Leadership isn’t easy for anyone. To be great, you need a wide range of abilities and behaviors — high intelligence, analytic skills, strategic thinking, emotional maturity and awareness, interpersonal finesse, the ability to inspire and influence, clarity about priorities, the discipline to get the job done — the list goes on and on.
Leadership consultants like me can spend all day teaching business leaders how to manage better. Usually, that means emphasizing the skills needed to successfully manage other people. And while those are certainly critical, I’ve been at this long enough to know that leaders can only manage others effectively when they have a foundation of managing themselves.
A lot of good men have come to me recently with questions about respecting boundaries — particularly those of their female colleagues. It’s not that they haven’t been thinking about this all along. But in the current environment of increased openness and feistiness about sexual harassment, many men are trying to be especially respectful in their interactions with women.
Imagine a familiar scene: hundreds of talented job candidates milling about an enormous room. Lining every aisle are eye-popping displays from bold-name employers, Google, Boeing, Dow, The U.S. Army. Each booth offers “swag” — a mug, a Frisbee, a notebook, on and on — all acting as lures for people who want to talk with you about whether their company would be a good fit for you.
A friend of mine has been having trouble with bullying and harassment in her workplace. People with more power than she has have been using inappropriate language, limiting her access to resources, and intruding on her physical space.
It turns out that once again the general consensus, paradoxically referred to as “common sense,” is wrong. For decades we have believed that, while psychopaths may not be nice people, they are great for beating the competition and making the big bucks. So while you may not want to marry a psychopath, or even work for one, when it comes to your money, you do want a psychopathic investment advisor who can play the game for blood.
How do you rev up a huge, international company? How do you stay innovative in a traditional industry? How do you make brands relevant and exciting?
Bernardo Hees, CEO of Kraft Heinz, may have highlighted these three challenges in his talk at the Executives’ Club of Chicago, but they’re hardly unique to him. Many CEOs struggle to shake off staid processes and stimulate growth. It’s just that Bernardo Hess happens to be doing it at a company with $26.5 billion in annual revenue.
It’s not that business leaders are uncaring, it’s just that their job is to focus on one thing: profit. Diversity may be a good thing for the world, but let’s face it, for-profit companies are not social-service agencies. For them there are two primary questions about diversity. Does increasing workplace diversity affect my bottom line? And if so, how?
In an era when most employment discrimination is considered unethical (and often illegal), one prejudice continues to thrive unchallenged at work — ageism.
It’s hard not to think of phrenology — the debunked pseudo-science that measures your mental abilities from the shape of your skull — when reading the memo from (now former) Googler James Damore. In it, he credits major biological differences between men and women for much of the disparity between their career paths. His presentation is sound — the memo is thoughtful and well-written. But when it comes to the science, he’s extremely naïve.
During the high-stress, adrenaline-inducing, always-on days, you may find yourself thinking wistfully of calmer moments with fewer obligations. Until the quiet hits you. Then there’s a whole new set of challenges to face.
If you’re being chased by a bear, you don’t have to run faster than the bear. You just have to run faster than the other guy who’s being chased. At a Chicago Executive’s Club panel on cyber security, we learned the same principle applies to defending your company against cyber attacks.
Peak performance strategies can give business leaders a leg up on the competition, even though the true path to success lies in an old joke. A guy says to a taxi driver, “Can you tell me how to get to Carnegie Hall?” And the taxi driver answers, “Practice, practice, practice.”
The taxi driver is right, of course. To get to Carnegie Hall — or any other arena of high achievement — you have to work hard to hone your skills. But psychologists have learned that peak performance takes more than skill development. Even the most highly trained performers won’t achieve their best without the right mental tools.