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Yash Gupta
Business School Dean

Yash Gupta

Yash Gupta is Professor and Dean of The Johns Hopkins Carey Business School.

Who's running the show?

Q: Like many leaders, George Bush relied on trusted advisors like Karl Rove for advice and strategy. How can a leader draw the line between receiving good advice and being overly influenced by a strong advisor?

A leader must be able to depend on a group of smart and opinionated people for advice. That's why a U.S. president has his cabinet. Even within his more informal "kitchen cabinet" of advisers, there might be one or two who particularly have the president's ear. For example, John Kennedy often leaned on his brother Robert, while Franklin Roosevelt turned to Harry Hopkins, who was sometimes known as FDR's "Deputy President."

Still, a leader courts risk by depending too much on one person's advice. A single adviser, however trusted, can't be relied on to have expertise in every area. What's more, if people perceive that the adviser has too much input, then the reputation and the effectiveness of the person in the leadership position could suffer irreparable damage. People can ask, "Who exactly is running the show?" The leader also risks losing the contributions of his other advisers, who might feel that their input is not valued and is therefore not worth offering.

JFK's handling of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962 is perhaps a textbook case in regard to this question. He met often with his various advisers during the 13 days of the crisis and weighed everyone's advice, but he left no doubt that he was making the decisions and taking the responsibility for them. In any organization, that's where the ultimate responsibility and accountability should reside: at the top.

By Yash Gupta

 |  March 5, 2010; 12:06 PM ET
Category:  A leader's team Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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