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Executive Leadership

The following novels are old, corny and sexist. But they were the most popular “get ahead” books of their day because they taught effective lessons about success.

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Building and leading an effective team require choreographing a complex dance among people, roles and ideas. Follow these four steps:

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Carole Howe’s strengths lie in her imaginative concepts: tickle-your-fancy ideas that brought shops like Bow Wow Meow, Field & Stream and Fly Babies into airport concourses. But Howe, founder and president of the specialty retail group that operates Creative Kidstuff, The Paradies Shops and other successful airport retail franchises, admits that she isn’t much of a planner.

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Strive to see your actions through the eyes of the other people in your organization.

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Sure, barbarians scaled the walls. But they didn’t cause the fall of Rome; leadership failure did the trick. Most sobering of all, the mistakes Roman leaders made can destroy your career and organization, too.

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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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