How a Superstar Affects Your Ratings

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by Gavin Cassar

Subjectively evaluating people can have long-lasting effects.

Imagine yourself speed dating.

The first person sits across from you and the attraction is instant. You begin chatting and find the words come easily. In fact, they pour out. As the minutes melt away, you realise you’ve probably never felt this deeply connected to anyone before. But then, time is up, and you are suddenly staring into the face of a new stranger.

How much of a fair chance does this new person have to make a good impression on you? Alternatively, how would your perception of this second date change had your first interaction been a total dud? The quality of that first interaction influences the way we judge future, similar experiences.

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Empathy is an essential leadership skill — and there’s nothing soft about it

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by  Prudy Gourguechon

I get tired of hearing about “soft skills,” even when it’s acknowledged they are important. No less a hard-muscled body than the U.S. Army, in its Army Field Manual on Leader Development (one of the best resource on leadership I’ve ever seen) insists repeatedly that empathy is essential for competent leadership.


Why? Empathy enables you to know if the people you’re trying to reach are actually reached. It allows you to predict the effect your decisions and actions will have on core audiences and strategize accordingly. Without empathy, you can’t build a team or nurture a new generation of leaders. You will not inspire followers or elicit loyalty. Empathy is essential in negotiations and sales: it allows you to know your target’s desires and what risks they are or aren’t willing to take.

Elsewhere I’ve proposed a short list of 5 essential cognitive capacities and personality traits that every leader who assumes great responsibility must have. Empathy is one of the core five. (The others are self-awareness, trust, critical thinking and discipline/self-control.)

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The Three Altitudes of Leadership

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by Ian C. Woodward

Leaders must cultivate the seamless ability to mix forward-vision thinking, tactical execution and self-awareness – across the altitudes of leadership.

High altitudes hold a special place in the history of human achievement. We remember Sir Edmund Hillary and Nepalese sherpa, Tenzing Norgay as the first climbers to reach the summit of Mount Everest. Other altitude pioneers include Russian cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin, the first human to fly in outer space, and Neil Armstrong, the first person on the moon. More recently, in 2012, Austrian Felix Baumgartner skydived from a capsule at 127,000 feet.

In the world of leadership, altitudes are significant, too. However, the concern is much less about how high a leader can go, than about how he or she can seamlessly move between three distinct altitudes of leadership thinking.

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Corporate Heaven: The ‘Authentizotic’ Organisation

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by  Manfred Kets de Vries

How to create an organisation where people find meaning in, and are captivated by, their work.

The CEO of Wickrott Corporation was known as a suspicious control freak. Symptomatic of his leadership style were the numerous “internal consultants” hired to keep him informed of the goings-on in the organisation. Staff described their work environment as a cutthroat, Darwinian “soup”. Information was power; secrecy was the norm; transparency and teamwork were conspicuous by their absence. To add to the company’s paranoid culture, the CEO demanded pre-signed resignation letters from all of his senior executives so that he could fire them on the spot if he felt that they had transgressed. At meetings, he frequently subjected them to abusive, even profane tirades. During these humiliating sessions, he made it quite clear that the firm owed every bit of its success to him alone.

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In search of a better stretch target

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By Ryan Davies, Hugues Lavandier, and Ken Schwartz

Aggressive goals can dramatically improve a company’s performance. But unachievable goals can do more harm than good. Here’s how to stretch without breaking.

The urge to improve is innate in most companies, where better service, stronger performance, and faster operations are inextricably tied to earnings, bonuses, and shareholder returns. The impetus is so strong, in fact, that the practice of setting stretch targets for a company’s performance has become emblematic for the grit and aggressiveness expected of a modern executive. Managers take pride in seeking to achieve the unthinkable.

Sometimes they succeed, surprising even themselves with how much stretch targets can improve performance. But there are limits to how far they can push. The wrong metrics can sap motivation and undermine performance.1 Targets set along one metric without regard for the effect on performance elsewhere can destroy value. And broad-based aggregate measures of profit margin, operating profit, and earnings per share are only loosely linked to valuation. One CFO recently admitted to us that his multibillion-dollar global company would hit its quarterly goals for earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA), but only at the cost of reducing its operating cash flow. Signs of unhealthy stretch targets can be quite clear—and any of them can lead to poor behaviors, distracting senior managers and having no impact on value.

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