti

Raju Narisetti

Raju Narisetti

Raju Narisetti, a Managing Editor at The Washington Post, is a former founding editor of Mint, a business newspaper in India. Previously, he blogged as A Romantic Realist.

The Necessity of U-Turns

The question reminds me of a quote attributed to General Douglas MacArthur: "We are not retreating--we are advancing in another direction."

Leadership is all about adjusting--wisely and swiftly--to overwhelming evidence or changes in external environment that have altered what were once solid underpinnings of a clearly articulated strategy. I would argue that leaders who aren't aware of the need to constantly test their roadmap against reality, not whimsically but carefully, run the risk of leading the organization astray.

Of course in a situation like a war--especially a war against terrorism--it is impossible to say for sure that the sands won't shift again. But that is why leaders get paid the big bucks or why we elect certain people to lead our country.

In most cases, when the tactics have to radically change, the real challenge is to make sure the troops you lead--in an organization or a country--understand that the end-goal hasn't changed. In the face of what might look like a U-turn, it is critical to communicate early and clearly on what has changed (tactics/approaches) and what hasn't (the goal.) Of course, there are times when the goal itself has changed, in which case rearticulating a new strategy for the organization and communicating that is key, even if it means a leader takes a short-term hit in credibility in some quarters.

How successful the leader is in managing this shift really boils down to how effectively she can communicate the need for this shift. Not every employee--and sometimes even some senior executives--will be convinced of the need for this shift, so leaders should be prepared for some debate, just as they should be prepared to lose some followers as they lead the organization in a new direction. And true leaders aren't really tested unless they have faced a U-turn or two in their lives.

By Raju Narisetti

 |  September 22, 2009; 5:52 AM ET
Category:  Wartime Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: No Downside to Greed | Next: Boldly Reconsidering


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If the hypothetical leader you are talking about happens to be Obama, he has to be wise enough to realize Afghanistan is a lost cause.

He then has to be courageous and brave enough to tell the generals/admirals to go stuff it.

He then has to take the political risk to put up with taunts in some quarters that he sold out.... that he is wimp who cuts and run. Is Obama up to the task?

Posted by: alance | September 22, 2009 9:06 PM
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Good to see you are back! I enjoyed listening to you on BBC occasionally. Cant wait for your insights into the economic see-saw..:)

Posted by: RandomGuy | September 22, 2009 1:52 PM
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