Executive Leadership

While even the best leaders aren’t perfect decision-makers, it’s still true that a wrong decision is different from a bad decision.

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Not content to write a one-paragraph mission statement for the lobby
wall, Michael Dell had his leadership team craft a document called “The
Soul of Dell.” It’s probably the longest statement of purpose an American corporation
has ever crafted, and it serves as an internal benchmark for operations.

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Surprise alone is not enough to defeat your opponent and win. But it can turn events in your favor. “Surprise,” Gen. Mark Clark once said, “is worth a thousand soldiers.” Case in point: the 1976 “Raid on Entebbe.”

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Being a steelworker on a big construction job is literally living on
the edge, and that’s right where Ugo “Hokey” Del Costello likes to be. “If I [screw] up,” says the project boss for the massive new Woodrow
Wilson Bridge that will connect Maryland and Virginia across the
Potomac River, “I could kill somebody.” Despite the extreme nature of his job, Del Costello is a leader in familiar ways:

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Neil Armstrong has been described as a “bashful” man with “no ego.” He
now lives quietly on a farm in Ohio and could walk down the streets of
most U.S. cities without being recognized. But you can’t become the first human to walk on the moon without
walking a leadership path straight to the top of your field. Here’s how
Armstrong did it:

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By daring last year to make the 20th recording of Wagner’s opera Tristan und Isolde, Placido Domingo created an atmosphere of expectation. That’s because he’s a leader in everything he’s done. Aside from being one of the world’s top tenors, Domingo also works as
general director of both the Los Angeles and Washington operas and has
taken on extra gigs as a conductor. Some clues to his leadership:

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Real estate titan Sam Zell has no patience for how business schools
teach leadership. He’s candid about how they’re always “canonizing”
empirical tools but drop the ball on people skills.

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During France’s recent riots, one political figure stood out from the mob: Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.

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Even after years of making tough decisions, New York Jets head coach
Herman Edwards still finds cutting players from the team one of his
most difficult responsibilities. Edwards—who played in the NFL for 10 years before entering the coaching
ranks—learned a lesson years back, when he was cut from the
Philadelphia Eagles.

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You and new Chief Justice John Roberts could probably both learn a lot
from the long history of what it takes to lead the U.S. Supreme Court …
or any team of unusually independent prima donnas, for that matter.

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