Leadership on Point

Crash and Burn: Bad Leader, or Set Up to Fail?

September 26, 2011 Richard Levin

Leaders Set Up To Fail

I was recently asked to advise on a situation in which a senior executive, new to the company, was spiraling downward in his performance.  The executive had been pre-screened by a global search firm and was interviewed by an internal search committee representing numerous corporate functions.  His references were stellar, his executive presence superb. Six weeks into his new job, nearly all of his colleagues and direct reports were in agreement: the hire was a misfire. What went wrong?

The most common response is that the company and its search firm missed something in the executive’s profile, and the executive fell short of expectations.  Our tendency is to focus on what the leader did “wrong”; maybe he failed to engage his team, perhaps he didn’t have great communication skills, possibly he could not articulate his vision or spark people’s (or his own) imagination. In this scenario, the leader’s team is typically presented as competent and well-intentioned, ready to be motivated and inspired by the “right” leader.  The team sees itself as eager and hungry for exceptional leadership, and feels the new leader let them down.  The outcome is a situation in which the leader and the team co-generate an escalating spiral of underperformance, frustration, and anger.

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Google’s CEO Discusses the Value of a Coach

June 24, 2011 Richard Levin

Google’s CEO Eric Schmidt discusses the importance of hiring an executive coach, noting that having someone to provide perspective and help you to reach your full potential is not an indication that something is wrong.  A coach’s role is, as Schmidt explains, to help the client see him/herself as they appear to others … and to assess if (and how) changes should be made.


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Professional Advancement in the Corporate World: The First Steps to Fostering Female Leadership

May 9, 2011 Meghan Vincent

Women Executives in Corporate America, Female Leadership

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Coaching Urged for Women: Inadequate Career Development Holds Back Female Executives, McKinsey Says”, addressed a significant yet often overlooked dilemma in today’s corporate world: how do corporations cultivate and sustain gender diversity among managers and eliminate barriers for female advancement in the workforce?

In order to exemplify a reputable and respectable manager, one must execute basic leadership functions. The three C’s – command, control, and coordinate – have become standard management oriented skills, and are often executed by the male-dominant corporate world.  How can women advance in the workforce if the three core managerial skills are man-made, developed by men decades ago?  These standards are ingrained in our minds; we assume that the CEO of a Fortune 500 company is authoritative and direct, and typically a male figure.  We presume that women do not have the time or energy to act as senior-level managers because of their role as mothers and caretakers.  The women who do, in fact, rise to the top and assume senior management positions often execute more behavioral/supportive leadership skills; we often describe these leaders as those who motivate, inspire, and articulate a vision.  Women who have taken on more senior and managerial roles often work in women-oriented careers such as health and education, rather than business and technology.

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