Archive for the 'Naked CEO' Category

Warren Buffett has a bunch of memorable quotes.  Here’s a doozy:

“Of one thing be certain: if a CEO is enthused about a particularly foolish acquisition, both his internal staff and his outside advisers will come up with whatever projections are needed to justify his stance. Only in fairy tales are emperors told that they are naked.”

I’d enjoy this quote more if it didn’t hit so close to home. On at least one occasion (okay maybe closer to 1,000), I have been viewed as being a bit too “enthused” about a particular business issue.  In the eyes of some, I would only accept and reward those who agreed with me, which I acknowledge was a fair critique of me in earlier periods of my career.  I believe I have somewhat addressed this derailer.  The difficult part is a fine line exists between providing clear leadership in an ambiguous environment versus stubbornly leading lemmings over a cliff.

I can think of many examples where I provided strong and stubborn leadership–but, in hindsight, should have spent more time gaining consensus and refining the plan.  I should have listened more–and made sure people around me were comfortable speaking their mind.  Some of these still sit like a lump of coal in my stomach–I wish I could do them over again. I get embarrassed when I let myself think about them.

I can think of many other examples where the strong and stubborn leadership was critical to enable a team to accomplish a seemingly outlandish objective.  Often, the naysayers easily outnumbered the believers.  Even some who helped accomplished the goal did so despite having an initial view that I was stubbornly leading them the wrong direction.  I view one of my strengths as getting groups of people to succeed in difficult and ambiguous environments.  This requires providing clear and timely direction– even if the rationale isn’t bought-off by all those involved. Buy-off requires consensus building, which takes time and compromise.

As I matured, I recognized that consensus building is important. However, I believe some business initiatives are best accomplished without waiting for a consensus to emerge. Knowing the difference between plowing ahead versus building consensus is the hard part.  In this case, slightly better than 50/50 doesn’t cut it.  A good leader has to make the right call the super-majority of the time.