Leadership strategy

May 24 2007 by Robert Heller Print This Article

There's a natural lifespan for human beings which seems to be accompanied by a natural leadership span. That's why top managers are seldom as effective in their older years.

It's tempting for CEOs to get sucked into a certain mindset that places priority on doing things right over doing the right things.

What's more, charismatic leaders can sometimes get addicted to their own power, which makes them lose touch with reality.

The ability to recognise mistakes and to atone for them, however dire, is a more important leadership attribute than charisma.

Whether the business is prospering or failing, a renewable leader should be at the helm. You have to change your stance to fit changing times, or you and your business will get out of synch. Top people need new ideas more than anyone else.

Take the following test and give honest answers to these four crucial questions (true or false):

  • My leadership is influenced by what is typically true, so I miss possibilities that contradict this received view.
  • I have a tendency to judge the probability of an event by the ease with which relevant examples come to mind – so I assess the risks of failure in a new venture from past experience in the marketplace, rather than the available data.
  • I confirm what I expect to find by being selective in accepting or ignoring information.
  • I am overly influenced by my personal feelings – people I like are more likely to get a positive response.

If you answer 'false' for all four, you're probably in denial. Faced with a plethora of choices, the mind reverts to short-cuts and general rules which make decision-making simpler and faster.

Do not be too easily led by what others are doing – be more interested in what they are not doing, or not doing well enough, to inform your leadership stance.

What's more, be open to all the data you can find –whether it fits your preconceived ideas or not. And don't have favourites – give people a chance to win favour with everybody by their quality of thought.

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About The Author

Robert Heller
Robert Heller

Robert Heller, who died aged 80 in August 2012, was Britain's most renowned and best-selling author on business management. Author of more than 50 books, he was the founding editor of Management Today and the Global Future Forum. About his latest title, The Fusion Manager, Sir John Harvey-Jones wrote: "The future lies with the thinking manager, and the thinking manager must read this book".

Older Comments

Natural leadership is somewhat of an oxymoron... since if it were so natural, more would have it! In order to lead, one must possess a distinguishing perspective that causes those following to adopt and adapt to a new paradigm being proposed by the leader. I do not believe that age is a significant criteria to base one's leadership grid. I am very grateful that Benjamin Franklin, FDR and Ronald Reagan were not counted out before they made their greatest contributions. Oh did I forget to mention Churchill?

Anthony DiMaio New York City