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Executive Leadership

“Our keynote speaker just cancelled,” the caller says, “and we were wondering if we could ask you to take her place. The problem is, we need you to do it in three days.” Think you can’t give a top-notch speech on such short notice? You can if you take this approach:

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Famed mountain trapper Kit Carson once tried to rescue a captive, Mrs. James White, from some Apaches. Carson caught up with the natives who held her and might have been able to save her, but his commander refused to let him attack. The commander mistakenly thought the Apaches might want to negotiate.

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Coming to light after decades in the making, Bill Swanson’s flashes of executive wisdom—compiled first on scraps of paper, then in PowerPoint and finally in a booklet last year— have become an underground hit. Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management, by Raytheon’s CEO, offers these gems, with elaborations here by Swanson himself:

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Adversity stinks, but it does wake you up. Doug Sundheim, a leadership adviser whose friend recently got the ax in a round of corporate layoffs, says that when you find yourself in a tough spot, you should do the following:

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It’s a growing truth: The closer you are to the top, the more you’re in danger of lacking for professional development, feedback, friendship, recognition and praise. Regular praise and professional development often dry up near the top of the food chain.

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As Philadelphia Eagles fans “welcomed” him with a lusty chorus of boos, newly drafted quarterback Donovan McNabb must have questioned his debut to the National Football League. “I hadn’t even taken a snap and they were on me,” says the Eagles top draft pick of 2000, whose selection die-hard Eagles fans, um, disagreed with.

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When the citizens of Richmond,Va., overwhelmingly decided to switch from a “weak mayor” to a “strong mayor” government and picked former Virginia Gov. Douglas Wilder to run it, he responded by pledging allegiance to the city and nothing else.

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Don’t fall back on excuses— someone hasn’t returned a call or provided some data you need—for not finishing something.

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Resist the temptation to keep people who hate each other from working together.

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Allow your people to surprise you with their talent and ideas

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