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Marty Linsky

Marty Linsky

Co-founder of the leadership-focused consulting firm, Cambridge Leadership Associates, Marty Linsky teaches at the Harvard Kennedy School, co-authors the advice column, Leadership House Call and blogs at Linsky on Leadership .

Archive: Marty Linsky

Helping both sides manage loss

The resistance to a new NFL contract comes from the threat or reality of loss...

By Marty Linsky | March 9, 2011; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (1)

Prepare the caucus for letdown

Staking out a hard line at the beginning will either give the most conservative Republicans false hopes or box in the Republican House leaders when the time for compromise comes. Either is bad news...

By Marty Linsky | February 15, 2011; 12:41 PM ET | Comments (2)


Can we rally behind a committed centrist?

By Marty Linsky | January 25, 2011; 11:32 PM ET | Comments (1)

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)

The reputation riskers: Dick Durbin and Tom Coburn

To me, leadership is an activity, not a person. It is something some people do some of the time; not something some people are or become. No one exercises leadership 24/7...

By Marty Linsky | December 20, 2010; 02:56 PM ET | Comments (2)

Cam being Cam

Once in an interview in response to the question '"How do you manage all those newly rich, testosterone-rich, self-absorbed men on a professional football team?" Bill Parcells answered exactly the opposite...

By Marty Linsky | December 15, 2010; 01:47 PM ET | Comments (1)

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)

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)

Know when to let your members off the hook

She has become the issue, rather than keeping front and center the issues she says she cares about--such as restoring the Democratic majority and keeping the White House in 2012. Her seeking re-election to the post is another example of her putting herself above her party and, once again, doing what no legislative party leader should ever do: forcing her members to make a bad vote that is likely to haunt them two years from now. It is as if she has learned nothing at all from...

By Marty Linsky | November 11, 2010; 05:26 PM ET | Comments (4)

Obama needs to embrace his critics

One of Obama's biggest mistakes in his first two years has been disdaining his critics, beginning with his demeaning reference at that San Francisco fundraiser during his own campaign and culminating in...

By Marty Linsky | November 2, 2010; 10:47 AM ET | Comments (5)

Disappoint your own people at a rate they can absorb

Elections themselves are the antithesis of leadership. They are as pure a form of authority seeking and pandering as exists in a democratic society. Public yearning for leadership in the run-up to elections is inappropriate and naive. We have designed it that way, creating a system that keeps aspiring office-holders as close to voters as possible. But shame on the successful politician who does not exercise leadership in the months right after the...

By Marty Linsky | October 26, 2010; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Craigslist founder saw the writing on the wall

The art of leadership is knowing when to stick to your guns and when to accommodate other views. Newmark saw the handwriting on the wall. He was not willing to risk sacrificing the franchise on the altar of freedom to advertise the forced sexual exploitation of young women.

By Marty Linsky | September 7, 2010; 08:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Pile on BP

Ironically, Obama may be their biggest ally here. Marry him on this one. Next embrace those folks in the Gulf states who are already bearing the brunt of the consequences of the spill

By Marty Linsky | May 4, 2010; 10:28 AM ET | Comments (19)

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)

Enjoying the heat

Real leadership from Joe Lieberman would have seen him annoy insurance company CEOs, not Harry Reid.

By Marty Linsky | December 23, 2009; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

Jeff Immelt, head of GE

Jeff Immelt told his employees if they were frightened by the economic crisis they should leave, but if they were energized by the thrill of re-inventing GE, they should stay.

By Marty Linsky | December 18, 2009; 05:27 AM ET | Comments (0)

Caddying for us

We often do not understand the real character of famous people, or our friends for that matter, until we see them operate under duress.

By Marty Linsky | December 7, 2009; 01:51 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Best Disappointer

The Nobel Prize for Leadership should be awarded to those who have demonstrated unusual courage in disappointing their own people in pursuit of a solution to an intractable problem.

By Marty Linsky | October 12, 2009; 10:31 PM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Fight Regulation

The best we can hope for is that some far-sighted bankers will work with the Congress rather than fight it in crafting legislation that will incentivize transparency, accountability and longer-term thinking on Wall Street.

By Marty Linsky | September 16, 2009; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (0)

Loyalty, Schmoyalty

Van Jones had to go. For the president to keep him would have been somewhere between gratuitous masochism and pandering to constituents who are already on the team.

By Marty Linsky | September 10, 2009; 01:30 PM ET | Comments (5)

They Might Be Giants

I see an enormous wealth of potential giantness in the electoral pipeline.

By Marty Linsky | August 31, 2009; 03:56 PM ET | Comments (1)

Breaking Through the Gardol Screen

Ted Kennedy lived and worked behind the screen of his family name until failure pushed him to find his authentic leadership style.

By Marty Linsky | August 27, 2009; 09:24 AM ET | Comments (11)

Moving Past the 'Anti-Bush'

Consistency is a virtue for good management. Unpredictability is a virtue for successful leadership.

By Marty Linsky | August 18, 2009; 10:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Easy to Say, Hard to Do

It is an act of leadership for someone with significant responsibilities to "take care of yourself" rather than sacrifice your body for the cause. Unfortunately, as I pack my laptop for vacation, this is a case of "Do as I say...."

By Marty Linsky | August 13, 2009; 08:53 AM ET | Comments (4)


With the beer summit, Obama turned down the heat and calmed the situation, just what we want people in authority to do for us: Make things nice.

By Marty Linsky | August 5, 2009; 02:23 PM ET | Comments (15)

The Courage to Disappoint

Hang tough Barack. Stay focused on your purpose and do not squander your political capital on a side trip that will feed only the most banal instincts of some of your more rabid constituents.

By Marty Linsky | July 16, 2009; 11:58 AM ET | Comments (0)

Define "Maverick"

Palin has demonstrated that a politician can be doggedly conservative, unabashedly sexual, and electable (at least in one state.) None of that says that she has the qualities necessary to run for the presidency or serve well if elected.

By Marty Linsky | July 15, 2009; 03:48 PM ET | Comments (0)

The Adulation of Thousands

Why do so many of those who fall seem to be the ones who put themselves, with our collusion, on such an unrealistic moralistic pedestal in the first place?

By Marty Linsky | June 30, 2009; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (4)

Transparency Is Overrated

Secrecy and paranoia seem to have served Apple, its customers, and its shareholders well over the years.

By Marty Linsky | June 23, 2009; 01:52 PM ET | Comments (2)

Magic Without Magic

Phil Jackson made explicit what most great coaches and managers have understood intuitively: that the hardest challenge of leadership is to resist the impulse to take the work off of the shoulders of those who own the problem.

By Marty Linsky | June 15, 2009; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (0)

Personal With a Purpose

Leaders need to connect to people, to move them, and if you are going after their hearts, you have to display some of yours as well.

By Marty Linsky | June 9, 2009; 06:23 AM ET | Comments (0)

Don't Get Political

The president's willingness to expend political capital to protect GM from political pressures--and risk the vagaries of the marketplace--will determine the administration's new role as its dominant shareholder.

By Marty Linsky | June 5, 2009; 11:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Last At-Bat

When we work with top teams, we often ask about succession plans. Instead, what we frequently find, instead, are non-succession plans. People who stay too long no longer bring their A game.

By Marty Linsky | May 26, 2009; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Consensus-Builder

President Obama sees himself as a healer, not a divider, and will nominate someone whose most important qualification beyond competence is having demonstrated the courage and skill to perform a consensus-building role.

By Marty Linsky | May 19, 2009; 10:14 AM ET | Comments (0)

Laundering Nixon

Richard Nixon made the transition from pariah to statesman, but it took time, patience, and a healthy absence and abstinence from the fray to launder himself.

By Marty Linsky | May 12, 2009; 10:21 AM ET | Comments (0)

What's the Purpose?

Leadership in the union or management would be about having the courage to skillfully disappoint their own people on behalf of the more noble purpose of ensuring the long term survival of that crucial civic institution known as the Boston Globe.

By Marty Linsky | May 6, 2009; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

Katrina, 9/11 and Tylenol Lessons

When we are potentially panicked, what we want from those in authority is (1) to be present, (2) to feel our pain or anxiety, and (3) to be reassuring verbally and by action without being disingenuous.

By Marty Linsky | April 28, 2009; 10:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

Learning Not Teaching

There is no skill useful for leadership that you cannot learn if you really commit; even courage and charisma can be learned.

By Marty Linsky | April 21, 2009; 06:14 AM ET | Comments (0)

Going to Jerusalem

Captain Phillips did exactly what he was supposed to do in protecting his crew. Real leadership is going beyond the call of duty, like Anwar Sadat risking peace with Israel -- and paying the ultimate price for it.

By Marty Linsky | April 15, 2009; 10:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

Keeping Bush in the Toolkit

Being devoutly un-Bush means giving up valuable options that might come in handy under certain circumstances. He has already adopted the last Bush Iraq strategy in Afghanistan, although the While House has reportedly banned the use of the word "surge."

By Marty Linsky | April 7, 2009; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Mere Wake-Up Call

It is too bad the President did not find a way to fire the Board as well. There is little or no evidence that GM is prepared for the new reality.

By Marty Linsky | March 30, 2009; 01:49 PM ET | Comments (6)

Strategic Pandering

If President Obama did not pander to the crowd on this one, he would have begun to distance himself from huge numbers of people whose support he needs to get his budget, his subsequent recovery plans, and his ambitious domestic agenda enacted.

By Marty Linsky | March 22, 2009; 10:07 PM ET | Comments (5)

The Emotional Slam Dunk

We experience the financial crisis emotionally, not just rationally. Therefore, the willingness of leaders to tangibly acknowledge the stress their people are experiencing is a central element of sustained recovery.

By Marty Linsky | March 15, 2009; 10:17 PM ET | Comments (0)

Imagining "Ellen" Greenspan

There is little doubt that with more women in top positions in Wall Street and government, the economic crisis would have been less severe.

By Marty Linsky | March 9, 2009; 04:22 AM ET | Comments (1)

Why Less Is More

On ambitious proposals like this, leaders who do all the work for everyone, laying out a detailed plan, become easy targets for criticism, like the Clintons did. Better to step back and let others craft the details.

By Marty Linsky | March 2, 2009; 12:00 PM ET | Comments (0)

When "Good Soldier" Is Impossible

No way will Livni be able to salute to the Netanyahu strategy on the biggest challenge facing her country.

By Marty Linsky | February 23, 2009; 10:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

"Twelve Angry Men"

"Juror Eight" took heat from his peers, ignored personal attacks and held steady under enormous criticism, all in the service of mobilizing people in the service of something he believed deeply.

By Marty Linsky | February 17, 2009; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

Left Behind

Don't be like the pharmaceutical company that recently laid off workers by e-mail: How you fire people communicates a message to those still employed.

By Marty Linsky | February 9, 2009; 09:54 AM ET | Comments (0)

Spoiled by the Public

By catering and pandering to them, we the public, have played no small role in creating and nurturing the destructive environment in which CEOs and other big-name figures have become so out of touch with the real world.

By Marty Linsky | February 2, 2009; 01:04 PM ET | Comments (1)

Hard To Say Good-bye

In most professional realms, non-succession plans seem to be a bigger problem than failing to recognize that there is still some life in the old folks.

By Marty Linsky | January 25, 2009; 11:21 PM ET | Comments (0)

A Cautious Beginning

Obama's cautious inaugural address lacked FDR's insight about our nation's distress, Churchill's brutal honesty and JFK's request for help and sacrifice.

By Marty Linsky | January 21, 2009; 11:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Not Afraid to Disappoint

In rebuffing the gas tax and tapping Rick Warren, Obama has demonstrated the courage and skill needed to disappoint his own supporters at a rate they can absorb.

By Marty Linsky | January 12, 2009; 02:04 PM ET | Comments (0)

Gen. David Petraeus, with runners-up

General David Petraeus has brilliantly redefined the war-on-terrorism strategy to mean engagement with the Muslim world. Runners-up are: Australian PM Kevin Rudd, British PM Gordon Brown and Bill Richardson.

By Marty Linsky | December 30, 2008; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (3)

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