Situational Leadership

The new model: adaptive leadership

April 11, 2011

Many business thinkers have already pro­­nounced the death of the hierarchical, command-and-control approach to leadership. Those approaches simply don’t work anymore. What’s in? Adaptive leadership. Among other things, adaptive leaders embrace uncertainty and adopt new approaches.

Put your rivals at ease

April 8, 2011
When the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff visited MBA students at Wharton and worked the classroom, he met a student from Moscow whose father had been a general in the Red Army at the height of the Cold War. Realizing that the generals served on opposite sides, the class fell silent …

Nothing beats customer visits

January 24, 2011
As the newly minted president and COO of Medtronic, Bill George had to cool his jets for a while at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, waiting to begin a day on the job learning about the company’s products firsthand. He soon learned in the operating room why Med­tronic’s catheter sales weren’t great …

Avoid the cost of ambiguous orders

December 8, 2010
In the chaotic days after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans police shot 11 people, at least some of whom were thought to be looters. While he denies giving the order to shoot looters, former Police Chief Warren Riley does acknowledge telling police captains to “take back the city.” How it was interpreted points to how dangerous ambiguous orders can be.

Aflac CEO: It only takes a duck

August 13, 2010

The once-obscure Aflac insures one in four Japanese households because of a duck. And a cat. Actually, a cat duck called Maneki Neko. The cat duck is so popular in Japan that Aflac’s new ad was voted No. 1. How? Why? Ask Aflac’s CEO.

Fly or abort? Ask yourself 3 questions

July 9, 2010

Fighter pilot Rob “Waldo” Waldman had survived six-hour combat missions in Iraq and Kosovo, so he figured that ferrying an F-16 from Spain to South Carolina was no big deal. Right? Wrong. The problem was 3,500 miles of ocean and Waldman had claustrophobia. Fly or abort?

After you make the wrong call

July 9, 2010

Some mistakes are memorable not because they provide pyrotechnics but because they show character. Case in point: Major league umpire Jim Joyce this summer made the most important call of his career, and it was wrong. His mistake cost Detroit’s pitcher Armando Galarraga a perfect game. After reviewing the video, Joyce immediately admitted that he’d blown the call.

How good leaders face up to adversity

June 14, 2010

After years of studying growth companies, author Keith McFarland noticed that the best ones experienced “a period of pronounced difficulty.” How companies respond to adversity may determine winners and losers, he decided. Superior leaders don’t focus solely on getting through tough times. Instead, they ask fundamental questions, listen and face facts.

How indecision killed the troops

May 14, 2010

All along, Gen. Ambrose Burnside had supported an unorthodox plan: Dig a long tunnel, load it with dynamite and blow a hole in the Confederate lines defending Petersburg, Va., a vital rail hub. But a last-minute change from above threw Burnside into a funk, and he made a leadership error that cost the Union a speedy end to the Civil War and relieved Burnside of his command.

Leadership at the Winter Games

April 12, 2010

In some ways, David Atkins was under more pressure than anybody at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, and he’s not even an athlete. As executive producer of the opening ceremony, Atkins had a tough act to follow: the 2008 Olympic ceremonies in China. Yet he succeeded with a budget 30% less by using less manpower and relying on tech-driven illusion.