Unlocking the Heart and Soul of Remarkable Leadership, Keith Merron
Remarkable Leadership

Archive for March, 2011

Candor and Ego

Monday, March 28th, 2011

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In an interview with L.J. Rittenhouse, founder of Rittenhouse Rankings in New York, Charles Green explored the relationship between Candor and bottom line performance. The Rittenhouse Rankings directly correlates measures of CEO candor with stock price performance. Her proprietary model allows her to sort, evaluate and quantify content as well as measure degrees of candor. L.J. is the author of Buffett’s Bites published recently by McGraw-Hill as well as Do Business with People You Can Tru$t: Balancing Profits and Principles which came out in 2002. In the interview, she reveals how rarely CEOs communicate with candor. Those that do, tend to lead organizations that are more productive through their trustworthy leadership. This fits well with the model I offered in my book, The Golden Flame. Like her, I have found that by and large, the best visionary leaders are the ones that are most comfortable in their skin, willing and able to reveal their foibles as well as strengths. Although canadian pharmacy I have ample evidence of others, she was making a powerful point in the interview when she said that Warren Buffet is the only CEO she knows who publicly reveals big bloopers. She pointed out that not only does he confess and take the blame for what went wrong, he typically reveals how much it cost investors. For example, he reports on his biggest blunder in his 2008 shareholder letter:

I told you in an earlier part of this report that last year I made a major mistake of commission (and maybe more; this one sticks out). Without urging from Charlie or anyone

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else, I bought a large amount of ConocoPhillips stock when oil and gas prices were near their peak. I in no way anticipated the dramatic fall in energy prices that occurred in the last half of the year. I still believe the odds are good that oil sells far higher in the future than the current $40-$50 price. But so far I have been dead wrong. Even if prices should rise, moreover, the terrible timing of my purchase has cost Berkshire several billion dollars. (Emphasis added.)

This ability or perhaps predilection to tell the truth, no matter what, is what differentiates great leaders from the rest of the pack. It is easy to speak the truth when things are going well. Candor is in short supply when things are on the line. And yet that is when candor is most needed, most welcome, and produces the greatest degree of trust.

The big question is: since we all know this well, why would we not be 100% honest. The simple answer is that we are protecting something. The sad truth is what we protect in the short run with our lack of candor takes something far more precious away in the long run—trust.

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Bold Leadership Indeed

Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

In his blog recently, Mike Myers talks about the value of bold authentic leadership.


I often like what Mike has to say and this blog is no exception. He offers, that to be a great au

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thentic leader and to be a great executive coach, one needs to be bold and have the capacity to never pull their punches. I agree with Mike and feel there are not enough authoritative visionary leaders in the world. In my latest book, The Golden Flame, I devote a whole chapter talking about the value and importance of authoritative leadership and how it has been given short shrift of late as participatory leadership, dialogue, and inclusiveness has been touted as crucial to effective leadership. And it is.

Thank you, Mike, for raising the bar. Let’s raise it

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even further. Mike is right, that we need bold authentic leadership. The problem is that we need more inclusiveness as well. The goal of conscious leadership is not to be one form or another. The goal is to make the right choice at the appropriate moment. If being bold is not in your quiver, you will never become a great leader. Nor will you, if being open is also not in your quiver. One without the other is limiting. I find the best and most authentic leaders are ones who are able to bring the right kind of leadership to the moment. They sense what is needed and have the inner flexibility to bring it. That is the message we learned from Hershey and Blanchard’s Situation Leadership 30 years ago and it remains powerfully true today.

What is even less considered, however, is the sine qua non of conscious leadership—that ability to bring all capacities to the same moment. When we bring bold truth without compassion, we operate with a blunt sword. When we bring openness without the ability to speak our truth, we bring impotence. When we bring truth without a deft touch in its expression, we run roughshod over people. When we explore creatively, without the ability to take bold action, we become dreamers.

In my way of seeing, all leadership capacities are crucial. It is their blending that gives a leader authenticity and makes him extraordinary.

A Frat House Culture

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

The Tribune Company which owns the Chicago Tribune and several television stations has faced severe problems of late. Not only did its recently hired CEO, Randy Michaels, depart under multiple allegations of ethical misconduct, but creditors are

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also claiming misconduct on the part of Sam Zell, the man who bought the Tribune Company in 2007. It appears that Zell misrepresented data about the condition of the company during bankruptcy protection in order to avoid paying creditors.
A recent New York Times story detailed a “frat house” culture in which sexual innuendos were the norm. Such a culture cannot have bloomed overnight. This is a perfect example of personal freedom gone too far in a corporate environment.

If we buy the idea that the quality of the culture is a reflection of the consciousness of the leader, then we need go no further than Zell and Michaels for the answer to the culture’s problems. Zell, it appears, is notorious for staging wild birthday parties with young women in gold body paint wearing only thong bikini bottoms as part of the attraction. Michaels was accused of multiple transgressions and out-of-control management. While creditors have praised Michaels and his team for stabilizing the financials, he has done a poor job regarding his own behavior and conduct.

Perhaps decades ago a leader might get away with the kinds of abuses that are currently displayed, but no longer. Zell and Michael are part of a dying breed of male leaders that don’t understand the direct relationship between personal conduct and the culture of the organization. Nor do they seem to get that you can’t have a healthy culture while treating women as sexual objects. Apologies do not do anything, nor do surface attempts to change the behavior by legislating behavioral reform.

The cause of these problems is the underlying attitude and consciousness. Underneath any leader who treats anyone as an object or pawn is an attitude of right vs. wrong, better than vs. worse than. It is this sort of arrogance that will never create a healthy and sustainable professional culture in this day and age.
It amazes me that in spite of the information available on what healthy attitudes and behaviors look like, Zell and Michaels still remain in their roles, as do countless others in corporations throughout the world. I

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am by no means prudish, and I

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have lots of room for playful banter. But what we are discussing here goes way beyond that.

Interestingly, most professionals know where the line is. Those that cross the line repeatedly need more than a behavioral adjustment – for the thinking that creates the behavior will be the bigger problem in the organization. These people need to be let go, and maybe then, the lesson will be learned. It is not a behavioral problem. It is a deep-seated attitude problem, and attitude adjustment is the only way they will become good leaders. With their personal freedom, leaders must also take personal responsibility for their actions.