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Archive: Crisis leadership

Bring critics into the fold

When conditions have deteriorated to the point at which constituencies simply will no longer accept the status quo, you either offer concessions or have them taken from you...

By Robert Goodwin | February 23, 2011; 05:46 PM ET | Comments (7)

Crush the rebellion or leave

When a country's leaders have established this type of relationship with citizens, the choices are simple. Crush the rebellion, or leave the country. Many of the strategies that might be available in more representative governments (like negotiation, compromise or gradual accommodation) are out of reach...

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.) | February 23, 2011; 11:27 AM ET | Comments (6)

Two ways to stay in power

Autocrats like Saddam Hussein and Josef Stalin stayed in power by following Machiavelli's advice that it is better for a prince to be feared than loved...

By Michael Maccoby | February 22, 2011; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (7)

How to build democracy

The best way to hold onto power without destroying a country with political upheaval is to hush those who speak against you while covering the ears of others before they hear what is going on...

By Coro Fellows | February 22, 2011; 12:36 PM ET | Comments (17)

Dear Sultan or King or Your Highness

No one knows, with any certitude, how long such advances take; especially so for a royal dynasty or a charismatic dictatorship. If any of your advisors tell you they know, fire them...

By Warren Bennis | February 22, 2011; 10:35 AM ET | Comments (4)

There's no good strategy

The only question for such a leader is how much more do you value yourself and your hold on power than you value...

By Marshall Goldsmith | February 22, 2011; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (9)

The compulsion to stay in power

The situations of such power-made potentates has a parallel to self-made entrepreneurs who once having built a business and a fortune have difficulty handing off control to others...

By John Baldoni | February 22, 2011; 10:26 AM ET | Comments (4)

What you get when you give power away

Not that we want any of the autocrats to retain state power. They should all consider packing their carry-on bags for a one-way trip to the Maldives. But if they had wanted create a reputational power...

By Ken Adelman | February 22, 2011; 10:20 AM ET | Comments (1)

Tough it out

If you want to hold onto power as an autocrat, you have no choice but to 'tough it out.' In the long run, you or your descendants will be overthrown...

By Howard Gardner | February 22, 2011; 10:09 AM ET | Comments (12)

Democracy will be met

An ayatollah or a Gaddafi will hold onto power because he is ruthless enough to shoot his own people in the streets in the name of a real ideology, perverted as it may be...

By Slade Gorton | February 22, 2011; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (3)

A new narrative for Egypt

President Mubarak is a symbol of Egypt's old, repressive government--one that the people want to do away with entirely. His narrative of autocratic and unquestioned rule has been found wanting by the people and...

By Rice University Undergraduate Leaders | February 2, 2011; 04:33 PM ET | Comments (4)

A national symbol of oppression

In pursuit of security and stability in the Middle East, the U.S. has traditionally turned a blind eye to autocratic rule as long as it did not...

By Robert Goodwin | February 2, 2011; 03:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

It's impossible to change direction without support

We're operating in a complex, uncertain environment, and effective leadership today requires embracing change, not resisting it...

By Susan Peters | February 2, 2011; 03:18 PM ET | Comments (1)

Authority does not equal leadership

Ultimately, the authority to lead comes from those who choose to follow. When there is a loss of trust...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | February 1, 2011; 03:25 PM ET | Comments (6)

It's not smart to act as though you're indispensable

The longstanding culture can't be altered overnight, even if many new faces are added. The same old boss will be running the show...

By Yash Gupta | February 1, 2011; 02:11 PM ET | Comments (1)

The future for Egypt could look grim

The danger for Egypt, the Middle East and U.S. interests is that the explosive demand for human rights will result in a religious dictatorship even more repressive than...

By Michael Maccoby | February 1, 2011; 02:06 PM ET | Comments (3)

What Mubarak ignored at his peril

It's hard to see how the case of Egypt, where a giant, explosive divide exists between the wealthy elite and the newly energized masses, will...

By John R. Ryan | February 1, 2011; 10:46 AM ET | Comments (3)

Four obstacles for Mubarak

If there is a system where people have been repressed, unemployment is high and emotions have been smoldering, then the pressure builds; and when the cork is pulled out, it is very hard to put it back in...

By Deborah Ancona | February 1, 2011; 10:39 AM ET | Comments (1)

Mubarak's chance for better legacy

As Einstein said, "No problem can be solved from the same consciousness that created it," and such is the case with Mubarak...

By Alaina Love | February 1, 2011; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (4)

Leadership: Part action, part perception

Although President Mubarak may still hold the 'formal' authority of his role, it's informal authority that is now at stake...

By Amy Fraher | February 1, 2011; 10:27 AM ET | Comments (2)

Egypt needs a new leader

No way can a leader lousy for 30 years become someone poised for greatness in the future...

By Ken Adelman | February 1, 2011; 10:21 AM ET | Comments (4)

Strong leaders know when it's time to change

If a leader is the problem, he must step aside. This is hard for an autocrat to do because his view of self is linked to the destiny of...

By John Baldoni | February 1, 2011; 10:12 AM ET | Comments (9)

Power to the people

Perhaps Kanye West can claim to be the voice of this generation. It seems the often-maligned rapper was peering into the future when he wrote, in his most recent album, that "no one man should have all that power"--a mantra taken up, at least in spirit, by the millions of Egyptians protesting...

By Coro Fellows | February 1, 2011; 07:46 AM ET | Comments (3)

Managing anger and fear

Somehow it's become accepted to publicly manifest one's anxiety, especially through anger. This is not to say that we won't face significant challenges in the years that lie ahead, but giving way to fear is the first self-indulgent step toward giving up...

By West Point Cadets | January 12, 2011; 06:43 PM ET | Comments (4)

What's your piece of the mess?

Hyperbolic politicians and the media and gun laws may or may not have contributed, Best as I can tell, we are already into heavy demonizing of "the other" in the aftermath of the tragedy...

By Marty Linsky | January 11, 2011; 07:29 PM ET | Comments (1)

Making the case for civility

The Tucson tragedy is at least a momentary reset in the super-heated discussion in Washington. The truth is that no one knows what the long-run impact is going to be, and everyone is scrambling to find the right note...

By Donald Kettl | January 11, 2011; 07:22 PM ET | Comments (3)

Our role in this tragedy

Our pattern seems to be a brief awakening during a crisis, at which time we are startled and sickened by the horror of what happened, but then we soon return to a semi-conscious state that serves to distance us from...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | January 11, 2011; 07:10 PM ET | Comments (3)

It's hard to be hopeful

I am still waiting for a talk show host or politician of any political persuasion to say, "I think my rhetoric has been excessive and...

By Howard Gardner | January 11, 2011; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (3)

Respect the rights of those who serve us

Judged by what passes for political discourse--with partisans on both sides hurling invectives--it would be tempting to blame extreme partisanship for the tragedy. That would...

By John Baldoni | January 11, 2011; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

The brave: Salvatore Giunta

Staff Sergeant Salvatore A. Giunta represents the potential in all of us to take actions than transcend our self-interest when the moment requires the best from us...

By Michael Useem | December 22, 2010; 05:38 PM ET | Comments (2)

The U.S. auto revivers: Alan Mulally and Ed Whitacre

The two of them deserve enormous credit for restoring America's automobile industry, just when it appeared that American-owned auto companies were a thing of the past. They are doing it "the old-fashioned way": not with short-term moves and...

By Bill George | December 22, 2010; 04:24 PM ET | Comments (7)

The helpful hands: You and your neighbor?

here were those who helped people trapped under rubble. There were those who helped organize others to find water, set up shelters and care for new orphans. There were...

By Deborah Ancona | December 22, 2010; 03:20 PM ET | Comments (1)

The community rebuilders: Linetta Gilbert and Kelly Lucas

I have two nominees with whom I have had the privilege of working; both are professionals in the field of philanthropy. They are profiles in leadership and capture the vision, passion, courage, skill and tenacity needed to bring about real community change...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | December 22, 2010; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The courageous: Elizabeth Smart

Elizabeth embodies several leadership traits that we frankly do not see enough of in some of our better-known leaders in business, politics and sports. First, she has plenty to teach all of us about...

By John R. Ryan | December 22, 2010; 09:46 AM ET | Comments (1)

The sacrificers: First responders, American troops and Bill Husfelt

It has become fashionable in some circles to deride a lack of leadership. But that is to overlook the service of all the men and women who put themselves in harm's way for the benefit of...

By John Baldoni | December 20, 2010; 04:17 PM ET | Comments (3)

The mitigators: David Cameron and Nick Clegg

Protesters might terrify formal-attired Camilla and Charles. But even that turned out fine. With budgets being slashed, there's no way to avoid such resistance--whether from students with scant tuition or from beneficiaries with lavish government handouts. But the harmony, decency and rationality of the Cameron-Clegg team...

By Ken Adelman | December 20, 2010; 04:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

The activist: Aung San Suu Kyi

Suu Kyi has spent 15 of the past 21 years under arrest for her support of democracy in Burma--and yet she has managed to serve as an inspiration for millions of...

By Susan Peters | December 20, 2010; 03:12 PM ET | Comments (0)

The protectors: Salvatore Giunta and George W. Bush

The reasons both men held the national spotlight could not have been more different, but the two figures are inextricably linked...

By Col. Charles D. Allen | December 20, 2010; 02:45 PM ET | Comments (5)

One strike and you're out

No exceptions, no matter how high your station, no matter how important you are to the organization. When you violate the fundamental rules of the institutional culture...

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | December 14, 2010; 12:46 PM ET | Comments (1)

The road to ruin

Yes, Cam Newton is an incredible football player (I love watching him play), but we must care about the total person we hold up for emulation in our society. This is about repairing, not maintaining, the moral fiber of...

By Don Vandergriff | December 13, 2010; 03:35 PM ET | Comments (0)

Losing sight of Lincoln: A mid-course resurrection to save Obama's presidency

Remember, back in 2008, when everyone compared Barack Obama to Abraham Lincoln? After he was elected president, Obama himself talked about what he was learning from the 16th president. Fast forward to today: no one is talking about those parallels. Only the most foolish among us would put Obama anywhere near the rarefied stratosphere reserved for our most revered leader.

By Nancy Koehn | December 8, 2010; 01:04 PM ET | Comments (19)

Betrayal is a potent weapon

The hardest part of all of this is that the people who supported Obama because he promised to fight for the little guy are feeling betrayed. And betrayal is a potent weapon in party politics that Republicans will cash in on...

By Kathryn Kolbert | December 8, 2010; 11:03 AM ET | Comments (5)

Obama's 'Sophie's choice'

The public should not accept such blatant manipulation or tolerate being held hostage by power plays and positional bargaining. This legislation is neither bipartisan nor optimum. Neither party achieved...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | December 8, 2010; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (2)

Playing from weakness

Obama's strength has been in the results he has won; his weakness has been in a failure to communicate his reasoning for accepting less than he has wanted...

By Michael Maccoby | December 7, 2010; 04:39 PM ET | Comments (4)

The tax cuts show progress

This is the essence of compromise, and gives us at least some hope of a constructive next year or so, perhaps even including...

By Slade Gorton | December 7, 2010; 11:56 AM ET | Comments (2)

Obama's authority is suffering

The president looks bad for making sacrifices and gestures, as with the federal wage freeze, and getting nothing in return from the Republicans. All he got was the back of their hand. Who knows. Maybe this will be the slap that...

By Yash Gupta | December 7, 2010; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (7)

Not the right deal to cut

While some compromise is necessary and should be encouraged, this "deal" does not seem reasonable from a fiscal responsibility and social equity perspective. It seems that President Obama is operating from a position of weakness and the Republicans from...

By David Walker | December 7, 2010; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (10)

Obama needs to take a stand

Obama looks like an individual without strong values for which he is willing to go to the mat--except for the value of mediation and compromise, which does not work when you occupy a role that requires decisions and the appearance of decisiveness...

By Howard Gardner | December 7, 2010; 10:02 AM ET | Comments (4)

On tax cuts, pragmatism vs. principle

The Democrats had an opportunity to tell a story about the tremendous pain that withholding the unemployment extensions could cause to millions, pain which the Republicans were willing to inflict it in order to preserve tax cuts for the wealthy. Yet the debate...

By Coro Fellows | December 7, 2010; 08:22 AM ET | Comments (14)

Compromise is king

Standing up for what you believe to be the right decision is the very definition of leadership. But standing tall for every idea you have is delusional...

By John Baldoni | December 6, 2010; 05:10 PM ET | Comments (2)

Grow up, Washington

We've become a nation of immediate gratification, which has contributed to the current economic debacle, coupled with leadership in Washington that refuses to make the very bold decisions that can right our economy again...

By Alaina Love | December 6, 2010; 04:30 PM ET | Comments (3)

Sacrifice a little now or a lot later

Both parties want to reward their wealthy contributors, who make up the "elite" and possess no real understanding of how successful nations sustain their greatness--which is by maintaining a meritocracy, where anyone with hard work and smarts can...

By Don Vandergriff | December 6, 2010; 02:59 PM ET | Comments (8)

Obama allowed himself to be politically boxed in

While the left railed against tax breaks for "billionaires," that is not what was on the table. In the end, the president had to compromise because he had staked out a position that was untenable, especially in a time that required providing families with...

By Mickey Edwards | December 6, 2010; 02:23 PM ET | Comments (8)

Equal-opportunity pain delivery

We really do not want our politicians to exercise leadership. We want them to take care of us and deliver any pain that is necessary to someone else. That's why we have...

By Marty Linsky | December 1, 2010; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (3)

The federal budget as metaphor

Our values and beliefs are embedded in the numbers, and changing the balance sheet is about changing ourselves. Balancing the budget is not just a realistic reallocation of resources; it is a metaphor for our belief about the American character...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | December 1, 2010; 09:52 AM ET | Comments (0)

We need more government sacrifice

President Obama's move to freeze federal workers' pay and soon-to-be Speaker John Boehner's jettisoning of his private plane are wise moves, but they are mostly symbolic. Our leaders need to be willing to do more and cut our spending down to the point we are just about to hit bone...

By Robert Goodwin | December 1, 2010; 09:46 AM ET | Comments (6)

Using the presidential bully pulpit

People on the Right see big government and taxes as the main threat to liberty and prosperity. On the Left, people view cutting the federal budget as a threat to the needy. It is unlikely that the president can persuade either extreme to share a common purpose. But...

By Michael Maccoby | November 30, 2010; 11:47 AM ET | Comments (0)

Slash and smile, with a stiff upper lip

No need to invent a slash-and-smile playbook. There's one already working--in Britain. David Cameron and Nick Clegg, UK prime minister and deputy, provide a shining model of economic and political leadership. In economics they're slashing everything, from momentous entitlements to emotional health centers...

By Ken Adelman | November 30, 2010; 11:39 AM ET | Comments (0)

The next Congress provides the best opportunity

The American people are conflicted between a horror of mounting debt and deficits and their desire not to have their own benefits slashed, so neither party can be successful alone...

By Slade Gorton | November 30, 2010; 11:34 AM ET | Comments (0)

Leading a moral imperative

Shared sacrifice reinforces the moral imperative of any leadership proposition. And we have a word for men and women who put themselves and their ideas forward for the good of the organization, even when it may mean they have to give up something. We call them leaders...

By John Baldoni | November 30, 2010; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Americans are starved for fiscal truth

We can do it in an intelligent and phased-in manner before a crisis is at our doorstep; or else it will have to be done in a sudden, dramatic and possibly draconian manner in the face of a crisis. The choice is ours...

By David Walker | November 30, 2010; 11:22 AM ET | Comments (0)

Obama needs to go to the mat

It is important to stress, to repeat, that in the latter years of the Clinton administration, there was actually a budget surplus. If we could have a surplus a decade ago, there is no reason in principle that we can't have one some years from now...

By Howard Gardner | November 30, 2010; 11:15 AM ET | Comments (2)

Upending conventional wisdom

It seems that at the root of the spending and tax problem is a deficiency in the behavior of the American public, deepened through citizens' misaligned expectations of their leaders...

By Coro Fellows | November 30, 2010; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (4)

A flawed process

It doesn't matter if you have served in the military, are young or old, are a former law enforcement officer, or have a top-level security clearance. When standing in the security line, everyone is treated the same--like a potential terrorist--and that, inherently, is the problem...

By Robert Goodwin | November 24, 2010; 01:50 PM ET | Comments (7)

Security isn't just a technical problem

The TSA put forth what was presumably the technically best set of procedures, one that would reduce the likelihood of a terrorist getting on an airplane to close to zero. That's their job. But in the broader picture, TSA's strategy, whatever it is, will not work unless...

By Marty Linsky | November 23, 2010; 09:18 AM ET | Comments (4)

TSA's right and responsibility

I went through security at the Kansas City airport the first day of the new policy and thought I might get a marriage proposal from the fellow from TSA who administered my search. Had I known that a change had been made, his examination would have been less alarming...

By Paul R. Portney | November 23, 2010; 07:38 AM ET | Comments (14)

Give us liberty (and, while you're at it, save us from death)!

the TSA should launch a public education campaign. Such an effort should be devoid of slick propaganda and clever slogans. Rather, I want statistics as well as evidence of nuanced thinking on the part of the decision-makers.

By Coro Fellows | November 23, 2010; 02:13 AM ET | Comments (10)

TSA's tone-deaf strategy

TSA and Homeland Security appear tone-deaf and unwilling to consider the logical next steps (proctological exam anyone?) of a security strategy that focuses on everyone and on intervention at the last possible moment...

By Jeffrey Pfeffer | November 22, 2010; 08:05 PM ET | Comments (3)

Four ways to evaluate such a big decision

There is one area in which leaders cannot reverse: integrity. You can change policy, but you cannot compromise principle. As straightforward as this seems, all too often we have seen...

By John Baldoni | November 22, 2010; 07:47 PM ET | Comments (3)

Close encounters of the unpleasant kind

TSA is in a tough spot. Every encounter with the screening process is destined to be unpleasant: inconvenient waits, intrusions into personal privacy, the risks of rude workers--all the fun of dealing with the IRS, with the awful specter of September 11 in the background as the inescapable reason for the encounter to begin with...

By Donald Kettl | November 22, 2010; 07:25 PM ET | Comments (3)

TSA--and politicians--need to make more unpopular decisions

It is the responsibility of the TSA to protect us, period. TSA leaders must be prepared to make unpopular decisions regarding our safety. Our sensitivities and complaints matter, but in this case leadership means doing something unpopular to keep us safe and fulfilling the responsibilities associated with TSA's mission...

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.) | November 22, 2010; 07:15 PM ET | Comments (10)

Let's end terrorism hysteria

Airport security should have been handled by contractors. If they did something really stupid--like groin-groping--they could be fired. Government folks can't. Plus, then government would be a step removed from glaring stupidity...

By Ken Adelman | November 22, 2010; 03:40 PM ET | Comments (11)

Not the time to backtrack

It is an appropriate decision that should not be reversed by outcries from the public. The agency should exercise courage in maintaining its important decision...

By Pablo Eisenberg | November 22, 2010; 03:36 PM ET | Comments (2)

Avoid backlash in the first place

Remember, no one likes change done to them; while most people willingly support change that they are involved in creating...

By Carol Kinsey Goman | November 22, 2010; 02:10 PM ET | Comments (2)

Get the messaging right

Placing the current, less-than-optional measures within a larger, rational context is the best way for leaders to proceed--whether they head airport security or the US government...

By Howard Gardner | November 22, 2010; 01:57 PM ET | Comments (1)

Worse than mere hubris

If one merely thinks a proposal is "a good idea" and could be helpful, it is not leadership but hubris to try to impose it against the public will. In the private sector, that bar of "necessity" is very unlikely ever to be reached...

By Mickey Edwards | November 22, 2010; 11:33 AM ET | Comments (5)

'Rapid' turnarounds can be years in the making

The fundamentals of our economy and the talent of our people are strong, but it is our debt and entitlement programs that stall our recovery and long-term profitability as a nation. As with GM, rapid turnaround can come, but it will take hard choices and the courage to reset programs like social security and Medicare...

By Robert Goodwin | November 19, 2010; 02:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

When culture eats strategy

There's a tendency in struggling organizations to focus on fixing systems and processes, as if structural repairs are all that stands between current problems and success. Certainly, GM did plenty of tinkering over the years, but it wasn't enough. That's because often it's the organizational culture--the day-to-day behaviors and beliefs and attitudes of employees at all levels--that needs changing...

By John R. Ryan | November 17, 2010; 02:35 PM ET | Comments (1)

The danger of complacency

In the army, leadership is continuously cycled. Lieutenants tend to only be a platoon leader for 15 months and then become an executive officer or take another staff position. Captains command companies for no longer than 24 months. Further, any military family can relate to the saying, "Home is where the Army sends you." This consistent leadership change keeps unit atmosphere continuously fresh, preventing complacency issues like GM had...

By West Point Cadets | November 16, 2010; 10:31 AM ET | Comments (3)

Combat insularity, confront reality

Failure to confront reality doomed General Motors, as it has many other companies. When you are really big, you tend to lose the hunger for excellence that many smaller companies have. In its early days, General Motors was a formidable competitor. It understood its customers and...

By John Baldoni | November 16, 2010; 10:18 AM ET | Comments (1)

Mapping GM's decline

It was a failure of leadership as astounding and momentous as the company's early achievement. Time will tell if the newly profitable automaker has truly overcome the last three decades of its own history and created an organization as committed to brave, effective and conscientious stewardship as the one that grabbed the industry gauntlet...

By Nancy Koehn | November 16, 2010; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (2)

Prior success is a powerful narcotic

Sometimes it takes a clear threat to organizational survival to prompt a new way of doing business that is responsive to changes outside of the company. As we have seen with General Motors before the bankruptcy, sometimes even that is not enough...

By George Reed | November 16, 2010; 10:02 AM ET | Comments (1)

The 'mechanics' of leadership

Remember when Rick Wagoner flew by private jet to DC to ask for a bailout? GM's executives ignored the seemingly obvious cost-cutting measure of reducing executive pay--something Toyota enacted without government instruction. A sense of "just" compensation--legitimate or not--prevents both union leaders and executives from making the obvious decision to cut costs...

By Coro Fellows | November 16, 2010; 12:34 AM ET | Comments (1)

GM's 'arrogance' virus

They arrogantly believed that foreign manufacturers were likely to produce lesser products that the American public wouldn't purchase. That is until Toyota came along and ate GM's lunch, Honda their breakfast and European manufacturers their dinner. By the way, GM would be wise to watch out for both Subaru and Hyundai, who are as we speak nibbling on pre-dinner hors d'oeuvres...

By Alaina Love | November 15, 2010; 05:37 PM ET | Comments (3)

Laud the White House, not Woodward Ave

A mess as big as GM's could not have been fixed this quickly without the U.S bankruptcy code that allowed GM to wipe out its debt and the millions of dollars infused into the restructured company by the Obama Administration. This took guts and calm at a time when there was no good economic news and vigorous political opposition...

By Kathryn Kolbert | November 15, 2010; 01:18 PM ET | Comments (5)

Reviving a boiled frog

It is so much easier for leaders to rally the troops in response to crisis, because the rationale for change--the "burning bridge"--is evident. But today our organizations are dealing with forces that are so dynamic and fast moving that to wait until there is proof of crisis is to respond far too late. The way that the accelerated pace of change drastically shortens response time was once explained to me in the following manner...

By Carol Kinsey Goman | November 15, 2010; 01:11 PM ET | Comments (0)

It's a problem of peer judgment

From an "electoral" perspective, Pelosi's performance could, of course, hardly have been worse: Democrats suffered a historic loss of more than 60 seats and Pelosi herself became the poster child for alleged Democratic "wrong track" ideas. But from a "legislative" perspective, Pelosi's performance was also historic in...

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | November 9, 2010; 02:30 PM ET | Comments (0)

How Pelosi is like KU's Coach Gill

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi faces a situation many authority figures face when they are linked to poor results. But Pelosi can take heart, she has a kindred spirit here in the Heartland. University of Kansas head football coach, Turner Gill, isn't a politician, but his job is political. As does Pelosi, Gill makes his living in a full-contact activity. Each also faces a growing chorus of detractors wanting...

By Ed O'Malley | November 9, 2010; 07:53 AM ET | Comments (1)

Democrats should stick with Pelosi and Reid

Both Obama and Pelosi have been effective leaders for the Democrat constituency. Neither has connected with the Republican constituency. Would other Democrats do better? Should Pelosi be replaced by a Democrat considered more centrist? The danger is that this would alienate...

By Michael Maccoby | November 8, 2010; 05:51 PM ET | Comments (10)

Hope: Version 2.0?

Question: Like U.S. presidents, military and non-profit leaders often face the equivalent of "midterm elections" in which they and their strategies are subject to an initial market test or performance evaluation. What's the first thing President Obama, or any leader,...

By Coro Fellows | November 3, 2010; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (3)

How to take feedback

It has been said that success has many fathers but failure is an orphan. A benefit of living in a democratic society is that the people have a voice. Whether or not this week's public feedback changes the makeup of our elected leadership, every leader should first take an honest look at their future plans and at the successes or failures of past performance. Behind every contentious issue is an opportunity to do...

By West Point Cadets | November 3, 2010; 01:51 PM ET | Comments (1)

Start with "what" and "why"

When plans and strategies appear to falter, the simplest questions are often the ones that are the most overlooked. "What were we trying to accomplish and why?" At the strategic level, these answers should be tied to our professed national values and the protection our U.S. security interests. The result should be a clear statement of purpose and the development of well-defined...

By Col. Charles D. Allen | November 3, 2010; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (1)

Take a deep breath

What that means for a leader is that setbacks, even those personally directed at your leadership, are not about you as a person; they are about you as a leader. You must consider such feedback or setback as a challenge. What you do after being tested is the measure of your...

By John Baldoni | November 1, 2010; 05:32 PM ET | Comments (0)

First, focus on jobs

Unfortunately, the midterm elections contain no good news for President Obama and the Democratic party. The mantra that Bill Clinton never forgot--"It's the economy, stupid"--must become President Obama's mantra as well. The disastrous losses in this midterm vote gives the White House a perfect opportunity to refocus on...

By Kathryn Kolbert | November 1, 2010; 04:19 PM ET | Comments (7)

Obama's gift of opportunity

Rather than respond defensively to unambiguously negative feedback, the first thing any organizational leader should do is to thank his evaluators for the opportunity to tackle the areas of deficiency and make things right before problems escalate to irreparable levels. Whether considering President Obama or...

By Amy Fraher | November 1, 2010; 03:28 PM ET | Comments (0)

Five ways to serve the people

Take responsibility: if your key stakeholders believe that you have made a mistake, you have made a mistake (either in strategy, communication or style). Avoid 'blaming' your stakeholders...

By Marshall Goldsmith | November 1, 2010; 03:18 PM ET | Comments (2)

Defusing our fiscal time bomb

It will be interesting to see whether President Obama and the new Congressional leadership can pivot after the elections in a manner that will allow some progress in defusing our fiscal time bomb. It clearly is in our nation's interest for them to do so, and hopefully they...

By David Walker | October 26, 2010; 09:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

What does it say about today's culture that we've idolized Don Draper?

Although Draper's inappropriate drinking, disregard for employees and sexually harassing behavior toward women would definitely get him fired in today's organizations, it is his unreflective steamroller approach to getting what he wants at any cost that would prove lethal to the organization as a whole. So why, if he is so ill suited for today's organizations, do we still find him so fascinating?

By Amy Fraher | October 19, 2010; 02:11 PM ET | Comments (10)

Short-term vs long-term success

Gov. Christie's blunt style is a relief to voters who crave certainty. Indeed he has become the consummate outsider since so many of his fellow politicians faced with difficult choices tend to obfuscate their positions or refuse to take firm stands. In the long term, Christie's haste and certainty may come to haunt...

By Kathryn Kolbert | October 15, 2010; 02:13 PM ET | Comments (1)

What can we learn from Christie?

Many Democrats, including myself, have been lulled into a begrudging respect for Christie. As much as we'd like to see new multi-billion dollar tunnels and drastic raises in education expenditures, we realize that we're no longer living in the era of the blank check, and no one can get furious...

By Coro Fellows | October 12, 2010; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (10)

Leading a divided public

I cannot imagine a leadership appeal that would unite the country. The differences are too deeply rooted in different values and economic interests. If the economy improves and many more Americans find jobs, the public may again...

By Michael Maccoby | October 12, 2010; 11:42 AM ET | Comments (2)

No time for twiddling thumbs

President Obama is now experiencing the backlash against Exaggerated Expectations. And Christie and Cameron need to do a lot more work--and have a lot more luck--before their temporary surge in popularity becomes...

By Howard Gardner | October 12, 2010; 10:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Voters don't know or care about the 'traditional process'

Currently most voters are unhappy with their lot and with the direction of the country. Accordingly, anyone in office, irrespective of what office or what they've done in office, will be on the defensive. Rest assured, no matter what they had done or not done, Fenty and Obama would be on easy street if unemployment were at 4%.

By Howard Gardner | September 15, 2010; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Obama and Fenty guilty of poor communication

Leaders are the ones who create consensus. That might sound like a contradictory phrase, but it's true; people will follow leaders who clearly explain the reasons why their proposals and programs address the public's needs and desires.

By Yash Gupta | September 14, 2010; 12:01 PM ET | Comments (6)

Obama tried to show leadership, heightened tensions

It's clear that the President felt the debate surround the Ground Zero mosque had risen to the level where his lack of a position would have communicated indifference on an issue of increasing importance to the American people. It's also clear that he felt that...

By Robert Goodwin | August 27, 2010; 08:55 AM ET | Comments (2)

Ostrich leadership at the World Trade Center

As human beings, crisis and danger can lead to fight or flight responses. Freezing up and not knowing what to do is a manifestation of flight. But part of a skilled leader's toolkit is the ability to override that response because their constituents, their organizations, and their societies need them to. People need...

By Martin Davidson | August 26, 2010; 08:51 AM ET | Comments (2)

Time is now for imam to speak on mosque

The motivation for leaders to speak varies. It might be a matter of conscience, the heat of political pressure, affiliation and loyalty to a group, an opportunity to influence, a chance to exploit the situation for personal gain, or just flagrant egotism. We have observed behavioral manifestations of all of these in the past year. The controversy over the Islamic Cultural Center and Mosque ...

By Katherine Tyler Scott | August 24, 2010; 02:54 PM ET | Comments (14)

Rejecting the politics of fear

The crisis that cries out for leadership is not about the mosque in Manhattan. It is about confronting the fear that can paralyze this country or turn fear of the future into impotent anger. We need leaders who ...

By Michael Maccoby | August 24, 2010; 12:11 PM ET | Comments (9)

Imam and Obama should defend the mosque

President Obama was right that, in America, Muslims have just as much right to a downtown place of worship as any religious group does. However, Imam Rauf's responsibility as leader requires that he be present and engaging with the same sort of calming assurance that he offered in the Fall of 2001. By remaining silent, Imam Rauf failed to take up that responsibility, and this...

By Doug Guthrie | August 24, 2010; 11:06 AM ET | Comments (11)

Defending the diversity we cherish

President Obama did the right thing in his initial comments by providing a broad overview of the issue. He essentially said: This is America, where we respect the rights of individuals, we honor the freedom to worship and the freedom to express one's views, and we revel in the diversity that has made ours a society envied the world over. The president was being fairly clear as to where he stood on the matter of the Cordoba House community center.

By Yash Gupta | August 24, 2010; 10:08 AM ET | Comments (8)

Obama did the right thing stepping in

Leadership demands that you stay true to your principles whether or not they are politically expedient. Three cheers for the President who has used the controversy to remind Americans that this country was founded on (and Constitutionally enshrined) the notion that all people have the right to practice their faith, free of government interference.

By Kathryn Kolbert | August 24, 2010; 09:42 AM ET | Comments (4)

Leaders need to involve themselves in crises

The cold hard reality of crisis management is that crises are unpredictable. Seldom do they follow a script, this means that leaders need to be active and engaged whenever called upon to do so. And they must do so with a sense of calmness and control. A leader who withdraws from the fray or seems hopelessly lost sends the worst kind of signals. This breeds fear from which no good can come.

By John Baldoni | August 24, 2010; 08:57 AM ET | Comments (2)

It's not when, but what Obama said

A leader should speak up when the matter calls for his attention, when he has a well thought out and articulated position with respect to the relevant issues, and when he has thought through the various possible reactions to his remarks and anticipated those reactions as much as possible. With respect to his remarks about the mosque, and also about the arrest of Prof. Henry Louis Gates, the problem for Pres. Obama was not a matter of timing.

By Howard Gardner | August 23, 2010; 01:43 PM ET | Comments (1)

Leading 'by any means necessary'

A "by any means necessary" approach to a complex problem is more of an example of coercion than leading.

By Katherine Tyler Scott | July 14, 2010; 02:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

Over-promising and under-delivering

Reasonable people appreciate that stopping the leak presents enormous technological challenges, and Tony Hayward would have been more credible if he set reasonable expectations.

By Gail S. Williams | June 16, 2010; 01:37 PM ET | Comments (0)

Calling captain safety

No manager should be rewarded for cutting costs at the expense of safety, whether in the private or public sector.

By Michael Maccoby | June 15, 2010; 12:52 PM ET | Comments (0)

Staying ahead of the tsunami

By not understanding the more public nature of his leadership role early on, the President allowed others to define his actions and question his leadership as "being out of touch."

By Katherine Tyler Scott | June 15, 2010; 12:39 PM ET | Comments (0)

Think before you react

What concerns me more about Obama's handling of the oil spill is that he is reacting too much to the external pressures of various interest groups without seemingly first have devised a vision for the short and long-term future of oil exploration and alternative energy

By Erika James | June 15, 2010; 12:22 PM ET | Comments (0)

Where does the buck stop?

For President Obama, it really is time to move on from not being George Bush to leading the agenda on offshore drilling and oil dependency.

By Sir Andrew Likierman | June 15, 2010; 12:09 PM ET | Comments (0)

The least-valuable-player award

A president must demonstrate that he appreciates people's problems and predicaments, that he is, in fact, one of us.

By Yash Gupta | June 15, 2010; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Who's-on-first in the Gulf

President Obama has chosen to be the national point person on the Gulf eco-catastrophe. By failing to appoint a public-sector crisis manager of national stature, the president is seen as personally responsible for the catastrophe.

By Benjamin W. Heineman, Jr. | June 15, 2010; 03:21 AM ET | Comments (2)

Why Tony Hayward should 'never complain, never explain'

Tony Hayward has done a terrible job for BP's shareholders and employees even as he has seemingly followed the conventional wisdom about dealing with disasters.

By Jeffrey Pfeffer | June 15, 2010; 03:13 AM ET | Comments (75)

Not blame but responsibility

The model for a public-private partnership to handle disasters is certainly not new -- just ask any fireman who responds to a blaze caused by faulty wiring.

By Lisa Larson | June 15, 2010; 03:04 AM ET | Comments (1)

The man who skipped 'Leadership 101'

The only reliable thing about the CEO of BP has been his uncanny ability to show how little empathy and concern he has for the people who are most directly affected or for the long-term implications of this disaster.

By Scott DeRue | June 15, 2010; 02:52 AM ET | Comments (2)

First prize to Tony Hayward

It's their well, their incompetence that caused the disaster, and their utter inability to limit the damage that has us still facing a seemingly unending catastrophe.

By Slade Gorton | June 15, 2010; 02:47 AM ET | Comments (2)

You can't choose your crisis

History will judge President Obama not by his speeches or his photo ops, but by how well his administration can fulfill Abraham Lincoln's mandate to do what the people themselves cannot do.

By John Baldoni | June 15, 2010; 02:26 AM ET | Comments (0)

Make this about our energy-crazy lifestyle

President Obama should worry less about railing at BP and more about addressing the underlying problem: our unbelievable demand for more and more energy.

By Mickey Edwards | June 15, 2010; 02:21 AM ET | Comments (1)

Put the fishermen to work

Tony "I Want My life Back" Hayward is a textbook case on how not to handle a crisis.

By Kathryn Kolbert | June 14, 2010; 08:55 PM ET | Comments (3)

Failing the 'organizational scout' test

If leaders aren't looking ahead, setting expectations for performance -- especially in high risk areas -- and holding people accountable, why do we need them?

By Lt. Col. Todd Henshaw (Ret.) | June 14, 2010; 08:44 PM ET | Comments (3)

A ball in the president's court

The primary responsibility for setting the stage for an effective meeting with BP rests primarily with the president.

By George Daly | June 14, 2010; 08:39 PM ET | Comments (0)

Bleeding to death on camera

The strategy of dumping information on the public without thinking of the result and without giving accurate, specific data about what it means now, and in the long term, is irresponsible.

By Katherine Tyler Scott | May 28, 2010; 03:48 PM ET | Comments (7)

Broadcasting your failure

With each successive failure to plug the leak, however, the spillcam has evolved into a constant reminder of what's transpiring a mile below the Gulf surface and BP's inability to stop it

By Robert Goodwin | May 28, 2010; 03:43 PM ET | Comments (3)

Reality TV no replacement for compassion

For BPs sake, I hope that they seek other, more meaningful ways to be transparent, both tactically and emotionally.

By Erika James | May 28, 2010; 03:40 PM ET | Comments (9)

The 'accidental admiral' is our best hope in the Gulf

There is a reason the Adm. Thad Allen inspires confidence: He has little interest in crafting a personal legacy. That iswhy if anyone can succeed in the Gulf of Mexico, Thad Allen will.

By D. Michael Lindsay | May 25, 2010; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (98)

Transcript: Giuliani on his 9/11 'defiance'

"There were times I was going through it that morning, in which I did wonder, 'Could we handle it? Could we get through it?'"

By On Leadership video transcripts | March 10, 2010; 05:59 AM ET | Comments (1)

Preventing a failed state

Make no mistake--the security of the region and of the United States is at stake in the wake of Haiti's crisis.

By Robert Goodwin | January 19, 2010; 06:48 AM ET | Comments (5)

Defining our generation

it is during these events like Haiti when my generation witnesses the potential of the world to exhibit love and empathy towards our fellow human beings.

By Coro Fellows | January 17, 2010; 07:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Building Haiti

Haiti cries out for our help, but developmental assistance should be planned and closely directed by leaders who have demonstrated their competence and integrity.

By Michael Maccoby | January 17, 2010; 07:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

No Marshall Plan for Haiti

The U.S. government knows how to do disaster relief, but not economic development, and Haiti has no track record of success.

By Ken Adelman | January 17, 2010; 07:26 AM ET | Comments (6)

Our true face

Our country shows its true face whenever we respond - anywhere, anytime, and with overflowing generosity - to catastrophic events like the earthquake in Haiti.

By Yash Gupta | January 16, 2010; 05:59 AM ET | Comments (0)

Chief coordinator

The best intended relief efforts can fall apart if countries and agencies do not communicate effectively and coordinate their contributions.

By Marshall Goldsmith | January 16, 2010; 05:44 AM ET | Comments (0)

Bullhorn and bully pulpit

President Obama should remind us that aiding the victims in Haiti taps into some of our most noble national values - charity, sacrifice and community.

By Ed O'Malley | January 16, 2010; 05:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Keep it on the front pages

President Obama needs to encourage -- demand accountability from -- the public and private agencies delivering relief in Haiti.

By Elizabeth Sherman | January 16, 2010; 05:22 AM ET | Comments (1)

Empathy, action and results

Crisis leadership is not only about what you do in the heat of the moment, but also who you become as a result of it.

By Alaina Love | January 16, 2010; 05:15 AM ET | Comments (0)

The gumption to act

Part of leadership, in a crisis situation or any other, is having the gumption to believe your approach is valuable and worth advancing.

By Ed O'Malley | December 31, 2009; 07:19 AM ET | Comments (2)

What soldiers do

We justly admire civilians like Jasper Schuringa, but in Iraq and Afghanistan, valor is demonstrated daily, in the most austere and dangerous conditions, by those in uniform.

By Col. Charles D. Allen | December 31, 2009; 07:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Teaching courage

Jasper Schuringa didn't have special skills, but he did have courage. If the Cowardly Lion can do it, so can you.

By Marty Linsky | December 31, 2009; 06:54 AM ET | Comments (2)

Waking up to lead

Unlike so many who go through life half asleep, natural leaders are wide awake. They see a threat and act.

By Michael Maccoby | December 31, 2009; 06:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Inspiring boldness

These moments of courage by regular citizens remind me of the power of action and our ability to create change rather than simply follow others and do nothing.

By Coro Fellows | December 30, 2009; 07:45 AM ET | Comments (11)

Quick AND effective

The instinct to react immediately may be inborn, but the ability to react effectively is learned.

By Slade Gorton | December 30, 2009; 07:41 AM ET | Comments (1)

The leader in 20J

Jasper Schuringa possessed no playbook, no rules to follow or training, and certainly had no prior experience fighting terrorism.

By Alaina Love | December 29, 2009; 07:06 AM ET | Comments (31)

An instinctual sense

Leadership is sometimes just the manifestation of an instinctual sense of responsibility.

By John H. Cochran, MD | December 29, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Acts of optimism

Sometimes we find ourselves in a time and place not of our own choosing where our gift meets the world's need.

By George Reed | December 29, 2009; 06:55 AM ET | Comments (1)

Deeply held values

We may not be able to teach instinct, but we can definitely teach values.

By Marshall Goldsmith | December 29, 2009; 06:50 AM ET | Comments (0)

The untarnished hero

The public's fascination with Captain Sullenberger is attributable more to deep hunger for selfless heroes than a conscious concern with leadership.

By Gail S. Williams | October 27, 2009; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

The return of Joltin' Joe

For my parents' generation, Joe DiMaggio was an archetypal American hero. Capt. Sullenberger, with his quiet competence, now seems to have stepped up to that plate.

By Bob Schoultz | October 22, 2009; 10:21 AM ET | Comments (2)

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