Case Study: When Two Leaders on the Senior Team Hate Each Other

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The feedback in the 360-degree reviews was supposed to be anonymous. But it was crystal clear who’d made the negative comments in the assessment of one executive.

Lance Best, the CEO of Barker Sports Apparel, was meeting with Nina Kelk, the company’s general counsel, who also oversaw human resources. It had been a long day at the company’s Birmingham, England, headquarters, and in the early evening the two were going over the evaluations of each of Lance’s direct reports. Lance was struck by what he saw in CFO Damon Ewen’s file. Most of the input was neutral, which was to be expected. Though brilliant and well respected, Damon wasn’t the warmest of colleagues. But one person had given him the lowest ratings possible, and from the written remarks, Lance could tell that it was Ahmed Lund, Barker’s head of sales. One read: “I’ve never worked with a bigger

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Why Doctors Need Leadership Training

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Medicine involves leadership. Nearly all physicians take on significant leadership responsibilities over the course of their career, but unlike any other occupation where management skills are important, physicians are neither taught how to lead nor are they typically rewarded for good leadership. Even though medical institutions have designated “leadership” as a core medical competency, leadership skills are rarely taught and reinforced across the continuum of medical training. As more evidence shows that leadership skills and management practices positively influence both patient and healthcare organization outcomes, it’s becoming clear that leadership training should be formally integrated into medical and residency training curricula.

In most professions, the people who demonstrate strong leadership skills are the ones who take on greater leadership responsibilities at progressive stages of their careers. In medicine, physicians not only begin managing and directing teams early in their careers, but they rise through the ranks uniformly.

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If Humility Is So Important, Why Are Leaders So Arrogant?

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A recent management column in the Wall Street Journal appeared under the appealing headline, “The Best Bosses Are Humble Bosses.” The article reported that humble leaders “inspire close teamwork, rapid learning and high performance in their teams.” It even reported that one HR consulting firm is planning to introduce an assessment to identify personality traits that include “sincerity, modesty, fairness, truthfulness, and unpretentiousness,” inspired in part by what two psychology professors call the H Factor (“a combination of honesty and humility.”)

This celebration of humility sounds great, and it is, but it flies in the face of daily headlines in the Journal and the realities of our business and political cultures. Exactly no one would use the word “humble” to describe the current occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Tesla CEO Elon Musk may be the most visible, influential, high-impact leader in Silicon Valley, yet

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Why Leaders Need to Cultivate Complementary Strengths

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Robert is a strong leader.

How do I know? When he left one company to join another, many in his top team followed him to the new company because they wanted to keep working for him. That’s a pretty strong testimonial.

“Yes, he pushes us hard,” one of his direct reports told me, “but I work harder and I deliver. I like that.”

But every leader — even strong ones — have their challenges. And while Robert (not his real name) inspires hard work and loyalty, he also inspires fear, especially in people who don’t know him well or are a few levels below him in the hierarchy. To be clear, Robert is not abusive. He simply has a high bar and is respectfully intolerant of mediocrity. But the impact is one of fear. More than once, a member of his team has come to me

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The Power of Curiosity

Francesca Gino, a professor at Harvard Business School, shares a compelling business case for curiosity. Her research shows allowing employees to exercise their curiosity can lead to fewer conflicts and better outcomes. However, even managers who value inquisitive thinking often discourage curiosity in the workplace because they fear it’s inefficient and unproductive. Gino offers several ways that leaders can instead model, cultivate, and even recruit for curiosity. Gino is the author of the HBR article “The Business Case for Curiosity.”

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Why CEOs Devote So Much Time to Their Hobbies


When Goldman Sachs named David Solomon its new CEO, the media didn’t just focus on his professional background and his rise through the ranks; it also covered his moonlighting as a bona fide DJ.

Solomon, aka DJ D-Sol, is known for his mantra of finding passion at, and outside of, work — and he’s not an isolated case. We have identified dozens of S&P 500 CEOs who have what is called “serious leisure” interests. These are hobbies and volunteering gigs that often start at a young age and that individuals continue to invest considerable time and energy into.

Does serious leisure make you a better leader? The few studies that have looked at the job performance of CEOs with strong hobbies show mixed results. For instance, CEOs who are also pilots lead more innovative companies, and CEOs who run marathons show better company performance

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We’re looking for the next CEO of Dorm Room Fund

I’m excited to announce that we’re kicking off a search for the next leader of Dorm Room Fund (DRF)and celebrating our newest #DRF4Life alumni, Rei Wang, as she gets set to shift her leadership focus from the DRF community to her own startup.

In the summer of 2015, DRF was two years old, had teams in four cities and felt like the start of something powerful. Then, I got an email in response to a post like this, and Rei joined us. Since then, everything’s changed.

Under Rei’s leadership, DRF evolved from an operationally efficient group of student investors to an incredibly vibrant community of entrepreneurial students. DRF members are empowered to create, own and launch — and the results have been outstanding, from innovative products (VCWiz) to community events (AllDRF and Female Founders Track) to new funds (Graduate Fund).

As the leader of DRF, Rei

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Why Seclusion Is the Enemy of Creativity

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In 1545, Jacopo da Pontormo scored a major commission from Duke Cosimo I de’ Medici to paint the main chapel of Florence’s church of San Lorenzo. A contemporary of masters like Michelangelo, Pontormo was a distinguished but aging artist who was eager to secure his legacy.

Pontormo knew he needed to make these frescoes the crowning achievement of his career, so he sealed off the entire chapel. He built walls, erected partitions, and hung blinds so that nobody could steal his ideas or sneak an early peek. Trusting no one, he chased away local youth and kept human contact to a minimum. He spent eleven years holed up, painting Christ on Judgement Day, Noah’s ark, and Creation itself.

Pontormo died before his work on the chapel was done, and none of it survives, but the legendary Renaissance writer Vasari visited the site soon after the painter’s death.

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Ineffective Leaders

Does your organization lack quality leadership? In this episode of HBR’s advice podcast, Dear HBR:, cohosts Alison Beard and Dan McGinn answer your questions with the help of Peter Bregman, the CEO of Bregman Partners and author of the book Leading with Emotional Courage. They talk through what to do when your leaders are indecisive, unprofessional, or value the wrong things.

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Listen to more episodes and find out how to subscribe on the Dear HBR: page. Email your questions about your workplace dilemmas to Dan and Alison at

From Alison and Dan’s reading list for this episode:

HBRIf Your Boss Could Do Your Job, You’re More Likely to Be Happy at Work by Benjamin Artz, Amanda Goodall, and Andrew J. Oswald — “Although we found that many factors can matter for happiness at work – type of occupation, level of education,

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Professor Harry Davis, on Leadership

Leadership is hard. There are no classes in school for it unless you go to certain schools. Military academies actively train leaders. At those schools, the first step is learning how to follow.

One of the reasons I signed on with Raman Chadha and his ideas around The Junto Institute is that there is a gap in education around leadership. As Raman pointed out and found, we teach people to pitch. We teach people accounting, marketing and finance. We teach them operations. We don’t teach them to lead.

I never realized the wisdom behind Schofield’s quote until later in life. It’s pretty succinct and genius. It helps to know that it came at a time when the military was learning new ways to lead.

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Why Great Success Can Bring Out the Worst Parts of Our Personalities

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By any measure, Elon Musk is exceptionally successful. Having cofounded and sold PayPal, he quickly moved on to launching a range of ventures with world-changing aspirations for how we generate energy, transport ourselves and our goods, interface with machines, and explore our solar system. These ventures are unified in their vision — really more of an obsessive quest — for a more sustainable and resilient future for humanity, executed through a mixture of brilliant engineering and out-of-the-box thinking. To be sure, the ultimate success of these endeavors remains an open question, but so far they have defied expectations and inspired people around the world.

There is no questioning the fact that Musk’s talent for entrepreneurship, defined as the ability to translate original and useful ideas into practical innovations, is truly outstanding. And yet there is also an evident other side to Musk, which has recently manifested — rather

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Why the World Needs Doctors with These 3 Qualities

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Doctors are sometimes blamed for the ills of the U.S. health care system, but our five-year research project in India and the U.S. revealed the opposite. Almost every high-performing health care organization we studied was led by a medical professional (something that academic research has also found).

What we found, while collecting case studies for our book Reverse Innovation in Health Care, is that these doctors are not just medical experts; they also have other qualities that make them very effective leaders. We call these individuals “doctorpreneurs,” and believe they are key to fixing the problems of the health care industry.

Doctorpreneurs have three important qualities:

  1. Medical excellence: First and foremost, doctorpreneurs are excellent doctors, with first-rate education and training. In professional organizations (consulting firms, universities, law firms), only a person trained in the profession is usually acceptable as a leader, and health care is no exception.
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Research: To Be a Good Leader, Start By Being a Good Follower

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There is no shortage of advice for those who aspire to be effective leaders. One piece of advice may be particularly enticing: if you want to be a successful leader, ensure that you are seen as a leader and not a follower. To do this, goes the usual advice, you should seek out opportunities to lead, adopt behaviors that people associate with leaders rather than followers (e.g., dominance and confidence), and — above all else — show your exceptionalism relative to your peers.

But there is a problem here. It is not just that there is limited evidence that leaders really are exceptional individuals. More importantly, it is that by seeking to demonstrate their specialness and exceptionalism, aspiring leaders may compromise their very ability to lead.

The simple reason for this is that, as Warren Bennis has observed, leaders are only ever as effective as their

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Survey: 68% of CEOs Admit They Weren’t Fully Prepared for the Job

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CEOs are known for their confidence. It is, after all, one of the reasons they’ve made it to the top. And yet, that confidence sometimes flags, as we at leadership advisory firm Egon Zehnder learned from a survey  of 402 CEOs from 11 countries—executives who together run companies with  $2.6 trillion in sales.

Participating anonymously, CEOs told us that while they did feel ready for the strategic and business aspects of their roles, they felt much less prepared for the personal and interpersonal components of leadership, which are just as critical to success.

Here are some of the most surprising findings:

Great Leaders Are Confident, Connected, Committed, and Courageous

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Brad was leading a difficult turnaround of his company and had decided to fire his head of sales, who was a nice guy but wasn’t performing.

Three months later, he still hadn’t fired him.

I asked him why. His answer? “I’m a wimp!”

Brad (not his real name — I’ve changed some details to protect people’s privacy) is the CEO of a financial services firm and is most definitely not a wimp. He’s a normal human, just like you and me. And he’s struggling to follow through on an important, strategic decision. Just like, at times, you and I do.

No matter your age, your role, your position, your title, your profession, or your status, to get your most important work done, you have to have hard conversations, create accountability, and inspire action.

In order to do that, you need to show up powerfully and magnetically in a

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Most People Are Supportive of #MeToo. But Will Workplaces Actually Change?

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The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements continue to create a tidal wave of media activity and increased awareness of sexual harassment and misconduct. But have they created positive changes in workplaces? Are people seeing healthy and lasting improvements in their organizations as a result of these movements?

To answer these questions, we asked 1,100 people in an online opt-in survey about the changes, if any, they’re seeing in their workplaces. The results are far stronger on promise than on delivery — showing that these movements have raised hopes, expectations, and some concerns. Now it’s up to leaders to deliver on the momentum and address some of the worries.

Nearly two-thirds (63%) of the respondents in our survey describe #MeToo as “healthy,” and 45% say talking about harm they are experiencing is now safer. In fact, 41% of the women in our survey know someone who has shared their

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What the World’s Best Restaurant Knows About Keeping Its Creative Edge

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Many companies have soared on the wings of radical ideas, from Polaroid’s instant camera to the sharing economy of firms like Airbnb.

Chef Massimo Bottura likewise upended convention in 1995 when he opened his restaurant, Osteria Francescana, in Modena, Italy, and started serving radically reinvented Italian dishes in a culture that placed a premium on tradition. His daring proved no flash in the pan. In 2016, two decades after (barely) surviving the ire of locals to become a three-Michelin-star destination, Osteria secured the top spot on the list of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants. And it has just been named No. 1 again.

What seemed like a risky move at the time — rebelling against beloved recipes shared across generations — made Bottura a star. That success could have bred complacency, followed by failure, as so often happens in companies across industries. Instead, at Osteria Francescana, success set

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How Investment Advisors Are Tackling Leadership Challenges – SPONSOR CONTENT FROM TD AMERITRADE


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The challenges facing leaders today create a complex business landscape: Your business is more global, the pace is faster, technology is reframing your competitive world while customers, armed with more information and more choices, are changing their expectations and demands.

That picture also reflects the challenges that face the more than 6,000 registered investment advisors who work with TD Ameritrade, leaders of firms that manage a total of more than $3 trillion of assets for their clients. While they deal with the increasing complexity of the financial world, market volatility and a changing regulatory environment, these advisors also manage their own businesses and face their own leadership challenges around growth, technology, sustainability and customer relationship.

That’s why TD Ameritrade recently brought together a group of 200 top registered investment advisors (RIAs) for a leadership conference at The Broadmoor in Colorado. The three-day event

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What Media Execs Missed about YouTube Stars

For Father’s Day I was watching the most heartfelt movies I’ve seen in a long time, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor.” It is a movie that will both lift you up with the possibilities of how much of an individual person can have a positive impact on masses of people as well as challenge you about what you’re doing to make the world a slightly better place. It is a movie that will have you laughing raucously and sniffling uncontrollably in joy and sorrow.

I simply can’t imagine any of you NOT watching this wonderful, self-affirming documentary movie about Fred Rogers and if you are able to I recommend you watch while it’s in a theater because the group reactions are cathartic. We clapped as Mr. Rogers testified before congress and used a personal narrative that won over the heart of the most hardened congressman and we laughed out loud at the on-set pranks by hippies to this “square” host and we sat in wonder as we watched footing of Mr. Rogers with Coco the gorilla.

The YouTube embed and this link have a short trailer.

If you don’t know “Mister Rogers Neighborhood” as a show I can tell you that it defined my generation’s childhood as nearly every Gen-Xer grew up on it. Some of my earliest memories of childhood are as a four-year-old sitting in front of the TV with Mr. Rogers talking directly to me. He showed empathy, he assumed I was smart, he talked to me about reading and then we would descend into “the world of make believe” where kings, queens and the scary Lady Elaine. I would race over to my parents or older brother, Ron, when Mr. Rogers put words up and I would shout, “What does that say? What does that SAY!?!”

What I didn’t realize were the broader social issues that Mr. Rogers was helping the nation deal with. In an era when there were national conflicts because segregationists were removing African Americans from swimming pools, Mr. Rogers invited his neighborhood police officer to cool off his feet with him.

Mr. Rogers dealt with assassination (as in Robert Kennedy’s) all the way through Space Shuttle disaster and even 9/11. He talked about anger, divorce, war and the like. Mr. Rogers’ philosophy that if children were hearing it in the home he had to give them the context of what was happening to the scared or angry grownups around them. He didn’t pretend children weren’t aware that adults were unhappy.

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister, an expert on childhood development and a lifelong Republican who fought for funding for public television to reach American children and help them develop alternative narratives to the

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