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

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ses/Getty Images

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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Pat LaCroix/Getty Images

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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hbr staff/matthew henry/unsplash

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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Nicolo Campo/Getty Images

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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LILA PHOTO for TD Ameritrade Institutional

 

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

Continue reading "What Media Execs Missed about YouTube Stars"

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

Continue reading "What Media Execs Missed about YouTube Stars"

Can Being Overconfident Make You a Better Leader?

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OLI SCARFF/Getty Images

When Apple CEO Steve Jobs approached AT&T about partnering on a new kind of mobile phone — a touchscreen computer that would fit in your pocket — Apple had no expertise in the mobile market. Yet AT&T executives quickly came to believe so strongly in Job’s vision that they skipped internal process protocols to land the deal. Randall Stephenson, then CEO of AT&T, famously said, “I told people you weren’t betting on a device. You were betting on Steve Jobs.” Apple went on to secure massive commitments from AT&T’s suppliers, who spent hundreds of millions to build factories for iPhone-specific parts.

Most of us think of overconfidence as a bad thing. Daniel Kahneman, the 2002 Nobel prize laureate and psychologist, has said that if he had a magic wand, he’d eliminate it. And for good reason — research has shown that when overconfidence permeates the upper levels

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In Interviews, Female CEOs Say They Don’t Expect Much Support — at Home or at Work

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Women who have already made it to the top say that the only person who will get you there is yourself.

While many researchers and observers have examined the structural and other barriers that limit women’s progress through the ranks, we wanted to explore a different question: how have the few women who have made it to the very top overcome those barriers? Our aim was to discover how female CEOs explain their own success, and to develop recommendations for supporting women’s leadership careers more generally.

We embarked on an in-depth study of the leadership journey of 12 female CEOs, most of whom lead large, global corporations. This was part of a larger study on the same topic, covering a total of 151 global CEOs — 12 female and 139 male. According to Grant Thornton (2016), globally, only 9% of women in senior management are

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Asian Americans Are the Least Likely Group in the U.S. to Be Promoted to Management

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Asian Americans are the forgotten minority in the glass ceiling conversation.

This was painfully obvious to us while reading the newly released diversity and inclusion report from a large Silicon Valley company: Its 19 pages never specifically address Asian Americans. Asian men are lumped into a “non-underrepresented” category with white men (we’ll say more about that below); Asian women are assigned to a category that includes women of all races. In contrast, the report addresses Hispanics, African Americans, and Native Americans as distinct categories. Ironically, the chief diversity and inclusion officer of the company remarked about its efforts, “If you do not intentionally include, you will unintentionally exclude.”

But excluded from the report was the fact that Asian Americans are the least likely racial group to be promoted into Silicon Valley’s management and executive levels, even though they are the most likely to be hired into

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In The End She Was Vulnerable To Facts

I read Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup last week on my Q2 vacation. In my post talking about the various books I read, I wrote the following about it.

“Every entrepreneur and VC should read this book. John Carreyrou has done something important here. Maybe this book will finally put a nail in the phrase “fake it till you make it”, but I doubt it. The amount of lying, disingenuousness, blatant and unjustified self-promotion, and downright deceit that exists in entrepreneurship right now is at a local maximum. This always happens when entrepreneurship gets trendy. Carreyrou just wrote a long warning for entrepreneurs and VCs.”

This morning, Amy emailed me a link to an article by Matthew Herper titled Elizabeth Holmes’ Superpower. He strongly recommends Carreyrou’s book and talks about his coverage of Theranos and how he was snowed over the years, partly through his interactions directly

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The Different Words We Use to Describe Male and Female Leaders

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Phil Ashley/Getty Images

We like to think of ourselves as unbiased and objective in our employment decisions, but with two equal candidates, who are you going to promote? Someone who is described in their performance evaluations as analytical or someone who is described as compassionate? On the other end of the employment spectrum, if you’re downsizing and have to fire someone and the two people in jeopardy are very similar, who are you going to fire? Someone perceived as arrogant or someone perceived as inept? Leadership attributions in performance evaluations are powerful.

A unique and fascinating data set allowed us to explore the language used to describe individuals in subjective performance evaluations and provides evidence that, as we suspected, language in performance evaluations is applied differently to describe men and women. We analyzed a large-scale military dataset (over 4,000 participants and 81,000 evaluations) to examine objective and subjective performance measures

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Assessment: Are You a Compassionate Leader?

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anbileru adaleru/noun project

Compassion has become increasingly recognized as a foundational aspect of leadership. One study from 2012 found that compassionate leaders appear stronger and have more engaged followers. Other studies have found that organizations with more compassionate leaders have better collaboration, lower turnover, and employees who are more trusting, more connected to each other, and more committed to the company. When we surveyed more than 1,000 leaders from 800 organizations, 91% of them said compassion is very important for their leadership and 80% said they would like to enhance their compassion but do not know how.

What do we mean by compassion? It is the intent to contribute to the happiness and well-being of others. A compassionate leader has a genuine interest in seeing their people not just perform and increase profits but thrive. But this doesn’t mean “being soft” or trying to please people by giving them

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Remaining Objective Is Hard, But the Best Leaders Figure Out How to Do It

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Danae Diaz/Getty Images

There is no single leadership trait that guarantees success in any profession, but there is, based on my experience, one that many of the best leaders share: a fierce commitment to objectivity. And yet I realize it’s often not easy for leaders to remain objective.

In my nearly three-decade career in the intelligence community, I have worked for and with 11 Directors of CIA and all five Directors of National Intelligence. Each has brought their own personality and skill set to the job, and each in their time has faced their own set of challenges, from deeply contentious relationships with the White House and Congress to unforeseen terrorist attacks on the homeland and U.S. diplomatic facilities overseas. I think each would agree that leading in the intelligence community is a daily exercise in crisis management, whether at the helm of CIA with its global analytic and operational

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Interviews with 59 Black Female Executives Explore Intersectional Invisibility and Strategies to Overcome It

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HBR Staff

Black women continue to be sorely underrepresented in leadership roles in corporate America. Currently, they make up 12.7% of the U.S. population, yet they represent only 1.3% of senior management and executive roles of S&P 500 firms, 2.2% of Fortune 500 boards of directors, and in a post-Ursula Burns world, there is not a single black female CEO in the Fortune 500.

Despite this underrepresentation, a small subset of black women have found success as leaders and played key roles in driving organizational change. We conducted in-depth interviews with 59 black women executives who have occupied senior-level positions in U.S. corporations. We sought to understand the barriers they faced, their strategies for ascending through the organization, and the tools they used to manage significant organizational change efforts and navigate career risks.

We conducted interviews around the years 2007 and 2014 — one year before

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What CEOs Get Wrong About Activist Investors

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Benjamin Harte/Getty Images

We were shareholder activists once. For two years, we conducted an activist campaign at Tejon Ranch, the largest private landowner in California and a publicly traded company. We earned a 13% return — not bad by industry standards — but we failed to change the company much. We wrote about our adventure nearly a year ago in The Atlantic, but as we thought more about our interaction with Tejon Ranch’s managers, we realized there were valuable lessons that we wanted to share with the corporate leaders who are likely to confront the risk of an activist campaign.

We still believe the executives at Tejon Ranch made some mistakes, as did we, but our biggest collective mistake was thinking in terms of threats rather than opportunities. Like so many managers today, they responded to shareholder activism defensively. Then, as is also typical of activists, we felt boxed in and went

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3 Ways Senior Leaders Create a Toxic Culture

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Whether presiding over the entire company, a function, a region, or a business unit, the people at the top of an organization have a disproportionate level of influence over those they lead. Those further down in the organization look to their leaders for cues on what’s acceptable (and what isn’t), and the team’s habits — both good and bad — will be emulated. Having your actions play out publicly, as if on a Jumbotron, is a huge responsibility, and unfortunately too many teams don’t take this responsibility as seriously as they should. The consequences can be farther reaching than most leadership teams realize.

At their best, leadership teams synchronize their organizations into cohesive powerhouses. At their worst, they set an example that some of the worst habits will be tolerated — and perhaps even rewarded. In my 30 years of working with leadership teams, these are three

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