Profiles in Leadership

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To make the topic of strategy more personal, Cynthia Montgomery, Timken Professor of Business Administration and immediate past head of the Strategy Unit at Harvard Business School, asks leaders to answer this question: Does your company matter? And also, what is your company adding to what already exists in the market?
French commander Philippe Pétain's actions at the Battle of Verdun show it’s not just brains but guts that make a leader. For much of the late 1800s, military fashion had it that élan and the bayonet would win wars. Pétain found that notion ridiculous. He said firepower was the key to modern warfare. It didn’t take long for his doctrine to prove right.

When Ingvar Kamprad founded IKEA in 1943, he didn’t sell furniture. He sold a variety of goods, including wallets and jewelry. Yet, IKEA became a worldwide success at selling simple, inexpensive assemble-it-yourself furniture through a series of shrewd distribution and positioning moves on Kamprad’s part.

On the Maersk Alabama, the captain’s cool head, long experience and clear sense of duty saved the ship from pirates off Africa’s east coast. To understand why it did end so well for Captain Richard Phillips and his crew, you have to go back to his days as a seaman learning by example that deeds count, not words.
Bob Frisch, author of  Who’s In the Room?, says decisions are typically made by the boss consulting with a small group of people—what he calls the “kitchen cabinet.” And everyone knows that when the boss makes big decisions, he turns to this close group.  Here's what's wrong with that...

The Navy classified Larry Zeiger 4-F because of his bad eyes. His friends had all joined the service, so he was left behind, wandering aimlessly. The young man wanted to go into broadcasting. Zeiger finally landed a job as a radio disc jockey and a new name five minutes before the show: Larry King.

John Adams was a founding father and second president of the United States, but perhaps his greatest acts of leadership were in recommending George Washington to be president, and John Marshall a justice of the Supreme Court.

Nobody argues the fact that Robert McNamara was a genius. The Ford Motor Co. whiz kid who led the Pentagon into the Vietnam War, and the World Bank into unprecedented expansion, solved problems with sheer brains. But McNamara’s flaw may have been that, in a larger sense, he just didn’t “get it.”

Here’s how NASCAR great Mark Martin stays fit as a box of lug nuts. Now in his 50s, he is still faster than most young drivers. His strategies are cleverer, as they were when he won a race in Michigan by conserving fuel and running out of gas only 500 feet before the finish line...

Raised on a pig farm, Dale Carnegie moved to New York City, hoping to become an actor. That failed, as did selling trucks and writing Westerns. What worked? Teaching a class in public speaking at a Harlem YMCA. That class would form the basis of his ideas, methods and glorious self-improvement empire surrounding How to Win Friends and Influence People.

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