Until recently, I hadn't really known any great leaders. As a writer, the highest-ranking people I deal with are editors, and they're pretty much just writers who have gotten lazy. The only thing an editor has ever led me into is a bar.
So my images of leadership were based mainly on movies and sports. I figured great leaders did a lot of alpha-male yelling and inspirational speechmaking. To me, the epitome of leadership was when a baseball player is yelling at the umpire and about to get ejected and his manager runs out to the field to jump in front of him, so he can yell at the umpire and get thrown out of the game instead. In fact, I always thought baseball-team owners were awful people for not getting on the field in front of both the manager and player and getting ejected in their place. I may have felt this way because my favorite team was owned by George Steinbrenner. more...
Management knows it and so does Wall Street: The year-to-year viability of a company depends on its ability to innovate. Yet many companies have not yet learned to manage innovation strategically. The companies we've found to have the strongest innovation track records do things differently: Rather than hoping that their future will emerge from a collection of ad hoc, stand-alone efforts that compete with one another for time, money, attention, and prestige, they manage for "total innovation."
We humans are funny. Often we create beliefs or engage in behaviors that seem to help us in the short term, only to discover they get in the way of the lives we really want to live, or the people we want to become.
Allow me to share the story of my friend, Erin. Over lunch one day, she told both her mentor and me about a division director job she had truly wanted. The role offered good challenges, the chance to develop her skills, fabulous travel, and unparalleled flexibility. It would have been "a dream come true".
For most of us, starting at a new company brings up those same anxieties we felt when starting in a new school as a child. All of a sudden you don't have any friends, you're not sure what you're supposed to do, and it's hard to find the bathroom. Adding to the pressure is the unspoken fact that the clock is ticking: Your new colleagues may give you a grace period, but you know that they are making judgments about whether or not you'll be a good fit, starting on day one. And of course you are also making a parallel assessment to figure out if you made the right choice.