Tucked in at 5:00 PM PST on CNN yesterday was a show by Fareed Zakaria interviewing leaders on what leadership is and what leaders do. I also think the podcast is available on iTunes for free. He interviewed 5 leaders, Lou Gerstner of IBM fame, Christine Todd Whitman of government fame, Admiral McMullen of Joint Chiefs of Staff, Jeffrey Levin of Yale and Tony Blair of the UK. To a person they talked of making the tough decisions.
However, they also talked about listening and understanding their people. To a person it was listen and learn! Gerstner said he made the mistake early in his career of forging ahead on his own vision and not paying attention to the culture of the organization or the values of the people who worked there. He wasn’t successful. By the time he came to turn around IBM, he knew how important the culture and people were. McMullen talked about spending as much time as he can in the farthest reaches of the military that are safe for him listening to the men and women who are sacrificing for the country.
If I had to sum up the key points they would be:
Making the decisions that need to be made.
Listening and learning