Executive Leadership

Ping Fu’s first 23 years were marked by imprisonment and torture in
China, first as a child and later for dutifully researching, as
assigned, the country’s epidemic of infanticide. Locked for days alone
in utter darkness, she hoped her execution would be quick. Instead, officials exiled her to America.

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When he spoke at the opening of his 1964 trial, Nelson Mandela never
denied that he planned sabotage against the white South African
government. In fact, he painstakingly explained his rationale for
violence, having concluded that peaceful means to gaining civil rights
for blacks were not working.

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Germany’s new chancellor, Angela Merkel, already is showing skill as a
conciliator in piecing together her coalition government from an array
of bitter rivals. A big part of that skill rests on her mastery of communication: Merkel
doesn’t seek attention, but when she’s got it, she speaks the bitter
truth—die bittere Wahrheit, in German—without being abrasive.

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One of the most common blunders leaders make is ignoring the obvious. Three ways to avoid that fate:

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You’ll know you’ve made it as a leader when your enemies sit up and take notice. In the case of U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, his enemies’ kinder labels for him include “New York’s other liberal
senator” and “perhaps the key Democrat” on the Senate Judiciary
Committee, which played a major role in vetting President Bush’s two
recent successful Supreme Court nominations.

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When John H. Slade died, one obituary made a telling error in saying that he
had worked at Bear Stearns for “seven centuries.” Actually, it was only
seven decades.

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Using the “do first” approach, you and your team spend very little time
defining the problem you’re facing. You simply decide on one or two
first steps and move ahead with them.

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For a while now, General Electric’s top dogs have been studying
companies they admire, like Dell and Toyota, seeing how they do things
and trying to figure out exactly what propels them to the leading edge. The GE group settled on five “growth leadership traits” common to all of those top companies … and copied them, of course.

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Somebody who’s shown no creative spark in 20 years is not going to
light up after a seminar. Instead, says Transmeta founder and Bell Labs
alumnus Dave Ditzel, you need talent spotters.

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One of the greatest orators of the 20th century focused on his
audience’s viewpoint, used rat-a-tat repetition, then switched tone to
add power to his speeches. In March 1968, the Rev. Martin Luther
King Jr. addressed a church full of striking black sanitation workers
in Memphis after police had attacked them with truncheons and mace. Study these examples for some basic training on improving your delivery:

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