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John Baldoni
Leadership author

John Baldoni

John Baldoni is a leadership consultant, coach, and regular contributor to the Harvard Business Review online. His most recent book is Lead Your Boss: The Subtle Art of Managing Up.

Archive: John Baldoni

Getting real about what's at stake

Nowhere on the planet is so much energy being expended when so little is at stake...

By John Baldoni | March 8, 2011; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (6)

Don't sabotage your own strategy

If you are going to use a "burning platform" as an impetus for change, then it does not make sense to extinguish the fire before you get what you want...

By John Baldoni | February 28, 2011; 06:39 PM ET | Comments (5)

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)

The difference between compromise and negotiation

Politicians might learn something from management and labor negotiators. While both sides may talk tough, seldom does rhetoric...

By John Baldoni | February 15, 2011; 09:46 AM ET | Comments (4)

Leading while everyone's watching

Leadership never was, nor never will be, for the faint of heart. Today good leaders also need a strong stomach to cope with what they cannot control, as they seek to do what is right in a world where...

By John Baldoni | February 7, 2011; 03:48 PM ET | Comments (1)

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)

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)

Solutions not sound bites

Governance is hard work. It involves putting the needs of others ahead of your own. For leaders, that often means turning down their own egos in an effort to work with other, even bigger, egos...

By John Baldoni | January 4, 2011; 11:13 AM ET | Comments (2)

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)

Strong character trumps perfection

As a veteran executive once told me, hire for character. Don't expect to develop something that is not there. If a person lacks a moral compass, don't think you...

By John Baldoni | December 13, 2010; 06:54 PM ET | Comments (0)

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)

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)

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)

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)

Good leaders never give up? Nonsense

Forget the myth nurtured on the football field that leaders never give up. Nonsense. True leaders are smart enough to know when to stop bashing their heads against opposition stronger than themselves. Even smarter ones, and may I add more courageous ones, know that the bravest thing to do is to give up...

By John Baldoni | November 8, 2010; 06:02 PM ET | Comments (0)

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)

Smart leaders compromise

It is so disheartening to see compromise being dragged through the mud of what purports to be political discourse. Politicians desperate for cash and voters roundly criticize compromise as somehow being a tool of deceit and an indication of lack of spine. When in reality, compromise is not only a sign of intelligence; it is a sign of...

By John Baldoni | October 26, 2010; 09:53 AM ET | Comments (2)

In both drama and leadership, character is action

Don is a flawed character, rich in dramatic power but ultimately a leader with serious deficiencies. Ask yourself this: is Don someone you would want to count on in a crisis? A likely answer would be no. His interest in self-preservation would outweigh...

By John Baldoni | October 18, 2010; 11:40 AM ET | Comments (1)

Go against the grain

As much as we admire leaders for exerting leadership against the odds, there are times when a leader who goes against the grain is doomed to failure. We see this happening often with CEOs. They are so eager to put their stamp on the organization (which is good) that they do not give the organization time to digest new directives (which is not good). So here are...

By John Baldoni | October 12, 2010; 09:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Leadership brand is more than a buzz word

A leader's brand radiates throughout the organization but it also carries to the outside. When the CEO is respected, it casts a halo of excellence around the organization. The prime example of this is Steve Jobs at Apple; his vision is Apple's mission. Similarly...

By John Baldoni | October 4, 2010; 10:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

Leaders use advisers, not the other way around

President Obama's efforts to impose his views on the conduct of the war in Afghanistan bring to mind the example of an earlier president, Abraham Lincoln. During the first three years of the Civil War, Lincoln was served by military leaders who were either less than competent or...

By John Baldoni | September 28, 2010; 09:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

What successful decentralized leadership looks like

Leadership does not belong solely to people with titles or even big reputations. Leaders come in all persuasions and personalities. A denominator common to leaders is a willingness...

By John Baldoni | September 21, 2010; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (1)

Get ahead of the crowd

We still need strong leaders, but we need to them to be responsive to change as well as willing to delegate control in order...

By John Baldoni | September 14, 2010; 11:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Craigslist changed policy, not principles

Craiglists's policies put a premium on free expression. That is fine, but when it has been shown that some users of Craigslist have abused that privilege and using it to purvey and procure sex services, management is within its rights to change the policy. It can put limits on free expression...

By John Baldoni | September 7, 2010; 12:17 PM ET | Comments (0)

Leaders engage top to bottom

Managers at every level are often asked to do more and more with shrinking resources and escalating time frames. And it is for precisely those reasons that leaders at the top need to leverage the talents and skills of their people to allow them to think and do more to help the organization achieve its mission.

By John Baldoni | August 31, 2010; 08:39 AM ET | Comments (2)

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)

When to call all hands on deck

As much as we want our leaders responsive to the crisis at hand, leaders need to be careful they do not overplay the urgency card. For example, as in Chrysler's case, Marchionne wanted all his key executives working hard to ensure survivability. That works well in the short run, but over the long haul the price of such work can be expensive.

By John Baldoni | August 17, 2010; 08:39 AM ET | Comments (2)

HP resignation: A breach of trust

Words are cheap. Clever public relations professionals can fashion prose that makes their companies seem not only prosperous and profitable but also as pure as the driven snow. While there may seem little harm in such statements, the problem is that so few of us, either inside or outside the company, believe it

By John Baldoni | August 9, 2010; 03:45 PM ET | Comments (3)

Out with the hero label, in with a lunch bucket attitude

Leadership, like character, is what you do when the choices are hard. When things are booming, it can be fun to grow the business, introducing new products and services, hiring new employees, and reaping strong profits. Tough times mean facilities closings, layoffs, and bearish earnings.

By John Baldoni | July 27, 2010; 10:37 AM ET | Comments (2)

Is there a common cause?

While size does add complexity, it is not the sole culprit. A more serious concern is a failure to commit to common cause.

By John Baldoni | July 19, 2010; 04:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

Flaws of an undisciplined leader

Like George Patton, Steinbrenner was a well-intentioned leader who ended up suffering from flaws that a more self-disciplined leader might have controlled.

By John Baldoni | July 15, 2010; 02:39 PM ET | Comments (0)

Compromise is not for sissies

Compromise is not for the faint of heart; it takes guts to work with people with whom you disagree. When the problems are significant, recall what Henry Ford once said. "Don't find fault, find a remedy; anybody can complain."

By John Baldoni | July 8, 2010; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (2)

Finding a place for wisdom

There should not be an age limit to leadership but there should be limits to service.

By John Baldoni | June 28, 2010; 03:08 PM ET | Comments (0)

How to fire a superstar

Four-star generals, like CEOs, need to think highly of themselves but when that sense of self leads to a heightened sense of self-importance, hubris sets in.

By John Baldoni | June 24, 2010; 07:18 AM ET | Comments (3)

Time for pragmatic political leadership

The question gets to the heart of what has enabled America to succeed: pragmatism over ideology. Such pragmatism requires political leaders who can both think for themselves as well as do the will of the people.

By John Baldoni | June 22, 2010; 03:22 AM ET | Comments (1)

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)

Wisdom Zuckerberg doesn't yet have

Leadership wisdom is something that accrues with age and experience: It's no wonder that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is struggling with large issues.

By John Baldoni | June 8, 2010; 06:25 AM ET | Comments (0)

The problem with friends

Leaders can and should disassociate themselves from friends who make ethical transgressions.

By John Baldoni | June 1, 2010; 03:30 PM ET | Comments (5)

The battlefields and cemeteries that are more than scenery

Since only a tiny minority of our population has served in the military, for many of us one of the few connections to the military we have are memorials to those who sacrificed for our cause.

By John Baldoni | May 28, 2010; 10:22 AM ET | Comments (16)

An Oklahoma example

The future of higher education is not really about the institution of education at all. It is about preparing the next generation to think, learn, and discover for themselves

By John Baldoni | May 25, 2010; 06:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Intelligence -- or access?

Effective leaders are street savvy because they are curious. We need our leaders to ask questions both to gain information as well as to challenge assumptions.

By John Baldoni | May 18, 2010; 10:11 AM ET | Comments (0)

Alan Mulally's example

Alan Mulally, who became CEO of Ford Motor Company after a career at Boeing, has engineered the company's turnaround. A savvy leader will be a quick study.

By John Baldoni | May 10, 2010; 03:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

Bucking the ride

Leading up when you are going against the direction of your senior leaders is risky proposition. Senior executives do not like to be challenged, especially by those they outrank.

By John Baldoni | April 29, 2010; 10:23 AM ET | Comments (2)

Lead through your boss

As a junior leader, you lead first and foremost with your ideas, backed by your gumption

By John Baldoni | April 22, 2010; 01:25 PM ET | Comments (0)

Crazy Horse in action

Every organization should be so fortunate as to be led by men and women who know how to lead from the front.

By John Baldoni | April 20, 2010; 05:10 AM ET | Comments (0)

Leadership, made in India

A new book argues that India has developed a unique style of leadership, whose four principles are holistic engagement of employees, improvisation and adaptability, creative value propositions and broad mission and purpose.

By John Baldoni | April 13, 2010; 12:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

Make it personal

When it comes to global warming, nuclear disarmament or any other issue with far-reaching consequences you communicate on a level that people can understand.

By John Baldoni | April 12, 2010; 02:19 PM ET | Comments (0)

'The most dreaded knowledge'

A leader who avoids accountability is no leader; he or she is simply a person with a title but no moral authority.

By John Baldoni | April 6, 2010; 05:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

Flunking the accountability test

A leader who is not accountable will act self-interestedly (or for a select few) rather than doing what the organization needs him or her do: stand up for what is right even when it is hard to do.

By John Baldoni | March 30, 2010; 06:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Great vision, lousy execution

If Congress does pass health-care reform, the bill's eventual implementation will be fraught with more partisan bickering. That is the price of unclear leadership from the top.

By John Baldoni | March 18, 2010; 10:36 AM ET | Comments (1)

Art, not propaganda

In a drama, the characters have a life of their own; in a polemic the characters move in step with an agenda.

By John Baldoni | March 9, 2010; 05:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

'The vices I admire'

As Winston Churchill, himself no stranger to brandy and cigars, once quipped about someone he knew: "He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire."

By John Baldoni | March 2, 2010; 05:07 AM ET | Comments (1)

Apologize the Toyota way

No one is venerated more in Toyota culture than the engineer. It is these very engineers who must make good on Toyota's many public apologies, by fixing the design flaws.

By John Baldoni | February 25, 2010; 05:45 AM ET | Comments (5)

Evan Bayh: When should a leader step down?

Evan Bayh has made his choice: What is yours? Here are three ways to find out whether it's time to move on.

By John Baldoni | February 17, 2010; 06:15 AM ET | Comments (2)

Why CEOs fail: the Toyota edition

Good organizations can juggle many priorities of course but if the senior team does not follow through on these priorities, that is, doing what they say they will do, things fall apart.

By John Baldoni | February 11, 2010; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Toyota's pride accelerates trouble

Early in this recall debacle, Toyota seemed more concerned with self-preservation than concern for customers.

By John Baldoni | February 4, 2010; 04:35 PM ET | Comments (9)

It's always been personal

How many times have you inquired about a product at a store, and the clerk answers with the word "we"?

By John Baldoni | January 28, 2010; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (0)

Beyond partisan bickering

"The stakes are high. The time for action is now. Let's get to work."

By John Baldoni | January 25, 2010; 03:56 PM ET | Comments (1)

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