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Executive Leadership

Most people think of musicians as creative individualists, but in fact, musicians in a symphony orchestra work within a rigid hierarchy that allows little or no personal expression. Despite its ironclad structure, the San Francisco Symphony—led by musical director Michael Tilson Thomas—has managed to develop a reputation for creativity and innovation. Here’s how:

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For the average person, fear offers a warning to stop. For leaders, fear offers evidence that they’ve arrived at an important juncture.

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Richard Scrushy, Ken Lay, Bernie Ebbers: Are you listening? A recent study shows that companies run by superstars who’ve won major awards from the business press underperform their competitors and markets in the years after winning, as they start spending more time on things that don’t help the company.

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Maybe landing on the beach in Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944, is what turned Waverly Woodson from a soldier into a leader. A U.S. Army medic with the all-black 320th Antiaircraft Barrage Balloon Unit, Woodson arrived near the back of the first landing wave. Ahead of him, the Germans were mowing men down.

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When your people aren’t doing their best, you have two basic choices:

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Among today’s business animals, says Alexi Venneri, marketing and communications chief at marketing data firm Who’s Calling, you’ve got to have BALLS. That means you’ve got to be:

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We all love the whole right brain/left brain thing, but it’s too simplistic for reality. The truth: Accountants can be creative, too. Take Samuel Insull. This “starched English bean-counter” who took care of finances, personnel, mergers and day-to-day business for Thomas Edison, was one of the few people who saw what electric power could do.

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Many organizations like their chief execs to come up through the president and chief operating officer positions. But executive recruiter Gerry Roche (Heidrick & Struggles) sees some flawed thinking there.

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Al Roker wanted to be more than a weatherman, but the NBC meteorologist and Today Show co-host always remembered the advice of his mentor, Willard Scott:

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“The secret to creativity,” Albert Einstein once said, “is knowing how to hide your sources.” Case in point: The physicist Galileo Galilei may have built one of his most famous theories on a description from Dante’s Inferno.

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