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Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis

Warren Bennis is University Professor and Distinguished Professor of Business at the University of Southern California. His newest book is 'Still Surprised: A Memoir of a Life in Leadership.'

Understanding the stakeholders

Q: One of the key findings the 2010 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government survey is that worker satisfaction is more profoundly affected by perceptions of top management than by their immediate supervisor. What lessons can top leaders in the public and private sector glean from this?

The key lesson for both public and private leaders is the significance of an in-depth understanding of their clogged cartography of stakeholders. For federal leaders especially, the media have to be among the top 5% of stakeholder salience. Why? Because their employees hear or see or learn about them, 24/7, just about every day in the press or on TV or on the internet.

Most private leaders-Corporate America, for example, even those who lead huge public corporations such as GE or GM, have employees who may not even know their name, let alone, the name of their non-executive chairman. You can be assured that their direct supervisor's name will not be found on Page One of the Charlotte Observer or the Orange County Register.

But a State Department officer in Mumbai or Geneva or a Treasury Department officer in Prague may read about Secretary Clinton or Geithner in their regional newspaper or, more likely, on the internet.

At the same time, it is also true that savvy private sector leaders are paying more attention to the media, hiring more "reputation managers" or those with similarly abstruse PR titles. They are a new breed of flacks whose main job is media management. This is the stuff they don't teach you at the Harvard Business School or my business school, for that matter.

The lesson for private leadership is that media will play an increasingly important role, or should, in their stakeholder cartography. The more conflated private and public ownership become (TARP is just the beginning) the more power will accrue to the media. For a recent example, just look at the increased, and long overdue, attention the media are giving to executive compensation.

By Warren Bennis

 |  August 31, 2010; 10:16 AM ET
Category:  A leader's team , Accomplishing Goals , Leadership Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
Previous: Provide a narrative for your organization | Next: Middle managers just as critical as senior leaders

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