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Executive Leadership

Marie Curie overcame gender bias, poor working conditions, scandal— even a World War—to become one of the most important scientists of the 20th century. Here are a few lessons to take from her struggle:

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We’ve all done it: One of your prime people has tentatively accepted another job, so you make a higher counteroffer. Recent research indicates that you might be wasting your time … and money. “Such initiatives rarely are successful,” says management consulting firm Accenture. Prevent people from wanting to leave in the first place by applying these tactics:

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School principal Lorraine Monroe had finished a half-hour performance evaluation when the employee stood, paused and said: “I just want to say that if you pass my classroom and see me staring out the window and not teaching, don’t be upset. It’s just that my husband stole my three children yesterday, and I don’t know where he took them.” Monroe sat the woman back down. After a long pause to collect her thoughts, here’s what she said:

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Sam Walton opened his first Wal-Mart store in Rogers, Ark., in 1962, the same year that far bigger retailers started Kmart, Woolco and Target. Arkansas was so far off the beaten path, though, that Walton didn’t attract much attention. At least, not until he came from behind and pulled up nose to nose with the big boys. With the benefit of hindsight, it’s interesting to note how simple Walton’s success formula was:

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Sometimes, a leader’s duty is simply to ensure the institution’s survival. In the case of Queen Elizabeth II, her duty is to preserve the British monarchy, an institution more than 10 centuries old. Also known as CEO of “the Firm,” Elizabeth accepted her duty as most of the world’s monarchies were crumbling away.

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The difference between organizations that grow and those that die is leadership. Take some tips from the pros on smart growth.

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Leaders in innovation change the rules of the game, says Karl Ronn, a vice president at Procter & Gamble. His company’s change in mind-set led its product developers to try switching from chemistry-based to physics-based cleaning products. So far, P&G has used this new stance to hit one home run: the Swiffer. Once you’ve changed the rules, use these three important benchmarks to test your innovations:

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Leaders solve problems. So, it should come as no great shock that Barbara Kavovit, who owned her own construction company but wanted more creative work, would hit on the idea of designing a tool kit for women. She got the notion while watching “Sex and the City” in 2001, when one of the female characters wanted to put up curtains but didn’t know how.

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When the Royal Bank of Canada transferred Shelley Gunton and Brian Connolly to Hong Kong in 1985, their beloved pointer-lab mix Joey languished in quarantine for six months as a precaution against rabies.

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Ever wonder how military leaders persuade men and women to risk their lives? Here’s an excerpt from a “fight talk” Gen. George Patton gave troops before entering battle:

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