No Margin for Error

May 23, 2010

No Margin for Error

  Author and columnist Thomas Friedman wrote today: “In this kind of world, leadership at every level of government and business matters more than ever. We have no margin of error anymore, no time for politics as usual or suboptimal legislation.”  Leadership matters is one of the cornerstones of great company reputations. There is no getting around it. The destiny of the CEO is inextricably linked to the company’s reputation. If you have ever worked with a CEO who was not the right fit for the company and who worried about themselves more than the company, you know the damage that the wrong CEO can do. It is almost better to work for a so-so or good, not great, CEO than the wrong one.
Also in today’s New York Times’ business section is some advice from the CEO of The Calvert Group, Barbara Krumsiek . She was asked for her best advice to executives starting out.  She said to ask each executive on your leadership team the following question,  “Tell me about your job, but now tell me about what you think you do here that is not in that job description that you think is really critical.”  Good starting out question but I actually like the second question better, “Tell me one thing that’s going on at Calvert that you think I don’t know that you think I should know.”

The best advice for CEO newcomers is that there is no such thing as a stupid question. One CEO told me that. You get about 3 or 4 months to ask those “stupid” questions.

Getting back to the importance of leadership, we don’t need Thomas Friedman or even me to relay this important news about what drives the global economy and business today — good leaders. Every day we get examples of the impact of good and bad leadership. Unfortunately there are so many examples of bad leadership decisions that we forget to notice the daily good deeds of many company CEOs.  Is too bad. The margin of error might actually be wider than we think.

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Leslie Gaines-Ross
Leslie Gaines-Ross

As Weber Shandwick’s Chief Reputation Strategist, I focus on the ever changing world of reputation. For the past 25 years, I have relentlessly observed, researched and commented on the rise and fall of corporate and CEO reputations.

  • Paul Seaman
    Posted at 19:51h, 23 May Reply

    Your excellent post based on Thomas Friedman’s comment begs a question which lies at the heart of PR. What’s more important in PR, listening or leadership? It’s my view that, too many PRs place too a high a value on stakeholder relationship management and as a consequence value listening over leadership. But I think PR should help leaders lead more than to listen (to cite both as equals is to evade taking a stance or taking the lead on this issue). Here’s my take in full:

    • Dr. Leslie Gaines-Ross
      Posted at 11:57h, 24 May Reply

      Paul, this is such a good point. I think leaders have to do both — lead the organization and listen. All too often, you get either/or. However, I think that leaders who do not listen ultimately fail. There are not too many leaders who only listen. They usually do not make it to the top. Leaders have to listen and act, be decisive. Not very easy. Best, lgr

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