Achieve Killer Results without Killing Yourself



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[FONT=&quot]By William C. Taylor | December 6, 2010[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]Like everyone else, I was surprised to read the news that Jeffrey Kindler, the change-minded CEO of Pfizer, Inc. was retiring after less than five years on the job. Who knows all of the factors that contributed to the decision. But what is so striking about the “official story” is that Kindler was so open about the fact that he was so darn tired. Indeed, reading his quotes, you could feel the fatigue rolling off the page-fatigue that’s got to be familiar to lots of CEOs running companies in lots of different industries.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]It’s lonely at the top.[/FONT][FONT=&quot] If there is a defining conceit at the heart of how so many of us think about leadership, it is that of the no-nonsense, hard-charging, often-wrong-but-never-in-doubt boss who enjoys the glories (and bears the burdens) of success on his or her own. That’s what makes executive life (in theory) so glamorous: Who isn’t eager to match wits with brilliant rivals and stay one step ahead of a complex world?[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Of course, that’s also what makes executive life (in reality) so exhausting: What happens when rivals come at you from more directions than ever, when markets change faster than ever, when problems loom larger than ever?[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Executive Leadership: A Virtually Impossible Job[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]As a business culture, we’ve made the lure of executive leadership hard to resist-and the job virtually impossible to do. A few years ago, a harrowing essay in The Atlantic captured how excruciating it is for many CEOs just to make it through the day. It began with an account from Rachel Bellow, an executive coach in Manhattan, who described the calendar of one of her clients. “There was no white space seven days a week, not even Saturdays and Sundays,” Bellow marveled. “He was all over the place on his private jet…He would go to nine cities in a single twenty-four-hour period. It was obscene!”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The essay sums up the dilemma of the contemporary business leader this way: “The more CEOs work and the more responsibilities they take on, the more isolated they become. Their entourages shield them from workaday headaches. Their spot at the top cuts them off from the people lower down on the corporate totem pole, and thus from reliable, ‘un-spun’ information. Everyone reporting to them has his own ambitions; everyone wants to look good; everyone wants a promotion. So what’s a CEO to do?”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]The simple answer is to rewrite an awful job description that has been obsolete for an awfully long time. In an era of non-stop pressure, the way to succeed as a leader without losing your mind is to change the prevailing and long-standing mindset about what it means to lead.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Confront the Big Lie of “Command and Control”[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]That’s why, 15 years ago, in the very first issue of Fast Company, we profiled a hotshot executive who was struggling to develop an alternative to a leadership style that was working neither for him nor his company. Dave Marsing was a rising star at Intel, the Silicon Valley behemoth, and had run several of it biggest, most complex chip-manufacturing facilities-one of the most stressful assignments at a company known for its “only-the-paranoid-survive” culture. Marsing was at his best when the chips were down-until, at age 36, while working to pull a troubled facility out of a major crisis, he suffered a near-fatal heart attack.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]For years after his heart attack, Marsing told the writer, he would visit cardiac-care units every six month “just to look at the gray faces and remember.” As a result, he confronted “the big lie” of command-and-control leadership, reinvented how he defined his job, and went on to run what was, at the time, the most expensive semiconductor facility on earth.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Marsing’s challenge, as the title of the article suggested, was to deliver “Killer Results Without Killing Yourself.” That’s a challenge with which so many executives in so many fields continue to struggle. The answer to that challenge is to recognize that the best way to deliver on an ambitious agenda for your organization is to change your agenda as a leader.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Keith Sawyer[/FONT][FONT=&quot], a creativity guru at Washington University in St. Louis, has literally written the book on where change and progress come from. In Group Genius, he emphasizes the relationship between innovation and improvisation-and explains how few leaders are prepared to recognize the messy and hard-to-manage truth about the real logic of business success.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Recognize the Organization’s Collective Genius[/FONT][FONT=&quot][/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Many (perhaps most) executives subscribe to what Sawyer calls script-think-”the tendency to think that events are more predictable than they really are.” In fact, he says, “Innovation emerges from the bottom up, unpredictably and improvisationally, and it’s often only after the innovation has occurred that everyone realizes what’s happened.”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]Translation: The most effective leaders no longer want the job of solving their organization’s biggest problems or identifying its best opportunities. Instead, they recognize that the most powerful ideas can come from the most unexpected places: the quiet genius buried deep inside the organization, the collective genius that surrounds the organization, the hidden genius of customers, suppliers, and other constituencies who would be eager to share what they know if only they were asked.[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]“We’re drawn to the image of the lone genius whose mystical moment of insight changes the world,” Sawyer argues. “But the lone genius is a myth; instead it’s group genius that generates breakthrough innovation. When we collaborate, creativity unfolds across people; the sparks fly faster, and the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”[/FONT]
[FONT=&quot]That’s the difference between success and failure today, and the beginnings of a new approach to leadership that helps CEOs change the game-and stay in the game for the long term. Have you figured out how to deliver killer results without killing yourself?[/FONT]

[FONT=&quot]William C. Taylor [/FONT][FONT=&quot]is cofounder of [/FONT][FONT=&quot]Fast Company magazine and coauthor of Mavericks at Work. His new book, Practically Radical, will be published on January 4, 2011. You can follow him on[/FONT]
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[FONT=&quot]SOURCE: Achieve Killer Results without Killing Yourself | BNET[/FONT]

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