As aprofessor at Stanford, Robert Sutton heard many tales of woe that led to his business best-seller, The No Asshole Rule, whose thesis was simple: Don’t hire jerks.
Beyond jerkdom, however, Sutton has a few suggestions about how to behave and how not to behave as a leader:
Expect more scrutiny. The higher you rise, the greater people’s expectations. Leaders get more credit and more blame than they deserve.
Avoid “power poisoning.” This is an ironic effect that often happens as leaders rise through the ranks. As CEO, your ability to protect employees from bureaucracy or favoritism grows. At the same time, you tend to be shielded from internal problems and gradually grow oblivious to them, so even as your ability to protect people goes up, your likelihood of doing it goes down. Fight this tendency and you’re halfway home.
An example: Back when he was a medical resident, a now-prominent surgeon met with his fellow residents every Friday for a drink. They nominated their “jackass of the week,” wrote down what the jerks did and vowed never to become like them. Since that time, members of the group hold each other to the pledge.
Zip it. In Western cultures, the one who talks and interrupts the most has the highest status, aka, “all transmission and no reception.” Although talking is more fun than listening, resist the urge to be a blabbermouth.
Act confidently. At the moment of decision, nobody knows for sure if it’s right or wrong. It’s a hunch. But research shows that if you act with confidence, the odds of pulling it off increase. If it's the wrong decision, just say “I was wrong” and move on.
Watch new hires. Observe them for a trial period and act on what you see. One school principal spends lots of time sitting in the backs of classrooms trying to sort out the good teachers from those who need some help and the few who just won’t cut it. He says it’s easy for people to fake it for 10 minutes, but they can’t fake it for an hour.
— Adapted from “Tales from the dark side of management,” interview by Leigh Buchanan, Inc. magazine.
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